Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Successful Ways to Get Students to Office Hours

By Rejoice Mudzimiri, Contributing Editor, University of Washington Bothell

Are you tired of sitting alone during your office hours waiting for students to show up? I used to feel the same way, until this past fall quarter when my students came to office hours in better numbers than ever. What changed?

Studies show that office hour visits are positively correlated to academic performance (Guerrero & Rod, 2013). More so, they are an important opportunity for faculty-student communication and interaction. So how can you get students to attend your office hours?
  1. Timing. When it comes to office hours, timing is everything. The best ways to schedule office hours include:

    • Avoiding conflicts with other classes. If office hours are scheduled during times that most students have classes, chances are very few students will be able to find time to attend your office hours. As part of scheduling your office hours, you should find out peak times when most of your students are available.

    • Eliciting student input. One of my colleagues who has had success with getting students to come for office hours administers a survey the first day of class to elicit student input on the times that work best for them. She then schedules her office hours depending on the times that most of the students are available. Using Poll Everywhere provides a quick way to survey students on their preferred times.

  2. Location. Some students are not comfortable with meeting in their instructor’s office. Alternative office hour locations include:

    • Public Places. Holding office hours in public areas such as a student lounge or conference room may be more relaxing for students. A colleague of mine holds her office hours in our “foyer” because her office is very far away from the building where she teaches and this makes it convenient for students to attend her office hours. I hold my office hours in the conference room right next to my office - with big white boards - that provide a lot of working space for a number of students. This allows me to accommodate more students at the same time. Students worked either individually or in groups during my office hours.

    • Virtual Office Hours. Holding some of your office hours online gives your students flexibility. One study on undergraduate millennial students’ perceptions of office hours suggests that they preferred virtual communication with their professor over face-to-face. Another colleague holds evening virtual office hours using the app Canvas Conference. In addition to audio, video and screen sharing options, this conference feature allows students to upload PDF files of their work so that the instructor can give feedback while talking with them. My colleague allows his students to schedule one-on-one appointments with him for these virtual sessions.

      Interestingly, some students reach out for help during these virtual sessions who never attend traditional office hours. The main advantage of virtual office hours is that office hours can be scheduled at flexible times such as the evenings or weekends. To avoid back and forth emails on availability and double booking, an instructor can use free online resources such as https://appoint.ly or https://youcanbook.me/. Both of these add the appointments directly to your calendar.

  3. Make Homework Assignments Due During Office Hours. Two of my colleagues who have had a good office hour turnout have their students turn in their written homework during office hours. They do this strategically so that students must attend office hours and can get help with their homework.

  4. Educating Students about the Benefits of Office Hours. Some students don’t attend office hours because they do not know what the purpose of this time. In addition to having office hours listed on the course syllabus and announcing them regularly in class, instructors need to educate students about them. Let students know what office hours are for and the kind of things they can expect or benefit from taking advantage of them.

    As an international graduate student, I did not know anything about office hours since I grew up in a school system where lectures were accompanied by one-hour tutorials. When I struggled with my math class, one of my friends suggested that I visit my professor during office hours and that was the end of all my struggles! My professor had assumed that as graduate students, we would know about this already.

  5. Make Office Hour Visits an Assignment. Gooblar suggests actually making office hour visits one of the course assignments, because giving students feedback face-to-face is easier than written comments. Gooblar believes that “if you make them [students] come in once, they may start dropping by on their own.” I usually encourage students who did not do well on an exam to make an appointment with me to go over the exam. As they go over the exam with me, I sometimes give them points back as they explain to me their thinking. In addition, we talk about what they could do differently next time and how I could be of help to them. A fellow editor, Jessica Deshler, sometimes makes visiting the tutoring center a course assignment so that students become more comfortable with seeking help and talking about homework problems.

Related Links

Edwards, J. T. (2009). Undergraduate Millennial Students’ Perceptions of Virtual Office Hours. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. 6(4) Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Apr_09/article05.htm

Gooblar, D. (2015). "Make your Office Hours a Requirement." Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1167-make-your-office-hours-a-requirement

Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R., Burson, K.M., Camper, M., Chen, Y ,Margaret Austin Smith, M. A. (2014). 62 Starting the Conversation: An Exploratory Study of Factors That Influence Student Office Hour Use. College Teaching. 62(3), 94-99

Guerro, M. & Rod, A. B. (2013). Engaging in Office Hours: A Study of Student-Faculty Interaction and Academic Performance. Journal of Political Science Education. 9(4), 403-416.

Weimer, M (2015). Office Hour Redux. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/office-hours-redux/

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