Meetings and Office Hours

Office hours are a traditional mode for student-faculty interaction, as in-person meetings with students are often the best way to answer complex questions about the course material and begin a dialogue with students around mentorship and academic interests. Through office hours, instructors can establish relationships with students, discuss future course plans, and provide mentoring and coaching opportunities.

Many faculty find attendance at their office hours varies. In this section are alternative strategies to help instructors reach students in a variety of ways, and provide a forum for students to raise questions.

 

VIRTUAL OFFICE HOURS
Online communication methods may be used to host an office hour in the virtual course environment. In virtual office hours, students can ask questions about course material or prepare for tests as they would ask in person.

  1. The Portal course environment offers two Collaboration Tools that can be used for virtual office hours: Chat (text only) and Virtual Classroom (real-time discussion with virtual whiteboard).To create a Chat or Virtual Classroom session, go to the Course Tools section of the Blackboard Control Panel, and select Collaboration. Then select Create Collaboration Session. Contact portal.help@utoronto.ca for assistance in creating the session.
  2. Determine possible times during the week when a virtual office hour can be offered. Evenings are often an ideal time, since it is when many students are studying and available at their computer. Poll the class on a choice of options, and choose the best one.
  3. Keep the discussion moving with friendly prompts. To keep up with fast moving discussion, stagger your responses into several short messages rather than composing longer answers.
  4. If Virtual Office Hours are offered at selected times during the term (e.g. before tests), give class regular reminders, in person and online, about when they will be offered.

 

AFTER-CLASS DISCUSSIONS
The end of class is a popular time for students to ask questions because of the immediacy and ease of approaching their instructor. In this scenario students can maximize their time spent in class when their schedules are full and questions are fresh in their minds. If it is possible to allocate time after class, and there is demand, this can be an ideal opportunity for an alternative office hour.

  1. Investigate what spaces nearby may be used as overflow spaces to sit and talk once the class time has finished, if another class requires the use of your room. Determine through your department if classroom space near your room is available after your class time.
  2. If no physical space is available, consider concluding classroom activities or lecture early, to allow an extra 10 minutes for individual student questions. Choose specific days to conclude early, e.g. every Tuesday, or the week before assignment deadline.
  3. Follow-up on discussion periods at the start of the next class. Mention frequent questions, or questions the whole class may benefit from.

 

GROUP OFFICE HOURS
Group office hours function as a normal office hour, but are scheduled in a classroom rather than an office. This allows a larger group to attend, making the office hour more like a group discussion or guided work session. Group office hours can support shy students who may be more reserved in class.

  1. Book a space to be used near department offices, classroom, or regular student space such as the library. A seminar room or library space with tables can make a good work area.
  2. Find a few possible times (lunch hour is often convenient), and poll students to help choose the best time.
  3. Facilitate flexibly, as in a tutorial or seminar, making room for one-on-one questions or group discussion as fits the audience that attends. Ask students about their work and encourage questions about current homework or projects.


REFERENCES

  • Cox, B.E., McIntosh, K.L., Terenzini, P.T., Reason, R.D., & Lutovsky Quaye B.R. (2010), Pedagogical Signals of Faculty Approachability: Factors Shaping Faculty-Student Interaction Outside the Classroom. Research in Higher Education, 51, 767-788.
  • Delaney, A.M. (2008), Why Faculty-Student Interaction Matters in the First Year Experience. Tertiary Education and Management, 14, 227-241.
  • Li, L. (2009), Does It Really Matter? Using Virtual Office Hours to Enhance Student-Faculty Interaction.  Journal of Information Systems Education, 20, 175-185.