By Dr. Jeanine Irons

In some cases, today’s students struggle to understand the concept of office hours. Research has shown that this term can be particularly problematic for first-generation and international students to decode. Add to this the context of going to class online or in mixed modality (where there may be no office to visit), and one finds multiple reasons to alter the term "office hours" and the behaviors attached to it. Here are some suggestions from Flower Darby’s book, Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes, that may be useful:

  • Announce synchronous office hours ahead of time. List them in the syllabus, talk about them during class, and encourage students to plan to attend.
  • Encourage students to submit questions prior to each synchronous virtual office hours session. Prepare some talking points to address common areas of confusion.
  • Hold 60-minute office hour sessions four times per semester. Schedule them when the time would be most useful, for example, before a big test or after a major project or paper.
  • Offer a comparable learning experience for students unable to attend a synchronous session. Include questions or prompts for them to respond to while watching the recording.
  • Rebrand your synchronous virtual office hours. Using a less formal name can imply that these sessions are less formal, more supportive, and less intimidating.
  • Take a creative approach to virtual office hours. Work to ensure they are meaningful and productive.
  • Use a scheduling tool like Doodle to determine times when most students can attend. This strategy might be particularly useful if you have students in multiple time zones.

If you have other Office Hours ideas that have worked for you, please consider sending them to the CTLE ( ), to be shared the SU faculty.

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