Building Rapport Online

Teacher classroom rapportBuilding rapport is the act of developing relationships where both parties feel supported and understood. In the education context, effective rapport building can help teacher’s manage classroom behaviour, engage learners, and create positive learning environments.


While building positive relationships with young learners can be easy enough in person, now educators face a new challenge during this coronavirus crisis: how can they adapt to building rapport and engaging learners within a digital learning space?



With digital learning becoming an important way to boost literacy and access to education, global organisations such as the World Literacy Foundation are implementing EdTech projects in disadvantaged locations to minimize the digital divide.


Initiatives like Sun Books in Africa, Indigenous Learning App in Northern territory Australia and Dingo App in Colombia are bringing digital content and e-books to children with limited educational resources.


It seems that building rapport online is a challenge for all teachers and educators regardless of their geographical location or socio-economic condition. We found some important tips to make the online learning experience warm, friendly and engaging for our young people.




Make time for small talk


If you have students one-on-one or in small groups, it can be a great opportunity to spend a little extra time talking to them about themselves and topics they are interested in. Many students don’t get this attention in big classes, and showing an interest is a great way to build rapport.


Top tips:

  • Avoid questions/topics that are too personal
  • Keep it light – humour is always a winner
  • Be authentic – don’t force ingenuine small talk


Get moving


Total Physical Response (TPR) is an approach that many teachers find effective and can be used in recorded and real-time video lessons. Getting students moving can help them to feel comfortable with you. Being the first to make a move is essential – a sure-fire rapport-building strategy is to show your student that you are willing to do what you’re asking them to do.

Top tips:

  • Model activities/responses first
  • Keep smiling
  • Don’t be afraid to look silly

Communicate encouragement


A smile is a powerful tool in creating a positive relationship and making young learners feel at ease and welcome in a digital learning space. A smile encourages students and communicates warmth and trust. Verbal praise is also great for engagement and enjoyment. Digital content and apps where teachers and learners are not communicating in real-time can be great spaces for positive written comments.


Top tips:

  • Smile and praise frequently
  • Always be genuine in your praise
  • Be specific and explicit – tell students exactly what they have done well

Written by: Ashley Emmerton



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