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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . It was found that EI explains a significant portion of the variance in student’s readiness for e-learning . Other studies even directly see EI as a main predictor of academic success and sociability is the dominant personality trait predicting online success . Researchers emphasize the importance of developing EI for the successful transformational leadership of virtual teams .
Teaching and Leading by and with EI
There is considerable research confirming the critical role of emotional intelligence for online instructors . 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 . Other studies also found that EI levels increased after online courses in interpersonal competencies .
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 ; . 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 . Positive effects such as increase of self-esteem through support received online are mainly reaped by individuals with lower levels of extraversion .
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 . 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 .
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