Newswise — Madison, Wis. (June 22, 2022)—During the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, many colleges and universities were forced to hold classes virtually. A new study at the University of Minnesota found students who attended large classes live via Zoom (synchronously) did better on exams than students who later watched recorded lectures (asynchronously), particularly when sex and ethnicity were considered. Physiology educator-researchers will present their findings this week at the American Physiological Society (APS) Institute on Teaching and Learning in Madison, Wisconsin.  

This study investigated how synchronous versus asynchronous attendance of human physiology lectures affected the exam scores of 200 students. The findings suggest female students attending synchronously saw significant increases, ranging from 4.10–6.16 points on every exam. That is equivalent to nearly a full letter grade (B+ to A-) higher on exam scores. 

Non-white students who attended synchronously saw even larger gains in exam scores, ranging from 2.7–7.43 points. That translates to nearly a full letter grade higher for non-white students attending synchronously compared to non-white students attending asynchronously. 

These trends held on the final exam for female students attending asynchronously throughout the entire semester. They scored on average 7.80 points lower than those who attended synchronously. And non-white students attending asynchronously scored on average 9.76 points lower than non-white students attending synchronously. 

Researchers compiled a chart showing how asynchronous students averaged lower scores across four exams and one final exam than synchronous students.


Coefficient (average points drop)


Exam 1



Exam 2



Exam 3



Exam 4






Other key takeaways from this study:

  • Women attended synchronous lectures more frequently than men.
  • Attending synchronous lectures made more of a difference to non-white students than white students.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The APS Institute on Teaching and Learning will be held June 21–24 in Madison, Wisconsin. To request abstract 15 or schedule an interview with the researchers, conference organizers or presenters, contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more highlights in our Newsroom

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work. 

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American Physiological Society (APS) Institute on Teaching and Learning