While this may appear a quite open-ended question I think it is quite pertinent for a large number of subjects.
Considering undergraduate classes, particularly for students who are coming straight out of school, there is typically an expectation among students that they should not contribute to a class unless specifically asked to do so, that they are there merely to receive information, that academics are "the enemy" who can fail them, and that unless they are trying to curry favour with an academic, or attempting to gain marks that will specifically affect their GPA, that there is no reason to do any work.
This, of course, is entirely counter-productive in university. While it's clearly not within our power to change the Western schooling system that generates students that are like this, I am interested in what we can do to specifically reduce the "otherness" of academics to students within subjects that we teach: to make them realise that an academic is not an opponent that must be surmounted or avoided.
So when I say "how to reduce the distance between academics and students" I mean the psychological distance. Through this, I hope, that the actual reason for being in university might become more apparent to students, and that it might be conducive to their performing better.
This question is complicated by the fact that certain academics like and encourage this distance to reduce workloads for themselves. Disengaging from students, making it a challenge to be contacted, and maintaining an image of authority are aspects that I have seen deliberately pursued by (generally weaker) academics.