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Instructor-Led vs. Self-Paced Learning: We Explain the Difference

Follow your passion for a career in healthcare and make a difference.

When deciding whether online education is right for you, it’s a good idea to know the difference between the different learning models. Synchronous, self-paced and asynchronous learning are three common ways to receive your online education. Not all schools offer all three, so understanding their differences can help you make the right decision. Find out more below.

Synchronous Learning

photo of a student in a conference call with an instructorSynchronous learning refers to a structure where students log in at scheduled times to interact in real-time with instructors and peers. It generally offers higher levels of engagement with opportunity for more immediate conversations and support, but does require the most fixed time commitment.

Pros of Synchronous Learning

  • Real-time instructor and peer engagement, interaction and support
  • Opportunity to improve communication via live presentations to classmates
  • Provides more social engagement

Things to Consider of Synchronous Learning

  • Rigid time commitment can be more difficult to balance school, work and personal life
  • Pace of instruction may be less individualized


Self-Paced Learning

photo of a student watching a videoSelf-paced learning offers the highest level of flexibility for students to log in and complete their assignments, without any live instructor-led support.

Pros of Self-Paced Learning

  • Full flexibility, no need to be online at any given times or days
  • Material has a higher probability of being more consistent from cohort to cohort (as it is not as impacted by the instructor’s teaching style)

Things to Consider of Self-Paced Learning

  • Can take longer to complete since there are no hard week-to-week deadlines
  • Tuition is usually dependent on amount of time it takes to complete the program
  • Requires higher amount of self-discipline to complete assignments


Asynchronous Learning

photo of a person typing on a laptopFor students who want the flexibility of completing their coursework on their own schedule, without sacrificing instructor support or risking a longer program duration, asynchronous learning is a nice middle ground. Rather than having specific log-in dates and real-time modules, and students can log in whenever it’s convenient to complete the lesson any time before its scheduled due date.

Pros of Asynchronous Learning

  • The flexibility of logging on whenever it is convenient
  • Students often get more time with the material and can digest it in different ways
  • Can pace out assignments and study time
  • All students have the chance to participate fully in discussions

Things to Consider of Asynchronous Learning

  • Presents the opportunity for student distractions and procrastinations
  • The social environment isn’t as connected


No matter if your online program is mostly synchronous, self-paced or asynchronous, you can find success if you remain adaptable, organized and efficient with your time.

Pima Medical Institute offers instructor-led asynchronous online courses that are designed to fit into your schedule. We make it possible for you to balance work, school and life. Contact us today to learn more about how you can advance your education and your career in one of our 100% online programs.

June 27, 2023

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