Skip main navigation

Developing rapport and motivating learners

Ways that an online teacher can develop rapport with learners and learners can develop rapport with each other.
Probably it’s best to bring in as much of your own personality as you can. It can be difficult when it’s just the camera, but it’s really worth making the effort. And of course, making sure you get to know your learner, as well, asking them questions so that you can address their needs better that way. First of all, smiling. So just constantly, constantly smiling. And I try, it depends, of course, on the student’s level, but if the student can understand certain things, then I try to make the content relatable for them. So even for the little, little kids that might only be the three or four years old.
When I’m teaching them fruit, for example, and we’re talking about apples, saying do you like apples? [CHOMPING] And that way can say, yes, or, no. And that way is something that’s more personalised for them and they feel like it’s not just a random person making them repeat after them. I build rapport with my online learners in very much the same way as I would do with a regular face-to-face class. So lots of encouragement and motivation and praise. Because there’s a distance between us, I think it’s important to try and get to know the learners individually as much as possible.
So usually there’s– just as there is in a regular classroom– there’s time before and after a lesson to get to know people and ask questions. Ask about how their week’s been. You start with yourself and you ensure that what you’re saying and the way that you’re saying it is the way that you want them to respond, so try and be as friendly as possible, for example. One thing that I think is important to help continue rapport throughout the course is to make sure that the students aren’t entirely focused on the teacher. So there isn’t just a one-way interaction between the student and the teacher.
I think it’s important to encourage the learners to build relationships with themselves, as it really helps when you’re trying to take complete tasks in an online classroom, if they get to know each other as well as possible, as well.

In the previous step we talked about how establishing good rapport with a learner and maintaining their motivation can be more challenging online than in the face-to-face classroom.

You shared some of your ideas for developing good rapport with learners and motivating them during online lessons. Now, let’s hear from our teachers.


Watch our online teachers talking about techniques they use to establish good rapport and motivate learners. Put techniques A–H in the order you hear them.

A: Give encouragement and praise

B: Be friendly

C: Chat to students before/after a lesson

D: Bring in your personality

E: Encourage learners to get to know each other

F: Personalise the lesson

G: Get to know your students

H: Smile

Check your answers

Reflect and share

Ollie said that it’s important to get to know your students and to ask them questions. What questions do you think are important to find out about your learners’ needs and interests? Share a few ideas in the comments.

Click here to see a list of our ideas

This article is from the free online

Teaching English Online

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now