Positive relationships between students and instructors are crucial to meeting students’ academic and socio-emotional needs as outlined by the American Psychological Association (APA). As university educators, we contend that trust is an essential ingredient in these relationships. While teaching is inherently relational, we argue that models of “good teaching” must include trust to acknowledge that learning is not simply a cognitive process; it has effective elements. Evidence from student perspectives suggests that, for them, “good teachers” show attention, affection, and appreciation as part of the teaching process. If a student trusts that their teacher is engaged in and cares about their learning journey, as a unique individual, they are more likely to meet their academic goals.
Online students do not usually ‘hang out’ on institutional websites; thus, their online subjects and teachers are their primary experience of ‘university’ …
The importance of nurturing trusting relationships between students and teachers is even more important online, as the teacher-student relationship often becomes a proxy for the social, pastoral and cultural support that campus-based students access outside of class. Online students do not usually ‘hang out’ on institutional websites; thus, their online subjects and teachers are their primary experience of ‘university’ itself.
In research responding to the shift to online learning, students said a critical issue was a lack of adequate support, interaction, and engagement with their instructors. Further, online learning has fostered increasing participation of historically underrepresented students in higher education (HE).
Students at the margins are not often well-served by the educational status quo (Sybing, 2019); they enrol online due to anxiety rooted in previous negative educational experiences, or because practical responsibilities – such as childcare or employment – mean they cannot meet the requirements of campus timetables. Trust thus becomes especially important for online learners, as many are wary of education itself, and all desire interaction and engagement with their teachers.
Thus, two categories of trust are important:
- cognitive-based trust, grounded in students’ belief in their instructors’ capability and dependability, and
- effective-based trust, grounded in students’ perceptions and experiences of their instructors’ interpersonal care and concern.
Trust thus becomes especially important for online learners, as many are wary of education itself, and all desire interaction and engagement with their teachers.
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