Tips for Establishing Relationships With Online Instructors

  • Research
  • Make an Introduction
  • Communicate Directly
  • Engage in Class Discussions
  • Meet In Person

Ensuring a good relationship with online professors may seem more difficult than doing so with professors that students meet with in person daily. However, establishing such a relationship is not entirely different from doing so offline and can be achieved using the steps below.

Related resource: Top 10 Online Colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree

1. Research

Finding out more about the instructor can help a student understand the professor’s specialties and expectations. Most schools will have pages for faculty that show what their interests are, and some are more personal. Online ratings should be taken with a grain of salt, but if there seems to be a general consensus from a number of students about a professor’s style or responsiveness, this may help create a picture of the professor. Students who attend classes on campus as well as offline may be able to find out more about the instructor from other students.

2. Make an Introduction

Students can start a good relationship with online professors early by introducing themselves to the professor shortly before or at the start of the semester. It is best to make these types of introductions brief and sincere. Students should use a tone that is courteous and professional. If the professor has a specialty that is of interest to the student, the student could mention it. If the subject matter is unfamiliar to the student, the student could simply mention looking forward to learning more about it.

3. Communicate Directly

Communicating directly can help build a rapport and ensure a good relationship with online professors. As with the introductory email, students should aim to be concise and polite. They should not ask questions that are answered on the syllabus. They should be genuine. This may seem difficult at first, but once students think about it, they may find there are many things they could ask their professors ranging from tips to improve their writing, to clarification about concepts discussed in class to suggestions for further reading.

4. Engage in Class Discussions

Instructors notice and appreciate when students engage in class discussions online. Engagement goes beyond just answering the required questions and includes involving other students and helping to expand the discussion. Students should avoid being rude or disruptive, but they can politely challenge other students’ views or interpretations if they disagree with them. One common mistake students often make with online class discussions is failing to check back to see if others have responded or raised other issues.

5. Meet in Person

This is not possible for students who are a significant distance away from campus, but for those who are within driving distance even by as much as an hour or two, an in-person meeting with the professor during the professor’s office hours may be one of the best ways to ensure a good relationship with online professors. Taking the time out to meet the professor in person shows the extent of a student’s commitment. It also establishes an in-person rapport that can be stronger than an online relationship. As Forbes discusses, professors enjoy meeting students who are enthusiastic about their field of study, and it can be a valuable networking opportunity.

Above all, students should make an effort to keep up in class and turn in their best work. The most important element of ensuring a good relationship with online professors is being a responsible and conscientious student.