5 Tips for Building Relationships with Your Online Professors

“No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.”

While written nearly 400 years ago, these words from English poet John Donne still ring true today; humans need connection and to feel like part of a whole. The relationships we build with others are a big part of what gives us happiness, allows us to find success, and makes our day-to-day life fulfilling and rewarding.

While the first relationship you think of may not be that of teacher and student, your professors can be incredibly influential people in your life. But like any other relationship, the student-teacher relationship can’t flourish without some work. As an online student you may need to go the extra mile to connect with professors who are operating at a distance and whom you may never actually meet face-to-face.

Here are some tips for bridging the distance and building stronger and lasting relationships with your instructors.

  1. Communicate. There are lots of ways to engage with your professors as an online student, even though you’re not heading to class. Open up a channel of communication through online office hours, chat sessions, emails, social media, or just by actively engaging with him or her through Blackboard. It’s not the avenue you choose that matters so much as the thought you put into reaching out and working to make the connection.
  2. Participate in class. One of the best ways to interact with your professors in a traditional course is by raising your hand to ask or answer a question. So what’s the best way to do this in the online sphere? The discussion board! Go beyond the basics in your answers, seek out interaction with your instructor (and your classmates), and keep the conversation going. This kind of interaction can actually help you to learn more, too. Studies have shown that students who have a strong relationship with an instructor find it easier to adjust to the classroom, improve social skills, and have greater academic resiliency and performance.
  3. Don’t be “that student.” Making your professor’s life difficult isn’t setting a good foundation for a relationship. Chronically turning in assignment late, asking for deadline extensions, failing to read the syllabus, acting unprofessionally—these are all things that set the stage for making your professor want to run for the hills and will make it impossible for him or her to recommend you professionally. Be professional and responsible in your online courses; your professor will appreciate it and this sets the stage for a good relationship.
  4. Ask for advice. You want to enter the field your professor works in. He or she is an expert in that field. It only makes sense to ask your professor for advice on this field. Get some tips on books or articles to read, courses to take, or career avenues to pursue. Yes, your professors are busy, but most are more than happy to take the time to converse with students who demonstrate an enthusiasm for the course content. Not only will this help you to get to know your professors a little better, it will also help you deepen your knowledge in your field of study, which is always a good thing.
  5. Keep in touch. Your relationship with your professor doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) end when your course is over. Relationships take time and dedication, so keep in touch over email or social media. This can mean updating your instructor on your progress as a professional, sharing interesting articles, or just having a friendly chat.

Building better relationships with your professors can help you succeed in the courses you’re in now, but it’s also a smart way to start your career by finding a mentor or just make a friend who shares a passion for the same topics you do. At the very least, it will make your course much more fun, so don’t let the distance keep you from forging a stronger, better, more lasting relationship with your instructors.