Online/Internet Emotional Intelligence (EI)



Summary. Online learning and team work are ever increasing. This poses new challenges on how to predict successful learning, teaching, and performance in general while being wary about problematic Internet/online usage too. Emotions may be seen as less relevant in an online environment, but studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EI) of online instructors and leaders of virtual teams does predict online success. As online participant want to bring in their personality, especially in the case of attachment to a program or project, empathic behavior plays a major role in the online world. “Mind reading” is happening in face-to-face interactions; interestingly, this is possible with others’ texts too, even in the absence of any other visual cues. EI can be developed online, especially when combined with mindfulness instructions, and the Internet Emotional Intelligence Scale (IEIS) provides a potent tool for evaluation.

Challenge to Identify Emotions in Online Situations

Online learning and virtual work is increasing, which has implications on how to predict students’ learning outcomes as well as effective teamwork and leadership. Online instructors (and students, coworkers) are challenged by the impeded assessment of socio-emotional aspects of online interaction [1]. Some researchers suspect that the limited existence of emotional triggers and the resulting initial difficulty of perceiving emotions in online settings does block the hierarchical chain of Emotional Intelligence (EI), which follows perception, usage, understanding, and management of emotions [2]. However, it is in minimum clear that online participants at least sometimes can experience emotions, insofar as they mutually offer to bring in their personality [3]. This raises the question whether reading texts of others can transmit emotions similar to face-to-face interactions. And indeed, it is possible for an online group to reason about each other’s’ mental state, even in the absence of visual impressions such as facial expressions [4]. This confirmation of the Theory of Mind in the online context may apply more specifically to Emotional Intelligence as well.

The Need for Online Emotional Intelligence

In online courses, the transfer of factual information may have priority over relational aspects between participants. While this may be true to some extent, student’s identification with the online program influences the degree to which help is sought and offered [2]. It was found that EI explains a significant portion of the variance in student’s readiness for e-learning [5]. Other studies even directly see EI as a main predictor of academic success and sociability is the dominant personality trait predicting online success [6]. Researchers emphasize the importance of developing EI for the successful transformational leadership of virtual teams [7].

Teaching and Leading by and with EI

There is considerable research confirming the critical role of emotional intelligence for online instructors [8]. EI can be taught online, while a blended approach involving classroom and online parts, together with guidance for mindful techniques, seems to be especially promising [9]. Other studies also found that EI levels increased after online courses in interpersonal competencies [10].

Problematic Online Usage

Online learning and work modes may not be equally beneficial for different individuals. Social stress and difficulties to regulate one’s emotions, for example, seem to correlate with addictive Internet and smartphone use [11]; [12]. Males, people who use the Internet for social purposes, and individuals with lower emotional intelligence are at higher risk to develop problematic Internet usage patterns [13]. Positive effects such as increase of self-esteem through support received online are mainly reaped by individuals with lower levels of extraversion [14].

The Internet Emotional Intelligence Scale (IEIS)

Whether for successful e-learning or virtual team work, the development of EI should be considered by online offerings. Interventions targeting the regulation of emotions may be preventive for problematic online behavior, including cyber bullying [15]. The Internet Emotional Intelligence Scale (IEIS) might be a useful tool that has proved its validity and reliability for the assessment of the competencies of online attention, clarity, and emotional repair [16].


[1] McKnight, J. (2013). Using Emotional Intelligence as a Basis for Developing an Online Faculty Guide for Emotional Awareness. Journal Of Instructional Research, 219-29.

[2] Han, H., & Johnson, S. D. (2012). Relationship between Students’ Emotional Intelligence, Social Bond, and Interactions in Online Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 15(1), 78-89.

[3] Meyer, K. A., & Jones, S. J. (2012). Do Students Experience “Social Intelligence,” Laughter, and Other Emotions Online?. Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(4), 99-111.

[4] Engel, D., Woolley, A. W., Jing, L. X., Chabris, C. F., & Malone, T. W. (2014). Reading the Mind in the Eyes or reading between the lines? Theory of Mind predicts collective intelligence equally well online and face-to-face. Plos One, 9(12), e115212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115212

[5] Buzdar, M. A., Ali, A., & Tariq, R. H. (2016). Emotional Intelligence as a Determinant of Readiness for Online Learning. International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 17(1), 148-158.

[6] Berenson, R., Boyles, G., & Weaver, A. (2008). Emotional Intelligence as a Predictor for Success in Online Learning. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 9(2), 1-17.

[7] Mysirlaki, S., & Paraskeva, F. (2015). Training Emotionally Intelligent Leaders: The Case of Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Proceedings Of The European Conference On Games Based Learning, 1687-693.

[8] Hamilton, D. (2017). Examining Perceptions of Online Faculty Regarding the Value of Emotional Intelligence in Online Classrooms. Online Journal Of Distance Learning Administration, 20(1), 1-14.

[9] Cotler, J. L., DiTursi, D., Goldstein, I., Yates, J., & DelBelso, D. (2017). A Mindful Approach to Teaching Emotional Intelligence to Undergraduate Students Online and in Person. Information Systems Education Journal, 15(1), 12-25.

[10] Lindsey, N. S., & Rice, M. L. (2015). Interpersonal Skills and Education in the Traditional and Online Classroom Environments. Journal Of Interactive Online Learning, 13(3), 126-136.

[11] Beranuy, M., Oberst, U., Carbonell, X., & Chamarro, A. (2009). Problematic Internet and mobile phone use and clinical symptoms in college students: The role of emotional intelligence. Computers In Human Behavior, 25(Including the Special Issue: Design Patterns for Augmenting E-Learning Experiences), 1182-1187. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.03.001

[12] Van Deursen, A. J., Bolle, C. L., Hegner, S. M., & Kommers, P. A. (2015). Modeling habitual and addictive smartphone behavior. The role of smartphone usage types, emotional intelligence, social stress, self-regulation, age, and gender. Computers In Human Behavior, 45411-420. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.039

[13] Ancel, G., Acikgoz, I., & Ayhan, A. (2015). The relationship between problematic internet using emotional intelligence and some sociodemographic variables. Anadolu Psikiyatri Dergisi-Anatolian Journal Of Psychiatry, 16(4), 255-263.

[14] Van Zalk, M., Branje, S., Denissen, J., Van Aken, M., & Meeus, W. (2011). Who benefits from chatting, and why?: the roles of extraversion and supportiveness in online chatting and emotional adjustment. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(9), 1202-1215.

[15] Baroncelli, A., & Ciucci, E. (2014). Unique effects of different components of trait emotional intelligence in traditional bullying and cyberbullying. Journal Of Adolescence, 37(6), 807-815. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.05.009

[16] González-Cabrera, J. )., Pérez-Sancho, C. )., & Calvete, E. ). (2016). Design and validation of the Internet Emotional Intelligence Scale (IEIS) for adolescents. Behavioral Psychology/ Psicologia Conductual, 24(1), 93-105.

  • Emotional Intelligence and it’s development of students of all ages needs support in today’s volatile educational environment. EI development has in fact been tragically ignored in many educational jurisdictions. Some anti-bullying programs have by necessity moved into that area, but generally speaking, my view is that soft skills such those associated with interpersonal relationship and emotional management have taken a back seat to traditional subjects by some educators. Or they have been trashed completely. If societies want to raise who live comfortably with each other and with themselves, this trend must change. Thank you for posting this resource.

    • Hi, and thank you for sharing your insight. I can only support your view. The challenge is that education is following the economy, where emotional intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean altruistic behavior, but rather is used to compete successfully. I hope that societies and education are moving towards a more compassionate living together. Voices like yours are essential for such progress. Thanks and all the best!

      • Thank you for your kind words. I agree with your assessment of the link between the economy and educational priorities. So we must all do what we can to promote societal progress. And that must start with the children. Thank you for your post. .

    • Indeed. Idea for high emotional quality in the virtual world: As facial expressions can be blocked, we should try, on the other side, to put in emotions into texts so that the counterpart can read emotional information from also between the lines:-).

  • Having been enrolled in various online studies myself, I therefor know it is possible. At the same time, it takes carefully consideration in how you communicate (write a comment, respond) and also ‘listening skills’ for the receiver/reader of a comment/piece of information. Without the visual (facial and body expressions) to accompany the words, it is easy to miss-interpret what someone is trying to say.
    So yes, EI should definitely be supported more.

    Sorry, I haven’t be up to date..trying to ‘catch up’ 😉 Hope you are ok, dear Mathias.
    Sending you a big hug, Xxx

    • Dear Patty.
      Thanks for reifying these points. I agree. Also, I think it is in online communications, too, the sender’s responsibility that the message is not misunderstood, taking into account the absence of facial and body language.
      It’s always a big gain having you visiting and commenting, but please ‘no stress’:-). Thank you very much, I’m fine. Hope you too? Sending you back whatever you need most:-)