Rapport in distance education


  • Elizabeth Murphy Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • María A. Rodríguez-Manzanares Memorial University of Newfoundland




distance education, online learning, rapport' teachers' beliefs, high school education


Rapport has been recognized as important in learning in general but little is known about its importance in distance education (DE). The study we report on in this paper provides insights into the importance of rapport in DE as well as challenges to and indicators of rapport-building in DE. The study relied on interviews with 42 Canadian high-school DE teachers. Findings revealed that rapport is necessary in DE because of the absence of face-to-face communication. Challenges to building rapport relate to the geographic dispersion of students, the asynchronous nature of DE, teacher workload, limits of the software, teachers and students not seeing the need for rapport, and DE traditions. We identified six categories of rapport-building in DE as follows: Recognizing the person/individual; Supporting and monitoring; Availability, accessibility, and responsiveness; Non text-based interactions; Tone of interactions; Non-academic conversation/interactions. We break the categories into subcategories and provide indicators for each one. The indicators might also be used in contexts of DE teacher professional development as a springboard for discussion, or, more prescriptively, as guides to DE teacher behaviour. A follow-up study using a more fine-grained focus on specific indicators might provide insights into specific rapport-related behaviours.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Murphy, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Elizabeth Murphy holds a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. Her program of research focuses on teacher practices in technology-mediated contexts. She has been principal investigator on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Standard Research Grant, principal investigator on a SSHRC Strategic Joint Initiative, and co-investigator on a SSHRC Community University Research Alliance.

María A. Rodríguez-Manzanares, Memorial University of Newfoundland

María A. Rodríguez Manzanares is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and a Spanish lecturer in the university’s Department of French and Spanish. Her areas of interest include technology-enhanced and distance learning, international students, and second/foreign language learning.

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How to Cite

Murphy, E., & Rodríguez-Manzanares, M. A. (2012). Rapport in distance education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), 167–190. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v13i1.1057



Research Articles