(Posted December 2023)

Asynchronous learning is instruction that does not occur in a single place or at a single time. Most often it refers to digital or online learning that is available on-demand. That flexibility is why we have chosen this mode of delivery for our online learning – we want you to have the freedom of fitting learning into your schedule.

From its inception, asynchronous learning has come a long way. Today, it is commonly more interactive, with different types of media embedded to help learners process the information. There are also many platforms available for delivery, which allow for greater flexibility in the use of a variety of learning tools. Asynchronous learning encompasses not only videos, learning activities, reading materials and independent projects, but also the ability to communicate asynchronously with instructors and peers via email and/or discussion boards.

When deciding whether asynchronous learning is best for you, there are a variety of advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Advantages of Asynchronous Learning

  • Flexibility – Asynchronous learning provides great flexibility in both the timing and location of delivery. You can take courses from anywhere instead of having to be in a physical classroom. You can fit the learning in around your work and personal commitments so that it most benefits you, whether that be the middle of the night or not until next month.
  • Reduced social barriers – Asynchronous courses help you learn at your own pace.  Whether you tend to learn more quickly or slowly than others, you can think about and process concepts at the best pace for you before asking questions. It also allows you to pause and absorb what you are learning at any time. This makes learning more equitable for all learners.
  • Mastery – Asynchronous learning allows you to enhance your skills by providing you with the ability to revisit learning on demand until you have mastered your understanding of the topic.

Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

  • Lack of personal interaction and immediate feedback – Asynchronous learning lacks personal interaction with both the instructor and your peers. This is often mitigated by the ability to ask questions in other ways such as through email or on a community forum, but the outcome is less personal and makes it more difficult to interact and respond in real-time.
  • Varied learning styles – Learning styles vary from learner to learner. Whether you need face-to-face interaction to learn better or prefer to learn at your own pace depends on your personal situation. Asynchronous learning may be a disadvantage if you need that face-to-face environment to learn best.
  • Dependence on learner commitment – Asynchronous learning requires you to be self-motivated to learn and complete the work as suggested by the course. If you are not a self-starter or find it hard to stay on task and complete things with an open-ended deadline, then asynchronous learning may not be the best fit for you.

Learning asynchronously requires strong autonomous learning skills and a commitment to completing the learning. This means that you need to:

  • Understand your own learning style – Take time to understand how you have learned best in the past. If you thrive when you are in a classroom with others working in groups, critically think about if and how you can modify your learning style for an asynchronous environment. Set yourself up for success by understanding what works for you and what does not.
  • Be self-motivated – Set a schedule and stick to it, incorporate work and personal commitments, and ensure that you dedicate adequate time to learning. As you develop a schedule, ensure you plan time to absorb and learn the material beyond just reading the content. Do not fall behind and make sure that you schedule in some catch-up time. 
  • Ask questions – As you work through the learning, do not be afraid to ask questions. Whether via email or forum, once you have thought about the learning and processed the information, asking questions is a great way to solidify your learning and make sure you understand the topic if something is unclear.
  • Stay focused – Because you are learning outside of a classroom setting, it is important to set yourself up for success.  Make sure your learning environment is conducive to learning, with appropriate lighting and limited background noise and distraction (such as people or mobile devices that could distract you from focusing on your learning). Come into the course with the right attitude and preparation. You should be well-rested and ready to focus. Take sufficient breaks during each learning session so that you stay focused the entire time you are learning – for some that may mean hourly breaks, but for others that could be more or less frequent breaks.

Asynchronous learning is becoming more prevalent, especially for working professionals. Understanding how to navigate asynchronous learning and integrate it with your own learning style will serve you well as you continue your professional CPA journey.

Check out our asynchronous learning options for the PEP Core and Elective modules, the CFE, and Continuing Professional Development.