Leadership Common Experience: Week 3

The Importance of Faculty Rapport

Check out the below entry from one of our NOVA Online instructors on his thoughts about the importance of building rapport with faculty.

dog_pun_2Just before I started teaching my first online course I was worried about how well I’d be able to reach my students, both as a teacher and as a human being. Would Pun Dog be able to get the kind of help he needed in as clear a way as would happen were his instructor guiding him through his struggles with math in-person? And, more, could the teacher put him at ease by giving him a friendly tone through potentially cold screens full of text, unaccompanied by a friendly smile? Taken together, I worried that I couldn’t develop the sort of rapport I’d enjoyed with students I taught in the classroom.

As an online student you may have the same concerns, so I’m thrilled to say that all of my fears turned out to be unfounded. In fact, after that first course I went to a baseball game with one former student and met another for coffee when I was visiting NYC. Students shared photos of their children, we wrote back and forth about shared interests, etc.

All of this made for a fun class, but I’m certain it also lead to greater student success; when everyone has a sense of connection, even in a virtual classroom, there tends to be more of a sense of support, of presence, of caring, and so on, all of which serve to put everyone at ease and trust that their instructor is here to make you succeed. So having a strong student/teacher rapport is possible in an online environment, and also very beneficial.

Now, a lot of this is on the instructor, but I have found that my students, too, help create a harmonious relationship between them and myself. If you are proactive in creating a bond with your instructor, you just may find a better experience in your classes. Here are some ways you might try:

  • If you are asked to respond to your peers in discussion forums, go beyond the minimum reply and really push yourself to be expressive and helpful… this always opens my eyes and warms me towards the student. Similarly consider responding to those who comment on your work, including your instructor. Having a true back-and-forth doesn’t just have to happen in person.
  • Ask questions, be it in the question forum or via email. We want to know when you need help and, not being able to read body language/facial expressions, being able to do so can be difficult online. And asking us also makes us feel connected to you.
  • Use your sense of humor (when appropriate, of course), share some of your outside interests, etc.; it is possible to have fun and express ourselves online, and it’s a great way to get your peers and instructor to feel they have a genuine connection with you.
  • If this course is in an area that you are considering pursuing as a career, ask your instructor for her/his insider knowledge, tips, resources, and so on. Teachers are nothing if not passionate about their subjects and desirous of helping students develop into the professionals they want to become.

So there you have it… rapport with your online instructor is a vital component of a good experience, and you have the power to help bring it about. Trust me, it makes these classes so much more rewarding.

-Will Hatheway

NOVA Online Adjunct Instructor of English


What questions do you have about creating relationships with your NOVA Online instructors?