Instructor to Student: Get to Know Me

Getting to know your online instructor

I’ve always told myself that an education is something no one can ever take from me. This thought carried me through my four years as an online learner obtaining my doctoral degree. It gave me motivation and reminded me that in the end, a diploma would be in my hands. The process of earning that degree, however, involved so much more than what words on a piece of paper could show. I wanted to get the most out of my experience because I was paying the tuition, and I wanted the knowledge. Part of that experience meant getting to know my instructors better. I wanted to know they were real, live people that I could learn from and lean on throughout my online education.

So, I went into the virtual classroom early to learn more about the course. I couldn’t ask enough questions, send enough emails, or make enough phone calls to my instructors. Yes, some would say I was an overachiever, but every additional morsel of knowledge that I could glean meant I would move on to another course more prepared. I wanted more; I wanted to succeed; I would not rest. I wanted my degree for many reasons, but self-fulfillment was a main one. I wanted my teachers to give me thorough feedback so I could be a better student, writer, and ultimately, teacher.

Now, on the other side of the screen as that teacher, I appreciate what connecting with an instructor means even more. Building a relationship with your teacher is more than being an organized, overachiever. It is the need and want to learn as much as you can, and with that, maximizing your experience as an online learner. Research by Rimm-Kaufman supports this finding. He notes, “Improving students' relationships with teachers has important, positive, and long-lasting implications for both students' academic and social development” (2017). If you’re not sure how to get started, consider implementing some of the following into your next online class.

Get to Know Your Online Instructor

  • The instructor is there to help you and teach you. Ask them questions!
  • Get as much as you can out of the course by asking the instructor about their ideas and experiences.
  • Read the “Meet Your Instructor” section of each class.
  • Schedule a time to speak to your instructor. If this is not possible, email your instructor and get to know them that way.
  • If an emergency comes up, email your instructor immediately. Instructors will likely understand. We’re people, too, and want you to succeed.
  • Be visible! When the instructor asks you something in the discussion area, don’t be afraid to ask questions back. Learn as much as you can about your instructors’ experiences, knowledge, and ideas. They may have published a book or articles in the past, and they may have a website or social media site that you can follow.

Participate and Get to Know your Peers

  • Read over the introduction and get to know the course you are taking.
  • Be in the discussion board area early to engage with your instructor and peers. When your instructor responds, go in and answer any questions. Be curious, responsive, and share your experiences.
  • In your introduction, add a picture of yourself so your instructor has a face to go with your name. Tell them about yourself, and share your background knowledge and experience on the topic. Your peers and instructor will be interested in what you bring to the table and share with them.
  • Visit the Ashford Café, where you can share what you know, resources you have found, articles you have written, and any other professional things you want to contribute.
  • Be a part of anything you can: student clubs, webinars, conference calls, calls with your instructor, emails, etc.
  • Begin working on and completing assignments ahead of time. You never know when emergencies or things out of your control will happen. If you have your assignments and discussions prepared ahead of time, you can turn them in without feeling pressure during a time of distress.
  • Read all expectations (for example: due dates, requirements, and format of assignments).
  • Read not only the course guide, but also the rubrics as you put your assignments together (ask questions if you don’t understand something).
  • Check your email and the course room daily, and read any announcements or resources your instructor posts.
  • Read the comments on your papers in the discussion area and in the summarized feedback. Instructors will give you great tips on how to improve for next time. If they don’t provide much feedback, ask them how you can do better.

Things to Remember About Your Instructor

  • We want you to succeed.
  • We are your biggest cheerleaders/supporters.
  • You are an important part of the classroom community.
  • We are here to support you in any way we can.
  • We want to hear from you.

Building a relationship with your instructor that is professional, reciprocal, and engaging will help you as a student. Instructors are here for the same reason you are — to learn and to share. Learn as much as you can from each course and stay in contact even after the course is over. You never know who you will reach out to for advice, ideas, and resources in the future. As USA Today College puts it, “Professors are not only valuable academic advisors, but they are also a wealth of knowledge and connections when it comes time to apply for jobs or graduate school” (Varner, 2014). Take this information, and use it to your advantage.



Written by Tisha Shipley, EdD, Program Chair for Early Childhood Education Administration at Ashford University

Learn more about Dr. Shipley’s work on her early childhood education website, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn.



Rimm-Kaufman, S. (2017). Improving Students' Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning

Varner, K. (2014). 4 ways to build strong relationships with your professors. USA Today   College. Retrieved from relationships-with-your-professors-and-why-it-matters/

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