Interactive Classrooms

Supporting asynchronous learning with Mentimeter

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Thomas Dawson2021-02-19
Incremental advances in technology over time have served to improve asynchronous learning and to make this student-centred approach to teaching increasingly possible. As new technologies have been developed and adopted by educators practicing asynchronous teaching, the experience has become much more valuable. With fewer barriers and more rewards for students and teachers alike.

Here we will give you a brief overview of what asynchronous learning is, how to succeed at it, and highlight some of Mentimeter’s features that we think lend themselves to be usefully incorporated into asynchronous teaching practice. The incorporation of the right new technologies has historically served to revitalise asynchronous teaching, and here at Mentimeter we think we have a tool that can breathe new life into asynchronous learning environments.

What is asynchronous learning?

When we talk about asynchronous teaching and learning what we mean is education and instruction that does not take place in the same place at the same time. The defining feature of the asynchronicity might be distance, or it might be an affordance for the students to complete assignments at their own pace, or it may be a combination of both. Because of the difference in physical and temporal space, teachers and students must work across this divide, developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes through technology mediated processes.

Asynchronous learning is sometimes also referred to as online learning, distributed learning, web-based learning, virtual learning, networked learning, computer-assisted learning, or tele-learning. These terms all refer to some form of distance learning, which is a common characteristic of asynchronous learning, but perhaps the more important feature is the unsynchronised nature of this form of learning where the student dictates the pace of the process. Because of the distanced element of asynchronous learning, it is also important for facilitators to have a student-centred approach. Because one of the most prominent pitfalls for this style of teaching is student loneliness, it is important to incorporate strategies, activities, and technologies that encourage peer-to-peer interactions.

Some students reap great benefits from this type of education, where they are free to learn at their own pace, not constrained by the regimented nature of the traditional synchronous classroom lecture, which may be paced too quickly or slowly for them and may contain too many or too few breaks or opportunities to ask questions.

Characteristics of a successful asynchronous learning environment

Examples of asynchronous teaching activities that have proven successful have tended to exhibit a consistent set of characteristics. These characteristics can be summarised by three features:

The first is the need for the teacher to act as an active facilitator. The autonomy afforded to students can easily prove counterproductive and result in participants becoming distracted  from the end goal. Thus, facilitators must work extra hard to guide, monitor, and nurture the discussion continuously to keep the programme on track. 

The second is a shift in role for the teacher from a lecturer or instructor mode who distributes knowledge to the group to a facilitator who encourages a dynamic relationship between group members that encourages learning through group interaction. Here the role has pivoted from speaker to supporter.

The third feature of a successful asynchronous learning environment is one that encourages fun! Facilitators that build a certain amount of leniency and play into their programme encourage social interaction in their group, which is where participants reap the greatest benefit. Not making room for play can serve to simply drive participants out of the learning space. Rather than enriching discourse on the targeted topic, such attitudes have a negative impact on group identity development and individual comfort levels which will, in turn, decrease overall involvement.

The ultimate key to successful asynchronistic learning is to optimise the three-way interaction between the facilitator, the students, and the content, and maximising the utility of technology to this end.

Ways Mentimeter can help support asynchronous learning

There are a number of Mentimeter's features that lend themselves well to supporting asynchronous teaching and learning. Here we will highlight just a few of them.

Real-time interactive slides

Some of the most useful features for teachers using synchronous or asynchronous methods are the selection of slide types that facilitate real-time interaction with the content of the slides from the audience. Using either a smart device or their computer, students can ask and answer questions, work collaboratively to create word clouds, or take part in quizzes. All the information from which is visually represented on screen, in a number of formats from which you can choose; including bar charts, pie charts, distributed dots, and more. These highly engaging interactive and collaborative tools can be utilised to test student knowledge, reinforce learning in a fun way, or just to present a concept for the first time in a way that is as stimulating as possible.

Top tip: You can add profanity filter to these certain question types to avoid any unwanted words.

Setting your slides to audience pace

Once you have created your Menti with your lesson content you have the option to set the presentation to “audience pace”. This feature allows you to put up questions and surveys ahead of time and allows the audience to engage with it at their own pace, and address the results at a later date that is convenient for you and your students.

Share the voting link

Instead of presenting your Menti in the moment and teaching the class in a synchronistic way, you have the option to share your slides with your students anytime. Meaning they can engage with it and learn wherever and whenever works for them, and it’s as easy as following a link.

Let the audience vote multiple times

One final specific function of Menti that can be utilised in an asynchronous learning environment is to allow for students to vote and engage multiple times with the presentation. By doing this, you allow for students to return to the slides again and again as they learn, letting them modify their answers as their understanding deepens.

Trends over time 

Mentimeter as a tool also rewards repeated use and recycling of presentations. With our historical data feature, you can access information about previous sessions and view different responses over time to identify trends in the responses. This can allow you to track the progress of your students, monitor changes with different cohorts of students over a longer period of time, or you can even monitor your own performance and track how employing different approaches to your teaching produces different results. This data is saved automatically, so you don’t have to do anything, and you can view it in your presentations, as well as downloading it in Excel format for further analysis.

As you can see, Mentimeter offers ample functionalities that can help enhance the asynchronous learning experience of your students. From going well beyond the capacity of a standard presentation to engage and encourage collaboration between your students, to assisting in maintaining a feeling of community no matter where you are, fostering a sense of togetherness and safeguarding against loneliness in a distributed learning environment. At its best, a Menti can support that all important triangle for successful asynchronous teaching and learning, helping to facilitate both student-content interaction and student-teacher interaction, making it an essential tool for asynchronous teaching.

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