The Faculty-Student Connection in the Online Classroom and Its Impact on Student Evaluations of Teaching

  • Robert Sparks University of Phoenix
  • Hildegarde Selig Baker College
Keywords: online education, student evaluations of teaching, immediacy, engagement, student motivation


The validity of the student evaluations of teaching (SETs) is highly dependent on the number of students submitting them. Consequently, any action to increase the submission rates would improve the SET usefulness. A good connection between instructor and students, also known as immediacy, seems to enhance the student's willingness to participate in the SET process. This study hypothesized that using immediacy techniques may result in a higher quantity of SET submissions and would allow the SET to be a better teaching evaluation tool. Experiments were designed to study the effect of using immediacy practices on students’ participation in the SET process. The immediacy practices included verbal and non-verbal cues for online communication in the form of personalized messages. The results obtained with the 440 students in our sample showed that there was a significant difference between survey returns when immediacy practices were used and when those practices were not used. The authors believe that this study could be extended to a larger research project, in which instructors' demographic variations could be considered. Possible uses in web-based homework management systems (W-BHMS) classes and Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) are also discussed.

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