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A Teacher Professional Learning Cost Analysis: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction

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Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself. ~ Paulo Coelho


Teacher professional learning is essential because it allows teachers to acquire new skills that they bring back to their students, ultimately leading to improved student outcomes, less teacher retention, and success meeting district goals.

At Alludo, we collaborate with school districts across the country to create robust, online professional learning environments that incorporate teacher choice. We also pride ourselves on making high quality professional learning affordable for school districts. 

With that in mind, we’ve created this cost analysis of synchronous vs asynchronous instruction to help you understand the difference in both cost and effectiveness.

Table of Contents

  1. Comparing Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning
    1. Synchronous Learning
    2. Asynchronous Learning
  2. What Are the Advantages of Asynchronous Learning?
    1. Asynchronous Learning is Affordable
    2. Asynchronous Learning is Scalable
    3. Asynchronous Learning is Learner-Centered
    4. Asynchronous Learning is Flexible
    5. Asynchronous Learning is Measurable
  3. Professional Learning Cost Analysis: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction 
    1. Costs of Synchronous Learning
    2. Costs of Asynchronous Learning
  4. Alludo’s Take

Comparing Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

Let’s start by comparing synchronous professional learning with asynchronous professional learning to make sure that there’s an understanding of the key differences between them. We’ll start with synchronous learning.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning is the most traditional form of professional development. It happens on a predetermined schedule and in a predetermined location. The key elements of synchronous learning are as follows:

  • It’s traditional learning that takes place in a classroom.
  • Learners must attend in person.
  • There is little flexibility in scheduling.
  • It is typically more expensive than asynchronous learning.

The expenses, which we’ll talk more about later in this post, accrue in two ways. The first is the cost to the school district, and the second is the cost to educators. While synchronous learning can be effective, the truth is that the cost of it can be too high when you consider both the monetary aspect as well as the effect it has on teachers.

Asynchronous Learning

Now, let’s talk about asynchronous learning and how it differs from traditional professional development. In general, all asynchronous learning happens online with some flexibility with regard to when the learner completes the learning – either fully at will or at will within a specific timeframe. 

Here are the key elements of asynchronous learning with Alludo:

  • Courses can be completed at any time
  • Learning is accomplished via microlearning activities and games
  • Course materials and resources are accessible at any time
  • Teachers can take ownership of their learning experiences, setting their own pace and having a choice in what they learn

key elements of asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learning gives teachers the option to access courses and complete learning on a schedule that works for them. When you consider that educators spend hours of time each day outside of the classroom on things like lesson planning and grading papers, it’s essential for school districts to be respectful of their free time. Asynchronous learning does that.

What Are the Advantages of Asynchronous Learning?

There are several advantages to asynchronous learning that go to the heart of why we believe that school districts should adopt it instead of relying on synchronous learning.

Asynchronous Learning is Affordable

Asynchronous learning is far more affordable than synchronous learning. We don’t need to dig very deep to understand the reasons for its affordability. With synchronous learning, classes only happen when an instructor is scheduled to lead them. The instructor must be paid and they need a space to hold the class, too. Teachers must travel to get there, accruing additional expenses.

By contrast, asynchronous learning courses are created once and can be taken many times without incurring any additional expenses. Teachers don’t need to travel, so those expenses go away, too.

Asynchronous Learning is Scalable

Traditional PD is not easy to scale because adding new learners means hiring more instructors and finding more classroom space. 

The opposite is true with asynchronous learning. Once a micro-learning activity or game is created and added to a learning environment, the only barrier to scaling its use is providing learners with a way to log in and access it.

Asynchronous Learning is Learner-Centered

Synchronous PD doesn’t account for teachers’ opinions or needs. The requirements are often handed down on a state or district level and teachers are left with no choice but to attend.

At Alludo, our asynchronous learning platform gives teachers a choice and a voice. We encourage the school districts we work with to gather teacher input about PD before we create a learning environment. We also build in the option for districts to specify mandatory courses while still allowing educators to choose electives to meet part of their total PD requirement.

Learner-Centered PD

Asynchronous Learning is Flexible

One of the best things about asynchronous learning is its flexibility. With traditional PD, teachers must travel to reach a classroom at a specified time. If that time isn’t convenient for them, they have no alternative available in some cases.

With asynchronous learning, teachers can fit in their micro-learning activities at any time that’s convenient for them. They can do it on their lunch break or any time they have a few free minutes during the day.

Asynchronous Learning is Measurable

Finally, asynchronous learning is measurable in a way that synchronous learning is not. The Alludo platform comes with built-in metrics for school districts to use to track teacher engagement and progress – and to measure the impact of professional learning on their district goals.

In other words, a lot of the guesswork that comes with synchronous learning is eliminated with the adoption of asynchronous learning.

advantages of asynchronous learning

Professional Learning Cost Analysis: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction 

It may surprise you to see the difference in cost between synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Costs of Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning can be extremely expensive. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, school districts spend an average of $18,000 per teacher, per year on traditional professional development. A 2020 cost analysis published in Prevention Science found that the cost of sending a single teacher to one workshop could be as high as $1,132.78. When you multiply that out across an entire school year and add payment for in-service days and other expenses, it’s easy to see why the cost is so high.

In addition to the direct cost to the school district, there are related costs that accrue to teachers, which in turn generate hidden costs. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Teacher Time. Teachers already have full days, spending hours with students and many more hours outside the classroom preparing lessons and grading student papers. Synchronous PD requires them to add travel time and class time to their already-busy schedules as well as accruing out-of-pocket expenses for gas and parking. And this isn’t to mention the burden of finding substitutes and equipping them with lesson plans, especially given the current substitute shortage America is facing.
  2. Teacher Turnover. One of the hidden costs of synchronous instruction is the effect it has on teacher morale and satisfaction. When teachers don’t feel supported, they are far more likely to leave their jobs, or even leave the teaching profession. There’s no question that teacher dissatisfaction is at the root of our worsening teacher shortage.
  3. Cost of Consultants and Trainers. Synchronous PD requires the hiring or contracting of consultants and trainers to conduct the training. This expense also has hidden expenses around it. For example, you may need to pay custodial staff or administrators to be in the building when training takes place.
  4. One Size Does Not Fit All. Synchronous PD is not customizable because all teachers must attend the same training at the same time. This is another element that plays into the hidden costs accrued by educators.

Teacher Happiness Report

When you consider all of the expenses we’ve listed here, it’s no surprise that many school districts are overspending on teacher professional development.

Costs of Asynchronous Learning

Now let’s review the costs of asynchronous learning. We’ve created a quote calculator that will allow superintendents, assistant superintendents, and educational services leaders to estimate the cost of switching to Alludo, but here’s how it breaks down:

  1. Lower Cost Per Teacher. Let’s start with the cost per teacher. With asynchronous training, a school district with 1,000 teachers could pay for three years of high quality professional learning for all teachers at about the same cost as paying for three teachers to complete a year of traditional professional development.
  2. Lower Cost Per Hour. It stands to reason that lower costs per teacher would also mean lower costs per hour. Micro-learning activities encourage teachers to participate while costing significantly less than synchronous PD.
  3. Scaling is Affordable. One of the biggest cost benefits of asynchronous learning is that course materials are created once and can be used as many times as you want. A video or PDF that teachers can access online is going to cost less to create than anything related to synchronous training.
  4. Teachers Are More Engaged. The hidden costs of synchronous learning go away with asynchronous learning, as well. Teachers get flexibility, their time is respected, and they feel supported. All of these things help to reduce teacher turnover.

asynchronous vs synchronous costs

Your school district can get better results from asynchronous learning while saving thousands of dollars a year.

Alludo’s Take

Alludo Learning specializes in creating high-quality, asynchronous professional learning environments at a price that’s far more affordable than synchronous learning – but we’re not just about affordability. Our learning model offers high-quality, comprehensive training and we ensure that our content is fresh and relevant to teachers.

We believe that the best way to take care of our students – something every educator wants to do – is to take care of our teachers. By emphasizing relevance and giving teachers a choice and a voice in what they learn, we help them to feel supported and valued. That’s a key component to reducing teacher turnover.

A case in point is the learning environment we created for the Campbell Unified School District. The School of Rock system we provided led to increased teacher engagement, with teachers praising the program’s friendly competition and incentivization of collaboration.

The bottom line is that asynchronous online learning increases teacher engagement, reduces teacher turnover, and delivers results both in teacher satisfaction and student outcomes.

Could Your School District Benefit from Choice-Driven Asynchronous Learning?

What is your school district spending on teacher professional development? Whatever that amount is, we believe that you can benefit from switching to choice-driven asynchronous learning with Alludo. You’ll enjoy reduced expenses while giving teachers the support and training they need.

Are you ready to compare your current expenses to what you would pay with Alludo? Click here to access our budget calculator and get started.