What is Asynchronous (Online) Teaching 

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This teaching tip describes course delivery activities for an asynchronous online course, one of Conestoga’s modes of course delivery

Asynchronous Courses

In asynchronous learning, there are no real-time scheduled classes in which you provide structured lessons, engage with students, and assess learning. In this type of learning, 

the instructor and the students in the course all engage with the course content at different times (and from different locations). The instructor provides students with a sequence of units which the students move through as their schedules permit. Each unit might make use of assigned readings or uploaded media, online quizzes, discussion boards, and more.” 

– University of Waterloo, 2022, para. 2 

Students choose when and how to engage with the course content and with others (Coursera, 2022).

Asynchronous Courses at Conestoga  

A woman laying with a blanket on her, looking at a laptop and making notes with a pen
Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Most (but not all) asynchronous courses are created by a curriculum expert team and course developers in the Online Learning Centre (OLC). In these cases, your course section shell will be a copy of a model shell, and students will access only your section. Asynchronous courses must follow their approved Course Outline and provide all Essential Elements. Students and faculty access the course section through the learning management system (LMS), eConestoga.

Expectations for Asynchronous Course Delivery

Faculty ready their asynchronous course before it begins, describe learning and course expectations, help students keep on track, give timely and constructive grades and feedback, and facilitate asynchronous reflection and discussion. As well, faculty wrap up the course and submit final grades. 

Faculty are expected to support student learning for the course hours stated in the Course Outline. Faculty must follow the Course Delivery Procedure and all other teaching-related policies and procedures in their obligations as Conestoga employees. Contact your direct supervisor for details.

Students’ Expectations of Fully Online Teaching

In asynchronous courses, the content is provided. However, Faculty provide a critical “bridge” between students’ learning experiences and the course content. Students may still expect their professors to guide and support their learning experiences through introductions, reminders, clarifications, corrections, engagement activities, and community building. One student, Wafa Sarguroh (2020), explains what she expects from her asynchronous teachers:

– Sense of belonging to a community;
– Asynchronous discussion, building knowledge together;
– Virtual interactions with the instructor;
– Well-organized course and clear expectations;
– Multiple modalities of content presentation.

In asynchronous environments, student engagement is important to show students that you are actively supporting their learning. Morris, Xu, and Finnegan (2019) found that faculty tend to describe their teaching with 1 of 3 engagement levels. 

  1. Online monitor (visible more at the beginning, rare discussion participation)  
  2. Online facilitator (shared questions, occasionally provided discussion feedback, provided guidelines for assignments, and fostered a climate of student collaboration)  
  3. Online teacher/participant (high visibility throughout the class, interacted with students frequently) 

Research suggests that students most value asynchronous teachers who are accessible, engaged, and passionate and who provide active learning, helpful course resources, and peer interaction (Hew, 2014). Students may complete a Student Appraisal of Teaching (SAT) for your course.

Course Delivery Activities for Asynchronous Courses 

Organized by the Community of Inquiry model (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000), below are some ideas to be “present” in your asynchronous course.

Teaching Presence 
(Share your expertise, expectations, and commitment to learner success)

  • Welcome and orient students to the sections and operations of the course 
  • Complete an “About Your Professor” bio page 
  • Reiterate the goals of the course, and it fits within the program  
  • Explain your expectations for how, where, and when students should ask questions 
  • Introduce yourself and share relevant information about your professional expertise 
  • Locate and expand on key course policies (e.g., communication policy for how and when you are available, when assignments are due and how late submissions will be dealt with) 
  • Provide regular announcements and/or messages to keep track of course progress 
  • Respond to email messages within 2 business days (as per College policy) 
  • Ensure that accommodations requirements are met for students with documented disabilities 
  • Provide optional synchronous online office hours (if appropriate)

Social Presence
(Build rapport, class community, and collaborative learning)

  • Provide an icebreaker to help students know who is in the class (participate yourself!) 
  • Lead students in opportunities to “be seen” in the class by sharing their opinions, perspectives, and experiences  
  • Lead students in collaborative discussions to construct knowledge together 
  • Provide explicit guidance and support for students working in pairs or groups, including team-based assignments and/or peer review 
  • Participate actively in discussion posts and group chats and respond to forum-based queries in a timely way  
  • Encourage students to share fun or social content in a “virtual cafe” discussion forum
  • Ensure that the learning environment is positive and inclusive for all students 

Cognitive Presence
(Support deep engagement with course content, practice activities, and feedback)

  • Promote a culture of academic integrity, sharing resources and reminders  
  • Provide constructive and timely assignment grades and feedback to students using the assignment course tools 
  • Provide relevant explanations of assignments, expectations, instructions, and grading procedures 
  • Provide additional explanations or examples of difficult or challenging terms, concepts, processes, procedures, etc.  
  • Remind students to use self-checks, pre-assessments, and other formative feedback activities to confirm the progress of their learning  
  • Provide polls, surveys and other outreach opportunities so students may share feedback to help improve their learning experience 
  • Identify and communicate about gaps in learning that you are noticing and direct students to resources to support their learning 
  • Share video links about how to submit and access grades and feedback 
  • Connect course topics to current events, professional activities, and workplace opportunities  
  • Encourage as-needed student meetings to discuss the course and/or provide further assessment feedback

Course Facilitation and Management 
(Monitor course functioning and support disengaged students)

  • Update and publish the Instructional Plan to ensure it is accurate and contains relevant key information for students 
  • Check interactive learning activities and web links to ensure they are working 
  • Check assignment drop boxes, quizzes, and other tools to ensure they work and that dates/times are correct 
  • Check rubrics and the grading tool to ensure that they are functioning correctly 
  • Update and maintain an accurate grade book that students can access 
  • Seek assistance to ensure the proper functioning of the course elements
  • Give students ideas and reminders for time management, self-organization, and keeping up with the course
  • Monitor the progress of students for page views and assignment completion 
  • Provide frequent reach-out messages, and co-creating course completion plans for students at risk 

Active teaching is being highly visible, leading student interactions, providing timely information and feedback, and responding to questions and issues. Use any combination of these ideas above to clarify expectations, promote learning, and cultivate community–even when students never meet with you in real-time.  

More About Asynchronous Course Delivery


Ceallaigh, T. J. Ó. (2021). Navigating the role of teacher educator in the asynchronous learning environment: emerging questions and innovative responses. Irish Educational Studies, 40:2, 349-358, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2021.1932553  

Coursera (2022). What is asynchronous learning.  

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. 

Hew, K.F. (2016), Engagement: lessons from MOOCs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47: 320-341.

Morris, L.V., Xu, H., & Finnegan, C.L. (2019). Roles of faculty in teaching asynchronous undergraduate courses. Online Learning.

Sarguroh, W. (2020). What students expect from an online course? OISE Online.

University of Waterloo (2022). Synchronous and asynchronous online learning.

Elan Paulson

Elan Paulson, PhD, has been an educator in Ontario's higher education system since 2004. Before joining Conestoga as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, Elan was on the executive team at eCampusOntario. She previously served as Program Director and as an instructor in professional education programs at Western University's Faculty of Education. With a Master's in Educational Technology, Elan specializes in technology-enabled and collaborative learning to support diverse learners. She has also conducted research on faculty participation in communities of practice for professional learning and self-care.

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