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In “Learning How to Blend Online and Offline Teaching,” my friend Bob Ubell explores how pandemic-era remote instruction may persist in a post-COVID academic world. (Bob interviewed me for and generously quotes me in the article.)

There is much to chew on in that article. Part of which is Bob’s proposal that we evolve the language that we use to describe digitally mediated instruction away from “asynchronous” and “synchronous,” replacing these terms with “off-line” and “online.”

His argument is that “asynchronous” and “synchronous,” words derived from Greek, “can be off-putting technical jargon.”

While I’m with Bob in sentiment, I remain unconvinced (but open-minded) that “off-line” and “online” are the way to go.

Online learning is primarily asynchronous. It seems strange to call what is mostly done in online classes—reading articles, watching videos and participating in discussion boards—“off-line.”

I agree that using “synchronous” to mean “we are meeting/learning digitally at the same time” is pretty terrible. However, my solution to not saying “synchronous” might not be any better than Bob’s.

I’ve taken to call synchronous class sessions “Zoom sessions”—or “Zooming.” The reason is that most synchronous class work seems to happen on Zoom. Except when it doesn’t.

My wife’s educational meetings are on WebEx. Microsoft Teams seems to pop up every so often. There are those of you that swear by Google Meet. Skype is still around. Up until the pandemic, it seemed as if BlueJeans and BigBlueButton might be in the running for synchronous online teaching.

Are any of you still using Blackboard Collaborate? How about GoToMeeting? And whatever happened to the synchronous class platform that I used in my online teaching for years, Adobe Connect?

Didn’t Amazon come out with its own videoconferencing platform? Not sure anyone used that for online teaching.

The point is that my practice of casually calling synchronous classes “Zoom” sessions might be a bad idea.

For one thing, we are all burned out on Zoom. For another, Zoom will one day be replaced with whatever comes next.

Exactly zero students or professors think happy thoughts when hearing about “ZoomU.” Not what we want to label the online learning that we love.

How about this? Why don’t we call synchronous online class meetings “live” class sessions?

If everyone understands that “live” means synchronous, then we don’t need a name for “asynchronous” online learning. We can assume that asynchronous is analogous mainly to what happens when we teach and learn in online courses.

I’m grateful for Bob for pushing this conversation forward and calling out how atrocious “asynchronous” and “synchronous” are as descriptors of online learning.

What do you think we should call the things that we do when we teach and learn digitally?

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