Why online office hours???

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A group of us on Twitter got to talking about online office hours..  Like usual, it started simple

This was followed up with

and then

So I was caught off guard by all this– why would anyone be SO opposed to the idea? Anyway, it turns out that this particular person has had a bad experience with online meeting, so maybe that accounts for it.. That aside, the conversation made me realize that I needed to be explicit about what I think the benefits are- for me AND for the student.

I’ll preface this by saying that Online Office Hours (OOH) are meant to augment traditional office hours, not to replace them. Indeed, there is value on meeting in real life (IRL). Sometimes it helps to have a blackboard.. non-verbal communication… all that..

Nevertheless, I think we can do better than IRL meeting alone.. And a lot of this is motivated by trying to meet students where they are most comfortable as a way to INCREASE communication! Like it or not, many (maybe even most) young people use social media/text messaging as their primary means of communication. Spend an afternoon on any North American R1 campus and this will be demonstrated. Try to communicate with a young person- more times than not,  some form of electronic communication is involved.

I think we should think about how young people interact when trying to communicate!! How about a facebook page for class- I know people are doing this- twitter: just see Josh Drew about that! OOH is just attempt at opening up lines of communication Fail.. maybe it will. But if it reaches only one student that might be hesitant to come to IRL office hours, then this is a win..

What are the benefits for me?  Easy- anyone who has ever held office hours has been frustrated by spending an hour in a library/coffee shop waiting for the student that never some. For OOH, I can work, monitor google chat, talk if there is somebody there, or continue to work uninterrupted if not. That aside, I’m genuinely interested in understanding how to communicate with students..