Skip to main content
Teachers and lecturers should use smileys and other emojis in their communications with students, writes Dr Ben Marder.

My latest study is relevant in an age where teachers and lecturers have to communicate with a different breed of students: highly tech-savvy, digital natives who are fluent in online messaging.

For these students, the use of emojis such as the smiley is second nature as a means to communicate emotion in their instant messages and emails with their peers and likely family. The research shows that educators communicating with students using smileys are overall perceived as warmer, more likely to receive a positive evaluation, and will be more influential with students.

As teachers are encouraged to smile when speaking to their students, they should also smile at them through emails. In a world of social media, the norm of computer-mediated communication has shifted to become more social. Adapting to this norm is necessary for teachers wishing to build stronger relationships with their students.

In other professional contexts, such as politics and branding, emojis have become commonplace and education should follow suit. My research found that emoticon use increases perceived warmth, which outweighs the decrease in perceived competence. Essentially, when communicating with students who are digital natives we as staff need to communicate in a manner that they are familiar with to build healthy relationships.

Dr Ben Marder is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at University of Edinburgh Business School.

Read Ben's Study