Virtual Office Hours
Boost your presence in an online course by offering Virtual Office Hours (VOH)
Nicole Marcisz, Instructional Designer, ID&T
Holding virtual office hours for your online students is a strategy to consider for enhancing presence and connection with online students. Virtual office hours can save instructor time by addressing frequently asked questions in a common forum versus repeatedly responding to common questions through email. Student comments can also provide valuable information on course design. And students will appreciate the instant access to their instructor using virtual office hours.
Steps on implementing virtual office hours (VOHs)
- Decide on a recurring timeframe for VOHs by polling your students. Perhaps they are held weekly with a three hour window. Or maybe twice a week, with one session in the morning and another in the evening.
- VOH’s can turn into a frequently asked question and answer forum. To avoid this, record all interactions and then share the interactions with the rest of the class. Let students know that issues of a personal nature should be handled privately by phone call or email.
- Next, choose a VOH technology tool. There are hundreds of cloud-based technologies available for VOHs. However, you may want to start by incorporating Zoom, Adobe Connect, or Lync/Skype. All three are proven performers and readily available to you as a Regis instructor. All three also support voice, video, screen sharing, IM chat, and a whiteboard for demonstrating tutorials or processes.
Zoom is a web and video conferencing tool and is free for Regis faculty. To get started, email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a Zoom account. Once hooked up, schedule your virtual office hours and send students the Zoom URL associated with your account. Students don’t have to register or pay to come to your virtual office. Sessions can be recorded as well. Zoom is easy and intuitive to use.
Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business is a web and video conference tool available for free to Regis faculty, staff and students. There are many variables with using Microsoft Lync/Skype such as versioning of leader and participants and whether your students have MS Lync installed. Students should contact the ITS Help Center at email@example.com for instructions on downloading and installing the program. Once properly installed, MS Lync/Skype could be an excellent tool to try based on its features to support VOHs including voice, video, screen sharing, and session recording.
Adobe Connect is another web and video conference tool available on a limited basis to Regis faculty and staff. Faculty would contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a Connect room. Once your Connect room is established, send the room URL to your students. Adobe Connect has all the features needed for VOHs including voice, video, screen sharing, and recording.
More tips for success:
- Encourage your students to attend VOHs if they have questions.
- Remind students often about the availability of VOHs, especially early in the course.
- If students can’t make a VOH session, suggest they email their questions to you for addressing during the recorded session.
- Encourage students to drop in on VOHs to say hi, talk about what they learned that week, mention any ah-ha moments, success stories, or simply get confirmation that they are on the right track in their learning outcomes for the week.
- Schedule VOHs just before big assignment due dates and exams to address last minute struggles.
- Consider having students share conversations during VOHs about current events that relate to course topics.
- Make your VOHs fun!
Rethinking Office Hours https://techknowtools.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/rethinking-office-hours/
Cox, T. C., & Williams, A. (2011). Virtual office hours. The professor’s guide to taming technology: Leveraging digital media, Web 2.0, and more for learning, 135-150.
Weimer, M. (2015a, February 17). Office hours alternative resonates with students. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from
Edwards, J.T., and Helvie-Mason, L. Technology and Instructional Communication: Student Usage and Perceptions of Virtual Office Hours. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Vol.6, No.1, March 2010. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no1/edwards_0310.htm
Baker, C. and Edwards, J., A Holistic Approach for Establishing Social Presence. A Holistic Approach for Establishing Social Presence. International HETL Review, Volume 1, Article 7, 2011. Retrieved from https://hetl.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/HETLReviewVolume1Article7.pdf