Open student hours

"Open Student Hours" (aka "Office Hours") provide a place for students to ask both content and logistical questions in a one-on-one or small group format, get assistance with course content in a less intimidating environment, follow up on exam performance, and build a better academic relationship with the instructor. These activities can occur virtually on Zoom via Canvas. Below are some ideas for best practices to make online open student hours more comfortable and productive.

  • Set up the Zoom link ahead of time using your personal Zoom room. Send out a reminder email with the link 15-30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. Keep the link to the Zoom room you’re using for your open student hours in a central place, such as on the course Canvas site.

  • Remind students via email and when they login to mute their audio and then unmute when they would like to talk. You may also manually mute participants as needed.

  • Remind students that they can use the public or private chat function or “raise hand” function to ask questions in addition to speaking up verbally.

  • Ask students to type their name in the chat box when they enter Zoom, which will help the instructor know who is in attendance. Note: sometimes screen names do not reflect the name of the student.

  • The waiting room feature of Zoom can be helpful for holding individual open student hours. You can enable this feature (under “Advanced options”) when you schedule the Zoom call. When users join the Zoom call, they can be automatically placed in the waiting room. You can then let them in, one by one, much as you would during regular open student hours.

  • Encourage students to share their screen with you so that they can show you their work and ask questions for more targeted discussion and feedback.

  • If explaining course content, periodically check in with students about how they are following along and what questions they may have. The virtual format can leave the instructor without the normal context cues that they often use to gauge understanding during face-to-face interactions. Explicitly asking for feedback on a regular basis can be helpful.

  • Talk about the use of virtual open student hours during class and ask for student feedback.

  • Don’t give up! One instructor in EEB found that the first few sessions of virtual open student hours felt awkward and difficult, but after the fourth session, 15-18 people were showing up, and students were expressing in class that they appreciated the flexibility it provided and liked the format.