It’s time to snap out of black-and-white thinking when it comes to eLearning and reimagine the virtual classroom.

The concept of synchronous learning, where the instructor and learners are online simultaneously and interaction occurs in real time, is practically baked in to the definition of a virtual classroom. Why would you need a “classroom”—metaphoric or real—for asynchronous learning?

And, although asynchronous eLearning offers learners the greatest amount of control and flexibility—they choose when and where to do it—it unfortunately also offers the option of “never.” On the other hand, synchronous eLearning offers the advantage of greater accountability: The instructor knows who’s there and who’s actively participating.

Why choose?

You can, in fact, have the best of both worlds. A creative blended eLearning solution combines synchronous sessions with asynchronous elements, adopting elements of the “flipped classroom” in the process. The eLearning “conventional wisdom” that instructional designers (IDs) must choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning presents a false dilemma.The results can be a win all around: Learners have a better experience, and the format encourages collaboration and improves outcomes.

While a lecture or webinar can be part of the synchronous eLearning experience, it is—or should be—only a small part of the package.A blended solution forces IDs to let go of two relics: the view that a virtual classroom is simply a traditional classroom that has been moved online and the image of teaching as presenting information to passive learners.

Even at their best, lectures are not the ideal instructional approach. And, lacking the physical connection that an in-person session offers, a lecture delivered online can be tedious, even in a setting that permits discussion. A synchronous eLearning session should always include more than just a talking head presenting information. And even during the presentation, an instructor can integrate interactivity: add polls, brainstorm ideas via chat, share the whiteboard. In other words, let learners join in beyond asking questions.