Synchronous & Asynchronous Communication Resources

Distance education courses face a special challenge in building a student-centered community of learners. For this reason, instructors teaching courses that are classified as online, hybrid, or web-enhanced need to consider how they will use synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in order to create opportunities for collaboration amongst students and between the students and instructor. Here are a few ideas for how you might start:

Asynchronous Communication

Discussion Boards

›  Instructor facilitates discussions with the whole class or in small groups.

›  Instructor reads all posts and responds to a selection of them.

  Typically, the instructor provides a starting question and students reply to each other to formulate an answer.


›  Blogs provide students with a space to write compositions that can be viewed by both the instructor and the other students.

›  Students and instructors can then comment on each other’s blog posts.

  Instructors can use blogs to have students formulate and discuss their understanding of important course concepts.


›  Journals provide students with a space to write compositions that can only be viewed by the instructor.

›  Journals can be useful if the instructors wants students to regularly reflect on course topics.

 Journals combined with Discussion Boards can allow instructors to simulate Think-Pair-Share activities in an online environment.


›  Wikis are a collaborative tool that allow multiple students to work in the same online space.

›  Wikis can be used to have students complete group projects, such as building a website, creating a bibliography, or developing a glossary of important terms.

Synchronous Communication

Big Blue Button Icon

Big Blue Button
Big Blue Button is an open source web conferencing system for on-line learning. Big Blue Button enables you to share documents (PDF and any office document), webcams, chat, audio and your desktop. It can also record sessions for later playback. It has a Whiteboard that lets you annotate and call out key parts of your presentation. You can use any PDF presentation or Microsoft Office document to present, zoom, pan, and keep students in sync. You can brocast your desktop for all students to see and work on Mac, Unix and PC. On top of all that, Big Blue Button’s voice conferencing supports voice over IP conferencing out of the box. All of your students will require speakers and a microphone to participate. And of course, multipe users can sahre thier webcam at the same time. Best of all, since it’s open source, it free!

Free Conference Call Icon
This service by Free Conferencing Corp. is at the bare-bones end of the free conference calling scale. Conference organizers need merely register with a name and email address. Upon doing so, they immediately receive a dial-in number, along with access codes for hosts and participants. For recording calls, organizers receive a PIN to enter after pressing *9. No reservations are necessary; all they need to do is notify people to call in at the right time

Google Hangouts Logo

Google+ (Hangouts) 
Google+ Hangouts let you video chat with two or more users, face-to-face-to-face. You can watch YouTube videos, wear pirate hats, or even doodle together. The service can be accessed online through the Gmail or Google+ websites, or through mobile apps available for Android and iOS.

Skype of course doesn’t support itself by taking a cut of call revenues. It does, however, get into every form of voice service it can, and conference calling is no exception. Any registered user can conduct voice conferences with up to 25 participants through the standard Skype client software. Doing so offers the service’s usual benefits: free Skype-to-Skype and cheap inbound and outbound PSTN (public switched telephone network) connections

Twiddla is a no-setup, web-based meeting playground. Mark up websites, graphics and photos, or start brainstorming on a blank canvas. Browse the web with your friends or make that converence call more producive than ever. No plug-ins, downloads, or firewall voodo – it’s all here, ready to go when you are. Browser-agnostic, user-friendly.