A research paper titled ‘A sequential explanatory mixed-methods study of UK higher education teacher experiences when building rapport with international students online’ by Gemma Peacock has recently been published in SN Social Sciences. Gemma is an EdD student at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education and also a lecturer in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at the university working in the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI). Her research therefore focuses on the UK Higher Education EAP context and international students.
This sequential explanatory mixed methods study took place during the emergency remote teaching environment of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when teaching was forced online. Gemma was interested in exploring how teachers established and maintained effective interpersonal teacher-student relationships and positive rapport online since these are known to positively impact student learning and learning experiences (Mseleku, 2020).
The study built on Murphy and Rodríguez-Manzanares’ research into rapport-building in Distance Education and utilised categories and sub-categories of rapport identified via their own research (2012) and in the general literature. The first study phase comprised a structured, online research questionnaire for 36 participants of the target population designed to quantitatively answer the first research question and to gather qualitative and quantitative data for the third. Phase 2 employed in-depth interviews with three selected participants from Phase 1 in order to gather further qualitative data to answer the second and third research questions.
After data analysis, three themes emerged as most significant when considering teacher experiences of building rapport with students online: online communication in online sessions; teacher–student communication outside online sessions; and teacher availability and accessibility. The findings suggest that if online sessions could primarily be used as opportunities to meet learning outcomes, then the necessary and conscious task of building teacher–student rapport might be more effective in frequent 1–1 tutorials with students or during any available pre- and post-online session time. Gemma hopes to build on this work in her continuing EdD studies at the IoE.