The Effects of Rapport-Building Strategies in the Online Political Science Classroom
Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
As the prevalence of online education continues to grow, so do concerns about student success. Students in online classes tend to withdraw more often and earn lower grades, compared to in-person classes. Some explanations for this disparity point to student characteristics, while others point to things instructors can do to facilitate greater success. I hypothesize that the difficulty of establishing rapport in an online classroom makes it easier for students to forget about, not prioritize, or not feel as great of a responsibility toward, their online classes. Thus, improving rapport with online students may lead to improvements in student success. To test this hypothesis, I implemented rapport-building teaching strategies — including video updates, personal emails, handwritten electronic comments on assignments, and office hours via Skype — in two online classes (student n=51) and compared student outcomes in those classes to online classes taught without these measures (student n=324). The data indicate that rapport-building strategies do not have a significant impact on student grades or retention rates. They do, however, significantly affect the students’ views of the instructor and may hold other potential future benefits as well.
Keywords: online education, rapport, distance learning
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