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Taking a New Approach to Get Students to Come to Your Office Hours

Mon Oct 30, 2023 at 07:30 AM

Office hours still serve as an effective way to connect and support students; however, getting students to show up to them can prove challenging. This can be particularly true when it comes to first generation and underrepresented students. However, office hours are vital in not only offering students academic support, but this shared time can also give students the chance to get to know you better while accruing social capital as well.   

Studies suggest that students undervalue the opportunities office hours offer them. Therefore, just posting office hours on your course materials doesn’t really teach students about the value of these one-on-one interactions. Changing their mindsets that office hours are “a last resort to pass” requires some rethinking and updating as to how, where, and when you open your door. Putting a new spin on an old practice may help you create better results in connecting with your students.

How to Update Your Office Hours

Some simple solutions to change the way you hold your office hours may have great effects. 

Name Change: Consider a name change from Office Hours to something such as Student Hours to make the activity more student-centered and, perhaps, sound less intimidating. 

Location and Access Options: Instead of having students come to your office, go to where your students are; for example, the Oakland Center, the library, dorm lobbies, or other shared spaces. You could even create walking hours in the Rec Center and invite students to join you for a lap or two around the track. Even though virtual office hours assist students who have difficulty getting to campus, meeting them in their social media spaces or other platforms that offer private chat rooms, such as a Discourse channel, Slack, or Perusall, might facilitate better interaction.    

Marketing Your Hours: Provide students with an infographic and post it on a syllabus or on Moodle and remind students throughout the semester about the benefits of meeting one-on-one. Emphasize in your visual that the interaction allows for deeper discussions, material review, and stronger connections; additionally, indicate that these meetings can also be time spent talking about career-oriented topics, internships, graduate school, and/or research opportunities.    

Forging Future Connections: Requiring students to come to office hours once a semester to discuss a project or skill can lead to future meetings, especially if you encourage your students to come back again. These initial visits can be particularly helpful for freshmen and transfer students to assist them in getting over their trepidation of meeting with you one-on-one; however, more importantly, they may change their mindsets about the value these interactions present and as a result, seek them out more frequently in the future.

References and Resources 

Supiano, B. (2023, August). The missed opportunity of office hours. Chronicle of Higher Education.

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About the Author

Rachel Smydra is a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Photo by Oakland University. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.

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