Can online teachers really forge relationships with their students?

The short answer is, “yes.”

But will teachers forge relationships with their students?! The answer is, again, yes. Now, another equally important question that we must ask is, will online students forge relationships with their teachers? And here’s where it gets interesting. The answer mainly depends on your expectations upon enrolling to an online school.

Some students come to online schooling precisely because they want to minimize the amount of interaction between themselves and their teachers. If that is the case, the student will most likely not respond to a teacher’s efforts to forge a relationship. On the other hand, some students find interacting with adults face-to-face generally intimidating, so the idea of interacting with their teachers digitally makes communication with adults more bearable. These students are more likely to respond positively to a teacher’s efforts to forge a relationship.

We live in a day and time when much of our lives are dependent on the Internet. People trade, communicate, work, and entertain themselves through an online medium. We even reached a point when people meeting their future spouse online is not an uncommon occurrence! Students are able to forge a relationship with a teacher online, especially when the teachers make initial contact.

How Will Online Teachers Forge Relationships With Their Students?

It all starts with a good introduction.

Teachers at Enlightium Academy always send a greeting letter when a student joins their class. We send the letter to students via Ignitia and to parents via email. Teachers also send a Smore link in this greeting letter— a friendlier interface where we can introduce ourselves in a more colorful way, where we talk about their interests and families and show ourselves as a fun, interesting person who will help their student through the coursework.
For some students, this introduction is enough to break the ice; they will respond with an introduction of their own, and the teacher will remember this conversation.

For other students, an introduction is not enough, and teachers know this. So we keep reaching out to students in different ways. Most of our interactions are through chat on Ignitia, although some students have access to teachers through phone tutorials, screen sharing and face-to-face video chat. (Click here to see the kinds of teacher interaction accessible to your student)

Be it face-to-face or just written communication, the chance to work one-on-one with the student is what gives teachers the opportunity to truly forge a relationship with them. It is during these interactions that teachers can continue to learn about the person behind the screen name. It isn’t uncommon for teachers to know the names of the student’s pets or to be in prayer with the student and his or her parents. And we quite enjoy it!

Why Will Online Teachers Forge Relationships With Their Students?

This is perhaps a question that gets neglected often: the motivation behind things. Believe it or not, teachers actually need to bond with their students.
In the process of preparing this article, I asked my colleagues for their input regarding the teacher-student relationships in our school. We all had the same, if not similar, opinions about the practicality and reality of forging relationships with our students through the online medium. Mrs. Siefe’s input stuck out when she said, “the act of teaching requires a social element, whether you’re teaching online or in person. Sometimes we need to be creative with the way we connect with our students, but we definitely do [connect with them].”

Theoretically, a student could complete his or her coursework without once talking to the teacher; however, a teacher would not be able to work without interacting with the students.



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