Office hours are an integral part of a traditional face-to-face course, and they serve an important role in providing your students with support in their learning. Office hours take a different form in an online environment. Using scheduled Zoom sessions for synchronous office hours is a recommended approach. A perennial issue with office hours for online courses is low attendance, due to many reasons, including incompatible schedules.
There are a number of suggested strategies to address this that you might think about employing in your course, as articulated by Lowenthal and colleagues (2017) and reported by Darby and Lang (2019, p. 119-120):
- Rename office hours “Happy Hours,” “Coffee Breaks,” “Afternoon Tea,” or “Consultations” – indicating a less formal meeting.
- Reduce frequency of regularly scheduled office hours to once every other week or so, limiting them to 60 minutes in length. Consider timing these in relation to course events such as exams, projects, and other events that students might need help with.
- Announce scheduled times well in advance—consider listing them in your course syllabus.
- Use a survey or scheduling tool to determine when students are most likely to attend.
- Allow students to submit questions or topics in advance to provide some structure to the session.
- Motivate students to attend by offering points for attendance.
As for the execution of office hours, instructors have a couple of approaches for virtual office hours.
- Create a recurring Zoom meeting in your Canvas classroom after activating your Zoom account: https://wustl.zoom.us
- Use Canvas’s Appointment Scheduler to set-up one-on-one office hours.
- Use a scheduling tool, such as Calendly, to allow students to schedule appointments during mutually convenient times. Some McKelvey faculty have expressed that they have had good luck with a free Calendly account that they link to their WashU zoom account.
- Make sure that if your course has TAs or AIs that they, too, are setting up and managing their office hours.