I promise that I am writing this post that will contain nothing even close to an answer, solution, even coherence to all the scrambling effort to plan for the post-Emergency-Learning-Not-A-Pivot response.

Just idle speculation.

McSweeny’s parody is just that, but there is a glint of reality under the sarcasm:

After careful deliberation, we are pleased to report we can finally announce that we plan to re-open campus this fall. But with limitations. Unless we do not. Depending on guidance, which we have not yet received.


We have the pundits lamenting the loss of all that is holy about the in person lecture (I won’t bother for the links, you’ve seen them). For a reasoned response, see University of Bristol’s Tansy Jessop’s piece in Wonke, “Let’s lose the deficit language about online education

Reading the national press at the moment you might think that universities had just performed the last rites over centuries of in-person and on-campus teaching.

The argument being pedalled by journalists whose experience of lectures was clearly more inspirational than mine, is simplistic and misleading. It suggests that a curriculum without live lectures equates to the end of all in-person teaching, as if practicals, laboratories, seminars, and tutorials do not count. Headline catching it may be; true it is not.


Yet in all the pivot talk, there’s a tinge of favoring the synchronous over the asynchronous. It need not be put one over the other, and it’s also not just the Zoom Bashing. It’s not about the platform at all.

Just like the lecture halls I endured, I had some that were enthralling and some that were coma-inducing. It was not the lecture hall nor the video meeting platform that’s the problem (c.f. Pogo).

You can experience the Zoom pain in a class that is so off the edge that students have taken to playing the video to fool parents into thinking they are tuned into class (freeing them to game or watch netflix), read the comments

That same Zoom platform enabled my wife to run an incredible session of a 4+ hour nonstop, out loud reading of a novel with her high school students. It was maybe one of the most engaging sessions I’ve overheard

There is a real difference in the Zoom screenshots of students staring out of their boxes like deer-in-the-headlights and Cori’s sessions where her students are engrossed in their book.

So it’s not synchronous BAD / asynchronous GOOD.

Yet even today in a webinar, where a presenter was discussing the use of short videos, in the chat I saw a question like “How many videos do I need to make to chop up a 1.5 hour lecture?”

I’m finding a similar pulse for work I am currently supporting at OE Global, to support planning of their annual conference in November that is going to be online. I worry that a lot of attention for planning is placed on the presentation/keynote slots. Yet I think we ought to be placing a lot of thought and effort into asynchronous events and activities, more discussion space format than Zoom Room (actually both).

Do people think of asynchronous as adrift, alone in space? There’s every reason to feel a sense of conversation in a place of being in different times there, exchange, that can be every bit as engaging as being there exactly together.

In terms of teaching, it seems now seen through sepia toned web glasses, is one of my favorite approaches, of participants/learners creating/writing/publishing in their own spaces and the class space being a syndication hub. The old gold ds106, which, as I must remind is still chugging along after 10 years, while in that span, most every Name Your Tech Fad has crested and sunk to the bottom of the Gartner hype trough. The Feed WordPress approach still works like a boss.

The #ds106 Bus

The #ds106 Bus flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Yes, the good old syndication bus. Connected courses.

The whole idea of distributed activity, woven in with daily challenges and assignment banks, was asynchronous beauty. But not without synchronous bits, be it class visits or running live sessions on ds106radio. Twas a mix.

But with the decline of blogging in general (my own lapses included), allure of social media or the institution demands for scale and data wrangling, this way has fallen to the side. Maybe it is too much effort? I cannot buy that.

If anyone is carrying the asynchronous flag proudly now, it’s Laura Gibbs

But you see, I still don’t have answers, lists, infographic formulae, just a bit of nostalgia.

Yet I am thinking we ought to be putting more effort, not all, into the asynchrous side of the house. I don’t want to imply no one is doing it, but am I right that the tilting is often towards the other side as a preference?

So tell me of your asynchronous gem efforts. Or let me know I am full of gas. Heck, this blog gets so few comments, I might even welcome a spammer.

Featured Image: A mashup of a pixabay image of the Czech flag by Marsel Elia with Buzzword Bingo: Asynchronous flickr photo by planeta shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license and a wee bit of Photoshop cloud rendering my moi.

A side note about the flickr image. I kind of liked the flickr set of buzzwords:

But have to acknowledge the point raised by Anne Gagné

I tried to comment on the flickr image, but comments are off and did not have any luck finding a way to reach the author. I regret any suggestion that access is a good buzzword.

But maybe asynchronous wil be seen as offensive!

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. When we switched online, I reached for something I already had experimented with for a flipped classroom thing. I make a Prezi and embed audio in successive scenes (not slides, given the non-linear structure). That was my main presentation format for two classes—my seminar leaned more into Slack plus Zoom for a more synchronous discussion. The two classes had discussion forums for asynchronous discussion, as well as the blogs already in place in one of the two. Synchronous conversation could be added per student demand either one-on-one or more generally. I set up Slack instances for that, but unlike in the seminar, students didn’t go for that. But we did have some video conversations.

    For the fall I will again lean heavily on Prezi plus audio to replace the “lecture” element, and put energy into making those presentations good. Much labor comes in supplying accurate transcripts. I decided the best way to do that was (unusually for me) to write the whole presentation before recording it, meaning I could just paste my script to the LMS alongside the Prezi plus audio version. I will be thinking hard about what, if any, #ds106-style elements I can add to my fall classes to keep students engaged.

  2. Thanks for sharing your approach, Ed. What have the students said about their experience with this design? My hunch would be it allows them to understand it it at their pace rather than in class, where it’s done at an instructor’s pace. Do your students create work in prezi too? I had one grad student last semester that reached for it consistently (some assignments we did were not prescriptive on the medium used) as it seemed to fit her way of thinking as a map.

    1. I am seeking student comment and hope to report back.

      Few of my students have used prezi for group presentations etc. I think they find the various slide-based tools more familiar. Inertia is powerful.

  3. Alan, this reminds me of Dave White’s discussion of lectures and the need to create moments of shared presence to facilitate new connections. We worry so much about the presentation of information and forget about learning opportunities. The problem is that for some this is not the work that matters, however I would argue that it is the work that often makes the biggest difference.

    Also on: Read Write Collect

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