Engaging Students in Asynchronous Lessons

Asynchronous learning means that students engage in lessons at different times. This approach provides students with flexibility in terms of scheduling and pacing. Because students will be working independently, it is important to design learning experiences that will maximize student engagement.

Structuring Online Lessons

There are a variety of ways to structure asynchronous lessons – the following are a few possibilities. Remember that using a consistent lesson structure will help students adjust to online learning and will prevent them from getting confused about what to do.


Read the article Tips for Designing an Online Learning Experience Using the 5 Es Instructional Model by Catlin Tucker. 1 This article includes a series of short videos highlighting what each step can look like in an online environment and recommending which tech tools to use. (As always, make sure any tool you wish you to use is approved in your district.)

I Do – We Do – You Do

I Do: Record a video to model the concept or skill, thinking aloud as you do so. Consider making your video interactive if your district has approved a tool.

We Do: Provide practice opportunities where students can receive instant feedback. You can set up a practice quiz with automated feedback or provide students with an answer key.

You Do: Have students apply their new knowledge or skill and submit their work to you.

Check out this Mini-Lesson Mix & Match chart from Jaclyn B. Stevens for different ways to structure these lessons (ranging from more teacher-led to more student-led). 2


Sample Hyperdoc Templates from hyperdocs.co

Hyperdocs are not a lesson structure, but are rather a way of presenting the lesson to students. A Google Doc (or Google Slides, or Word document) serves as a one-stop shop to guide students through all parts of the lesson. There is an emphasis on students actively engaging with the content and sharing what they learn.

Visit Hyperdocs Templates for Getting Started 3 for different lesson templates and examples, like this Explore-Explain-Apply Template. 4

Learn more about Hyperdocs on the Reaching All Learners page.


With a playlist, you provide students with all of their lessons upfront, and they work through the learning experiences at their own pace. Read the article Using Playlists to Differentiate Instruction by Jennifer Gonzalez for a full explanation and examples. 5

Using Playlists to Differentiate Instruction

Promote Collaboration

Even when students are not meeting in real time, they can still collaborate to share ideas and build their understanding of new new concepts.

LMS Features

Each learning management system allows for you to assign group projects and to create discussions that students can participate in on their own time. Select the LMS that your district uses for more details.

Collaborative Docs and Discussions

You can share a Google Doc (or Slides, Sheets, Drawing, or Jamboard) with so that all students can edit it. Watch this 3-minute video to learn how to share a collaborative document in Google Classroom.

Note that you can also share documents with students even if you are using a different LMS.

If your district uses Microsoft Office 365, you can share Word documents, PowerPoint files, and Excel sheets with students in the same way. Watch this 2-minute video from Microsoft Education to learn how to share files via Microsoft Teams. 6

If you’d like to create a board where students can post comments or resources as part of an asynchronous discussion, Padlet is one option (if it is approved in your district). Watch this 2-minute video from Common Sense Education to see Padlet in action. 7

Flipgrid is one tool that allows students to have asynchronous video discussions (if it is approved in your district). Watch this 4-minute video from Connected 4 Learning to learn how to use Flipgrid with your class. 8

Make Media Interactive

Interactive Videos

There are several platforms that allow you to add questions and notes throughout a video. As always, make sure any tool you wish you to use is approved in your district.

Watch this 1-minute video from Edpuzzle for an introduction to this tool, which is used in some districts. 9

A similar platform is Playposit, which is used in some districts.

Self-Paced Lessons

Nearpod and Pear Deck are often used to create interactive presentations for live lessons. However, you can also design interactive lessons for students to complete at their own pace.

Watch this 2-minute video from Nearpod to learn how to use student-paced lessons in this platform. 10

Watch this 3-minute video from Pear Deck to learn how to use student-paced lessons in this platform. 11

Emphasize Student Choice

Because students will be working on their own assignments at their own pace, asynchronous lessons are a great opportunity to incorporate student choice. Consider allowing students to choose how to engage with the content and how to show what they know. See the Reaching All Learners page for more ideas.

Provide Screen-Free Options

Offer students multiple ways to show what they know. Students can write on paper, create a drawing, or even make a model. They can still submit their work through the LMS that your district is using – they can attach a photo when they submit their assignment.

Consider assigning activities that require students to step away from their screens. Students can interview a family member, teach someone else what they have learned that week, or even complete a curriculum-related scavenger hunt. (Hands-on activities are wonderful, but remember that all students may not have access to materials.)


  1. Tucker, C. (2020, March 8). Tips for designing an online learning experience using the 5 Es instructional model. CatlinTucker.com. https://catlintucker.com/2020/03/designing-an-online-lesson/
  2. Stevens, J. B. (2020, April 15). Mini-lesson mix & match. Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CG2ITR2K4aLSzTItlrptESCRUNkvMsGhLTQbeKEDh-g/
  3. Hyperdocs LLC. (2020, April 17). Hyperdocs templates for getting started. HyperDocs. https://hyperdocs.co/blog/posts/hyperdocs-templates-for-getting-started
  4. Hyperdocs LLC. (n.d.). Explore-explain-apply HyperDoc lesson plan template. HyperDocs. https://hyperdocs.co/blog/posts/hyperdocs-templates-for-getting-started
  5. Gonzalez, J. (2016, September 4). Using playlists to differentiate instruction. Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/student-playlists-differentiation/
  6. Microsoft Education. (2020, April 8). Microsoft Teams – Share and collaborate with files {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/kITOMtKQ7KQ
  7. Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). How to promote student collaboration with Padlet {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/4F60kOS5HYw
  8. Connected 4 Learning. (2017, October 10). How to use Flipgrid in your classroom {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/ch1BkotiseM
  9. Edpuzzle. (2020, March 13). What is Edpuzzle? {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/-L62wAxCzEM
  10. Nearpod. (2020, March 15). Nearpod student-paced lessons {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/j_VkfcKDwE4
  11. Pear Deck. (2019, February 5). 08 Unlock possibilities with student-paced mode {Video}. YouTube. https://youtu.be/WyPMpL6GlQ4
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