How can instructors establish virtual office hours?
Managing student expectations in an online learning environment can be more challenging than in the traditional classroom. Despite the asynchronous nature of communication in most online courses, students often expect an immediate reply to their questions without considering the time of day they posted, or the possible complexity of the reply.
One method of effectively addressing this concern is by clearly establishing both virtual office hours and a policy on when and in what fashion responses will occur (e.g., within 24 hours). While chat sessions are one way to facilitate live discussion, asynchronous tools such as email and forums can also be used as students post or send questions and the instructor responds within a set time period. Regardless of method, the discourse can be archived for later reference or use in other learning activities. Providing a contact telephone number is another option, although instructors should clearly designate appropriate calling times, as well as how and when they will respond to voice mail messages.
While students will certainly appreciate responses to questions outside of established virtual hours, instructors should use caution in establishing a response precedent, so as not to raise student expectations of an immediate response. Students will often be working in the virtual classroom at all hours of the day or night, so maintaining clearly understood communication channels is essential for the ongoing success of the online course.
Consider using these options:
- Place phone calls: instructors should include an alternate phone number for office hours
- Send class messages using the Oncourse Messages tool
- Send email to student email addresses
- Use Oncourse Chat
- Use UniCom for online chat or computer-to-computer audio and videoconferences
- Schedule conference calls at IUB and IUPUI
Instructors can get help using technology in their teaching at the teaching and learning centers on each campus; see How do I contact the teaching and learning centers at each IU campus?