Office hours are always a challenging part of teaching—they are a valuable tool for promoting student success, yet it is tough to get students to show up. Successfully implementing office hours for students attending online is even more important. Students whose only option is to attend online have expressed two key concerns:
- a sense of disconnection from instructors and fellow students, and
- a desire for responsiveness and communication from instructors.
Here are some key issues to consider when developing online office hours using Zoom:
Develop a schedule and signup system
Establish set office hours, and advertise them to students, along with the Zoom meeting room information. While some instructors prefer drop-in office hours, you can offer a way for students to sign up for a meeting time, including something as simple as a Google doc that lists available time slots they can claim.
Use a waiting room to ensure privacy
While some conversations about problem sets or complex readings don't need privacy, many office visits can veer into feedback on a student's work or grade. To ensure privacy, be certain to set up a waiting room in Zoom (and don't set it to allow IU-verified people to bypass it), so no one can just appear during a private conversation. More information on the IU Knowledge Base. For more details about waiting room settings, see Setting up Zoom for office hours.
Be ready to draw or display documents
You may want to sketch out a diagram or work a problem with a student, and you can do that a few ways through Zoom. You could use Zoom's whiteboarding tools, although those are a bit awkward to use for most people. A better solution is to use a document camera and point it at a piece of paper or the object you want to discuss.
Note: You can purchase a USB document camera (select it as the video source by using the up arrow near the “Stop Video” button), or you can connect your smartphone to the Zoom meeting and point it at your document (you can rig up or purchase a holder for ease of use). More information on these Zoom whiteboard/drawing options is available; the smartphone instructions start around the 13:00 mark.
Start a FAQ based on office hour visits
If you have students attending your class virtually, consider keeping track of questions, particularly about procedures or assignments, that arise during office hour visits and add them to a Frequently Asked Questions page in Canvas. Encourage students to check there before making an appointment.
DO NOT record meetings with students due to privacy issues.
Instead, when important questions of broad interest come up, you can create a separate recording of yourself answering those questions or working through those problems. These videos can be added to your class Kaltura Media Gallery.
Setting up Zoom for office hours
The best practices for securing your Zoom room have changed as Zoom has introduced new features. Starting on December 21, all new meetings in Zoom will have waiting rooms turned on by default. Currently, hosting both class sessions and office hours requires that you use two meeting rooms: one for class sessions using a passcode and one for office hours using a waiting room.
This guide will help you through the steps to ensure that your meeting rooms are properly configured.
Note: To see detailed instructions, expand each accordion.