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In distance education, most of the learning activity takes place in learners’ own time, at their own pace. Before the arrival of digital technology, learners generally studied entirely alone, apart from perhaps attending occasional face-to-face tutorials. Today there are a great many tools and techniques available to learners to enable them to communicate with one another asynchronously - in other words, to communicate by participating at different times. 

Examples of tools for asynchronous communication that are explored in this unit are e-mail, discussion forums, blogs, wikis and SMSs (or mobile phone text messages). We will consider the implications of using these tools for our teaching practice. 


Tick the things you would like to be able to do by the end of this unit:

  1. Familiarise yourself with a range of tools for asynchronous communication, including the following: e-mail, discussion forums, wikis, blogs, podcasting and other voice tools, social networking sites and social bookmarking sites

  2. Identify the main asynchronous tools that are available to you within your institution’s learning management system for supporting learning

  3. Identify the most useful asynchronous collaboration tools that are available to you for supporting learning in the public domain

  4. Discuss a range of ways in which you can provide scaffolding for your learners using asynchronous tools

  5. Reflect on your approach to facilitating asynchronous communication and explore ways of making it more productive

  6. Devise some strategies for boosting learner participation in asynchronous communication.

Use your selected outcomes to help you decide which parts of the unit to focus on in the greatest depth.

Reading and Reflection

Click on the following links to access the materials for this unit:

Getting to know your institution's asynchronous tools
Asynchronous tools on the Web
Case studies - using asynchronous communication
Guidelines for mediating asynchronous communication