Dare to Care: Bring Instructor Immediacy to e-learning.

August 19, 2022

By: Megan Larkin

Reading Time: 3.9

We’ve all been there: sitting in a large lecture hall listening to the instructor drone on and on without pausing to take questions, staring at a whiteboard with a few disjointed words on it, trying not to nod off. You’re doing your level best to take notes, but it’s tough. You know you’re going to spend hours pouring over a textbook solo and then take a stab at completing your assignments the way you think the instructor wants you to – though that’s tough to figure out because you have neither clear instructions nor timely feedback.

The issue here isn’t the whiteboard, the lecture hall, or the textbook – they’re just tools. The issue here is the instruction. Good instruction involves:

  • engaging course design and presentation
  • timely and clear personalized feedback and direction
  • meaningful discussions and connection between the instructor and the students

In short, good instruction makes students feel that the instructor really cares about them.

Instructor immediacy or perceived caring can be thought of in terms of behaviors that bring the instructor and the students closer together with regard to perceived psychological distance and is positively correlated with student success. (Rocca, 2007)

The power of instructor immediacy doesn’t change simply because a course is online. Multiple studies have already concluded, “no significant difference” between online and traditional (classroom) approaches to learning (Hiltz et al., 2002; Johnson et al., 2000; McLaren, 2004; Vroeginday, 2005). Researchers are “[moving] beyond the question of whether the online approach to education is as effective as traditional learning and are now delving into the realm of identifying which instructional strategies are most effective for an online learning environment,” (Baker, 2010, 2)

There’s no doubt that the change in medium from in-person to online impacts the tactics that best transmit information to students; you can’t simply point a camera at yourself conducting business as usual in a lecture hall and expect that to translate into quality e-learning.

So how do you create a sense of instructor immediacy for online courses? Effective strategies include:

  • asking questions
  • initiating discussions
  • frequently responding to students
  • addressing students by preferred name and pronouns
  • repeating contact with students over time
  • offering praise
  • utilizing visual cues such as color, graphics, and the instructor’s picture

Techniques like those above are vital to promoting a sense of perceived caring between instructor and student and thus integral to creating a high quality online course.

How do you know if the tactics you’re employing to convey instructor immediacy are effective? That’s where data comes in. How much time is each individual student spending in each of your course tools? Is there a particular area of your course that’s getting high or low engagement? How much engagement is your course getting relative to others in your department? If engagement levels are low, you can then intervene by reaching out to your students or improving aspects of your course design and delivery.

Just like the issue with that large traditional lecture course we’ve all been tempted to nap through was never the lecture hall, the issue with your online course might not be the LMS, the video platform, or the PDFs. Tools are just tools and at the end of the day, the importance of instructor immediacy and human connection cannot be overstated no matter the platform.

Want to learn more about promoting instructor immediacy in your online courses? Check out our upcoming webinars or schedule a meeting with our e-learning experts. IntelliBoard is Learning Analytics for EVERYONE.


Baker, C. (2010, January). The impact of instructor immediacy and presence for online student affective learning, cognition, and motivation. Journal of Educators Online, 7(1), 1-30.

Hiltz, R., Zhang, Y., & Tuross, M. (2002). Studies of effectiveness of learning networks. In J. R. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds.), Elements of Quality Online Education: Learning Effectiveness, Cost Effectiveness, Access, Faculty Satisfaction, Student Satisfaction. Sloan Consortium.

Johnson, S.D., Aragon, S.R., Shaik, N., & Palma-Rivas, N. (2000). Comparative analysis of learner satisfaction and learning outcomes in online and face-to-face learning environments. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 11(1), 29-49. APA Psych Info.

McLaren, C.H. (2004). A comparison of student persistence and performance in online and classroom business statistics experiences. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 2(1), 1-10.

Rocca, K. (2007, October 22). Immediacy in the Classroom: Research and Practical Implications. SERC – Carleton. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from

Vroeginday, B.J. (2005). Traditional vs. online education: A comparative analysis of learner outcomes. Dissertation Abstracts International, 66(10A).

Did you like what you read? Please share!

Megan Larkin

Ann McGuire is an experienced marketer with more than 20 years creating content, marketing communications programs, and strategies for tech firms. She reads, writes, and lives in New Haven, CT with her husband and two needy cats.


Explore Learning Analytics Insights

Go to Top