Photo Credit: Iris Wang via Unsplash.

As the start of the fall semester quickly approaches, course selection has come and gone and most students should have their 2020-21 schedule in place. For the vast majority of undergraduate students, all classes in Fall 2020 will be exclusively online and accessed through Sakai. 

When you registered for classes, you may have noticed that each course was designated as ‘SYNC’ (synchronous) or ‘ASYNC’ (asynchronous). That one letter difference will determine whether your online course will take place at a set time each week or if you are not required to attend at a specific time. 

If a course is synchronous, then you’ll “attend” that course at the same time every week just as you would on campus, but it will be hosted via an online platform like Microsoft Teams or LifeSize. Depending on the course, it may be just for the lecture, just the seminar or each course component could require you to participate at a set time. Asynchronous courses allow you to pick and choose when you tackle the course work. Lectures will be posted on Sakai, but there will not be a scheduled time to view them, rather you will be free to chip away at the course as you please.

The latter sounds enticing, but much like the siren song of the mermaid on the nearby isle, it can be dangerous. It’s way too easy to put off or simply ignore those classes, making it possible that you’ll fall behind.

I’ve taken three ASYNC classes in my first two years at Brock and I’d say I went two-for-three in terms of success. The first one I took was ASTR 1P01 — one of the easier science context credits — and I basically skipped all the online lectures and just looked at old tests. I ended up botching the first midterm, which wouldn’t have been that big of a deal except that class has only three assignments: two midterms worth 25 percent and a 50 percent final. So when you whiff on a 25 percent midterm, you’re kind of missing out on the option of a good mark. 

I managed to bounce back from that and finish with a respectable mark, but I did start to take these ‘go-as-you-please’ courses a bit more seriously after that. Now I’ve never taken a course in my major in ASYNC form, so I’ll naturally be more inclined to keep up with those during this term, but you really do not want a first-year ASYNC elective to set you back. If it helps to have a set time and day to work on these classes, by all means go for it. You could treat an ASYNC class like a SYNC class and that would take all the ‘A’ from your ‘SYNC’. I’ve already received a syllabus for one of my ASYNC classes for this term and everything is already up on Sakai. You could get ahead of the readings now. Emphasis on could, because while you could get ahead, you also could not. 

SYNC classes on the other hand are pretty straightforward. You open your laptop at X-o’clock every Y-day and listen to the lecture as you normally would on campus. Except instead of trying to awkwardly balance your computer and a coffee on a triangle desk that is attached to your seat, you get to do it from the comfort of your own desk; coaster and all. 

Regardless of whether you have SYNC or ASYNC classes, or a combination of the two, staying on top of them remains the most important thing to keep in mind. While it will never get old seeing 400 students on your class Sakai page an hour before an assignment deadline, with a nice, organized, well-maintained workload, maybe that number can drop to 380.