Online office hours: Real conversations in virtual spaces

by Stephanie Chasteen on June 22, 2010

Just a little promo fora recent post I wrote at The Active Class on Online Office Hours (thanks to Rhett of DotPhysics for the suggestion).  Here’s a sneak preview:

I recently sat in on a series of workshops for newer faculty at the university, and was surprised by a resounding theme among those academics in those first stressful years:  How do I get students to email me less?  I hadn’t realized the full flooding impact that instructors face with emailed questions from the multitudinous hordes.

I’m not sure I have the be-all-end-all answer to this challenge, but one option that I have heard praised by instructors is that of online office hours.  If students are emailing because the in-person office hours are inconvenient because of location and/or times, then online office hours could be of some assistance in reducing the deluge. … From an article in the Cornell Sun:Chat_room1

“Usually it comes down to some last-minute thing. If the student has questions, it’s far easier for me to IM them rather than to do an exchange of six different emails back and forth” [said Prof. David Williamson at Cornell.]

Holding office hours online could have other benefits:

  • You won’t have to come to campus to talk to your students.
  • If discussions are archived, then students who weren’t able to attend can benefit from peers’ questions and discussions.
  • All students in the office hour can participate and discuss with one another, instead of waiting in a line outside the instructor’s door to get individualized attention for their question (which may be shared by others).
  • You can offer hours at more popular times (such as evenings) when more students can attend.

Read more here

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