When trying to arrange office hours online, we often think of office hours as one-on-one meetings between faculty and students in the instructor’s office. This kind of meeting can be held by videoconference, without too much adjustment, but there are also some alternative methods that may reach more students and help connect with remote students.
The closest analogue to traditional office hours is a one-on-one video conferencing appointment. These can be scheduled using anything from email to Google Forms to the Canvas scheduling tool in the Canvas Calendar. You may wish to create a separate videoconference meeting for each slot, or simply have students drop in and out of a single meeting that runs the duration of your office hours. Utilizing the waiting room feature in Zoom can help manage the flow of students, if you choose a single meeting. This
option can be used to meet with individuals or with groups. Another option, which may work better if a significant number of your students have slow internet connections, involves having students submit questions to a Q&A forum. A private way to set this up would be to use the Canvas Inbox or Gmail, where students can send instructors questions directly. If you get a lot of similar questions, you might want to consider instead using a public forum like a Canvas Announcement with replies enabled, or Piazza. That would allow you to collect questions and replies in one place, for students to find them. Once the questions have been gathered, in whatever forum, the instructor can reply with text or use even Kaltura Capture to record their answers to the questions. The Q&A approach also works well for large courses, where it might not be feasible to fit enough students into scheduled appointments.
The last option we’ll discuss is holding an open videoconference call, where students can join without scheduling an appointment and ask questions of instructors and GSIs. If a student has a private question, they can be sent off to a breakout room with a GSI or the instructor. A breakout room can also be used if they require more in-depth help, while someone stays in the main meeting in order to receive other students. If you use this approach in a large course, we recommend sending an announcement earlier in the week, asking how many students plan to attend, so you can plan for enough GSIs to be present. These sessions can even be recorded and uploaded to the course site if it turns out that important questions are raised. If you do record office hours, be sure to notify incoming students that the session is being recorded, so they can opt for a breakout room if they wish to ask questions privately.
Regardless of the form of office hours you choose, it is very important to communicate with students early in the course about what to expect. We suggest that you include information about office hours - when they will be, how to connect to them, etc. - in your syllabus as well as in your initial communications with students. Depending on the course, a mix of office hours types may be appropriate. For example, it may make sense to have an open call during exam review, but scheduled appointments during the rest of the term. As long as these arrangements are clearly communicated, students will utilize these opportunities.
If you’d like to discuss what options may be best for your course, feel free to contact us at LSATSLearningTeachingConsultants@umich.edu.