_ATS7394Student-instructor interactions are an important part of student success in all classes, and it is no different for hybrid and online courses. Creating an instructor presence through online, or virtual, office hours allows students to get immediate feedback on questions and to have a conversation with the instructor about course material. We offer some tips for considering options for office hours in face-to-face, hybrid, and online classes:

Organizing Productive Office Hours

  • Explain the utility of office hours to your students. Many college students may not know what to expect from your office hours or how they should come prepared to office hours. Therefore, in your syllabus, during an opening class discussion, and/or on the home page of your class’s course website (i.e. within UC Davis Canvas), offer a brief explanation (think 2-3 lines) of how your students could take advantage of office hours and how they might come prepared to have a productive conversation with you.
  • Set parameters for purposeful office hours.  Decide in advance what you think the format of the office hours will be. Ask yourself the following questions to determine how you and your students will want to spend time together in office hours:
    • Will the session be AMA (ask me anything) or will it be more structured?
    • Will I want students to submit their question(s), topic(s), or writing in advance of the appointment?
    • Will I want students to make an advanced appointment with me or simply drop in?
      • If you’d like to set appointments, consider notifying different portions of class when they can “visit.” For example, if you have a last name that starts with letters A-F, your time to visit is this day/week. Tools like Scheduler (link to: http://guides.instructure.com/s/2204/m/4152/l/61285-when-would-i-use-the-scheduler)  in UC Davis Canvas can help with the organization of the process. The “MeetMe” (links to external site) feature in Doodle is another way to facilitate with scheduling.
  • Vary synchronous (i.e. real time) office hours time to accommodate diverse student needs. Since hybrid and online courses vary “when” learning happens, the instructor might hold two office hours at two different times: one happens  the “school day” (between 8:00AM and 5:00PM) and one in the evening (between 6:00PM and 9:00PM). One thing to consider is to poll your students to see when they are mostly like to a) work on home work; b) read course materials. Instructors can attempt to align their office hours with these times.
  • Maintain consistency. Keeping consistent office hours will help signal to students that you are there to provide feedback to their questions and interact with them.
  • Decide if you’d like to hold office hours in “real time” (synchronously) or through a question & answer or discussion forum (asynchronously). There are affordances and limitations both to “real time” and “question & answer” office hours, but it’s important to decide what kinds of interactions you’d like your students to access throughout the course and which kinds of office hours you think would be most beneficial for their learning. See below for a break-down of the advantages of both synchronous and asynchronous office hours to help you decide which kind of office hour might work best for your class environment.

Advantages of Asynchronous Office Hours

  • Instructors can monitor the conversations and questions that student generate
  • All students can see frequently asked questions and the instructor’s responses.
  • Students’ questions and answers can be organized into a single forum for easy and organized access.
  • Students can participate on their own time and at any time.

Advantages of Synchronous Office Hours

  • Students can receive immediate feedback for questions and concerns.
  • Students may feel a stronger sense of “personal” connection with the instructor when meeting in person.
  • There is a possibility of more spontaneous conversation.
  • Instructors can consider structuring office hours around a particular topic. Traditional examples include reviewing items for an upcoming exam or quiz, but the discussion can be more specific or topic based. Student-led conversations can be around specific course material or topics of mutual interest.

References & Resources

Holding Virtual Office Hours via Google+ Hangouts. Retrieved from http://www.crlt.umich.edu/node/708

Hooper, J., Pollanen, M., & Holger, T. (2006). Effective Online Office Hours in the Mathematical Sciences. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol2no3/hooper.pdf

Kim, J. (2015). Experimenting with Open Online Office Hours. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/experimenting-open-online-office-hours

Virtual Office Hours. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/teaching/teaching-resources/engaging-students-in-learning/virtual-office-hours/