Welcome back to a new semester! I don’t know about you, but I am often generally unpleased with how office hours go. Either there’s the crickets/deluge dynamic, or the students who really think would most benefit from coming in don’t. I don’t have any magical cures, but I have heard a variety of suggestions about switching up office hours to make them more accessible. Maybe some of these are new to you, eh?
-Don’t hold office hours in your office. Hold them in a more public location, such as a campus coffeeshop, or a non-quiet part of the library, or (when the weather improves), outside. Why do this? Because professors’ offices are intimidating and they’re our territory. Also, because some students have had bad experience interacting privately with professors, meeting in public is kinder to them.
-In class, pass around a signup sheet for students to schedule time during hour office hours. Of course they can just walk in without an appointment (which is the whole point of office hours), but creating this avenue might bring students in who might otherwise not show up.
-Hold office hours online. Let students know particular times when you’ll just be logged into the, chat room in the LMS. If your class uses the LMS regularly, you must might intercept folks who are there anyway. Perhaps, if this is how you roll, you could do it during an evening.
-Don’t call them office hours — call them “student hours.” Which is a more accurate name, and a lot of students don’t know what office hours are anyway, which is when we specifically carve time out of our schedule to talk with our students.
-Take brief minutes of your office hours and post them, so that everybody can get a recap of what was discussed. (Another blogger discussed how it worked out when they recorded their office hours to share with the class, and if you have hundreds of students, I get how this might be a thing.)
-Take a poll of your students and find out what times in the week might be most useful for the greatest number of students, and heck, it might even fit your schedule.
–Have snacks, all the time.
-Once, a while ago, when I was teaching some lower-division students new to college and interacting with their professors seemed particularly embarrassing, I brought a yo-yo to class. I did a few quick tricks as class was starting up (the flying trapeze is the best I’ve got), and then mentioned if anybody wanted to learn a bit of yo-yo, I’d be glad to do that in office hours. I did get one taker! If you take pleasure of teaching folks to yo, or juggle, or I dunno, yodel or something, it’s not so wrong to do this in office hours insofar as it doesn’t interrupt the learning environment for the courses you’re teaching.
These aren’t here as advice or as a prescription for you. It’s just some ideas that you might draw from. Have there been ways you’ve changed up your office hours that made them more helpful for students? Or something you’ve wanted to try? Please do share!