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How do I get students to utilize my office hours?

Computer on a desk with a calendar and clock on the screen

Student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation, retention, satisfaction and performance (Griffin, Cohen, Berndtson, Burson, Camper, Chen, & Smith, 2014). However, this is only true if students utilize office hours. Many faculty report empty offices during their office hours. This could be because today’s students would rather communicate via email than face-to-face (Bowen, 2012; Rees, 2014) or possibly because faculty do not explain the purpose of office hours to their students (Gannon, 2014).

So, how do we increase students’ use of our office hours?

1. Be clear about what you mean by ‘office hours’. Communicate to your students that your office hours are meant for students to drop in and seek support, assistance or just to pop by for a visit.

2. Schedule your office hours around your students’ schedules. When you identify a day and time that you’d like to use for your office hours, use the schedule search in myCambrian to see if your scheduled time conflicts with your students’ class schedules; you won’t get many students using your office hours if they are attending class! Or ask your students in class if your designated office hours conflicts with their schedules.

3. Make sure your students know where your office is located. Tell them the room number, or better yet – take them to your office to show them where it is!

4. Hold your office hours in a different location. Hold your office hours at Tim Horton’s at the main entrance or in the cafeteria. Students are more likely to approach you there because it isn’t as intimidating.

5. Set up your office to be inviting to students. Leave the door open and invite students in when you see them outside of your office. Set up your office space so that students aren’t sitting across from you.

6. Give students a reason to come. Schedule students to meet with you once in your office during the semester, either individually or in small groups. Or, give students a bonus for finding your office and connecting with you in person during office hours.

7. Offer virtual office hours using video conferencing software: 

  8. Use an online scheduler to allow students to book a time to meet with you.

9. Repeat, reiterate, reinforce. Remind students each class that they are welcome to join you during your office hours. You can even prompt students with the types of things they may seek you out for during your office hours.

References: Carr, J. (2019). Two Tips to Increase Students’ Use of Office Hours. Faculty Focus. Retrieved August 16, 2019 from Faculty Focus online. Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R. Burson, K. M., Camper, K. M, Chen, Y. & Smith, M. A.. (2014). Starting the Conversation: An Exploratory Study of Factors that Influence Student Office Hour Use. College Teaching. 62 (3), 94–9.

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