Relationships Matter: Building Positive Relationships Between Social Work Educators and Online Students



Social work education, Pedagogy, Online learning, Relational teaching, Teaching, Support


Relationships matter in higher education in a range of ways. Positive relationships between students and educators can contribute to the creation of a safe learning environment and sense of connection, and thereby enhance learning outcomes for students. Advances in technology, combined with the need for flexibility for students managing multiple demands and responsibilities – particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic – have resulted in the expansion of online education. The relationships between students and teaching staff,and between peers, take on new dimensions in the online space. This paper explores the perspectives of students on relationship-building, and what barriers and enablers are experienced in the creation of optimal online learning spaces. Strategies to better foster safety and connection in the online learning environment are also explored.

Author Biographies

Peter Young, Griffiths University

Senior Lecturer and Master of Social Work Program Director, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia 

Donna McAuliffe, Griffiths University

Professor of Social Work in the School of Health Sciences and Social Work, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia.