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## Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: Revisited

Last August, I wrote about the differing outcomes of the two Intensive Elementary French sections I taught: one remote synchronous, the other remote asynchronous. My write-up included some descriptive statistics, and ultimately concluded that learners in the synchronous course achieved higher scores than those in the asynchronous course. At the time I wrote the post, my statistical literacy was less than it is now, so the purpose of the present post is to determine whether these findings were statistically significant.

## I. Do final course grades differ between the two modalities?

I took the two sections, asynchronous (n = 19) and synchronous (n = 10), and conducted a two-sample t-test to determine whether there is a meaningful, measurable difference in the average final course grade for each modality. The data from each section were normally distributed according to visual testing and the Shapiro-Wilk test (asynchronous p = 0.12, synchronous p = 0.26). An F-test revealed that the data were not of equal variance (F = 13.66, p < 0.001, 95% CI [3.69, 40.01]). The Welch two-sample t-test revealed a statistically significant, large difference between the asynchronous and synchronous sections (t(22.49) = 3.87, p < 0.001, d = 1.29, 95% CI [-2.04, -0.53]). The observed difference in means was -26.46, with a 95% CI [-40.63, -12.29]. A post-hoc test revealed an actual power of 0.80.

As you can see from the visualization, the learners in the asynchronous course had a much wider spread of final grades, compared to the learners in the synchronous course. The huge, statistically significant difference between the modalities can be seen most glaringly: nearly 75% of the synchronous scores fall within just the fourth quartile of asynchronous scores.

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## Asynchronous vs Synchronous: An informal comparison based on two contrasting sections of Intensive Elementary French

This past Summer, I taught two sections of the same French course during the same six-week session at a large, public R1 university. The main difference between these two sections was the mode of distribution: one was delivered asynchronously, while the other section met synchronously over Zoom for 80 minutes twice per week. I wanted to record some of my observations, in an attempt to explore some of the different student outcomes. Note that this is an informal comparison, and no personally-identifiable data are being shared.

I’ve broken down this post into several sections:

• Course description and distribution model
• Modifications for online distribution
• Student population
• Interaction and engagement
• Discussion
• Conclusions
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## LibreLingo: An Open-source Alternative to Duolingo

When he first announced Duolingo, co-founder Luis Von Ahn’s stated goal was to crowd source the translation of the internet. As the site (and subsequent application) have undergone extremely transformative development, this original goal has been tossed by the wayside. No longer do Duolingo users translate web articles for algorithms to decide which inputs are the most accurate. Instead, we have a free-to-use language learning application which overly focuses on vocabulary and rote exercises, developed mostly by computer scientists rather than trained language educators, and monetized through ads (or a paid version without ads) and high-rolling investors.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve used Duolingo on and off since the Beta release, and I assign weekly homework through Duolingo to my middle school French students. I love the “Stories” function, and I love the community interaction. That said, Duolingo is not without its flaws and lack of essential functionality for serious language enthusiasts: almost no support for grammar, no way for a Duolingo Classroom to force audio exercises, complete decontextualization of input (outside of the “Stories”), and essentially no creativity or higher-order critical thinking for responses (again, “Stories” is a good start with some of its follow-up questions). These flaws are not enough to make me stop assigning Duolingo as a supplemental activity for middle schoolers, but the recent investment from Google parent company, Alphabet, is enough for me to take a step back and question the security of my students’ (and my own) data.

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## Students’ Digital Data

Turns out that Learning Management Systems aren’t as secure as they want you to believe–SQL injection vulnerability is a pretty grievous, novice error to make for company like Blackboard.

The US Department of Education has several online resources regarding the collection of students’ personally identifiable information, and even discusses how online education platforms might collect usage metadata from all of our students–but this doesn’t violate FERPA as long as any shared metadata is not directly linked to identifiable information. So there shouldn’t be any issue with that, unless tech companies start using these data and metadata to create a profile of you, even if you don’t have an account with them.

It’s not a stretch to say that a company like Google could take all of these data and metadata from schools’ Google Apps for Education accounts and match them to personal accounts of people whose personal data match. As long as Google keeps the data for themselves (because only disclosing it would violate FERPA), there are no legal protections for any of us, especially our children, from a company that decides to use these metadata to create psychographic profiles for targeted advertising.