Building Rapport with Professors: Tips for Online Students

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The 2020 global pandemic brought several changes to the world; one notable change was the need to shift classrooms from physical locations to virtual spaces. As online education increased, higher education institutions have sought ways to create more enriching educational experiences (Glazier & Harris, 2021). 

Still, online education can sometimes feel isolating, especially when a student needs help regarding an assignment. While the Purdue University Global Academic Success Center offers a multitude of student resources such as synchronous tutoring and assignment review, sometimes a student might need further clarification from their professor regarding the particulars of an assignment. To a student, asking a professor for help might be a daunting task, but studies show building a good rapport with a professor might be more beneficial than simply finding the answer regarding an assignment that the student is seeking (Glazier & Harris, 2021). 

Building a good rapport with their professors also increases student retention in online educational communities (Glazier & Harris, 2021). Not only is retention positive for a university, but it is also imperative for the degree-seeking student. Building rapport between professors and students benefits higher educational institutions that are focused on online studies in ways of student achievement and maintaining enrollment (Glazier & Harris, 2021). In terms of improvement within the student, good rapport with a professor enables the student to have a much more enriching educational experience where they may be able to understand the course material on a deeper level. Delgado et. al (2021) describe the positives of good rapport between a student and professor as allowing for student success, enriching relationships, and providing potential learning environments for professors, too. The student-professor relationship is proven to be beneficial for all involved. And, while reaching out to a professor may feel nerve-wracking to a student, most professors welcome any sort of student engagement and are eager to help. 

When students need to contact their professors for assistance by email, the following tips can help ensure that the communication is positive and successful. 

  • Use your student e-mail account to send the email.
  • Use a formal greeting and ending, such as “Dear Professor B.,” and “Sincerely,.”
  • Introduce yourself and state which course/section you are enrolled in.
  • Include a detailed and descriptive subject line. 
  • Use the correct title (Dr., Professor, etc.) Do not address the professor by their first name unless they have stated that students should call them by their first name. 
  • Tell the instructor what you have done to find the answer.
  • Avoid using slang, abbreviations, emoticons, and all-capital letters. 
  • Keep the email to the point. Short and simple is better. 
  • Use correct spelling and grammar. Proofread carefully. 
  • Use polite, clear, and specific language.
  • Ask for a virtual meeting if you still have questions.

In the end, a student reaching out to a professor for help can only provide benefits for both parties. The better the rapport between a student and a professor, the greater potential for student success. 


Delgado, A., McGill, C. M., & Rocco, T. S. (2021). Student perspectives on educational helping instructor–

student relationships. Adult Learning, 32(4), 143–153.

Glazier, R. A., & Harris, H. S. (2021). How teaching with Rapport can improve online student success and

retention: Data from two empirical studies. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 21(4), 1–17.

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