Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Does Your Online Instructor Have Virtual Office Hours?

Does Your Online Instructor Have Virtual Office Hours?

By Linda S Pogue

Many online instructors now have virtual office hours. These are times set aside several times during the week when students can contact the instructor either through the online course room chat room, though Internet Messaging, or by texting. Online students sometimes need to discuss homework assignments or questions about the material in the course with the instructor. However, before contacting your instructor, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. The instructor cannot see your computer screen. I can't tell you how many times a student called with a question and we were looking at different information on our screens. I have learned to ask, what are you looking at before answering their question. Before asking your question, give the instructor some background information. Exactly what were you doing when the issue arose? Which page or screen on the online course room are you looking at? If you are using software, what tabs or buttons have you clicked, what were you trying to do, what happened, and what specifically are you looking at when you call.

  2. Remember that instructors are not online 24/7. If there are virtual hours posted, then you should call or contact the instructor during those times. If you can't, try emailing your question and requesting a virtual appointment. When doing this, it is helpful for you to offer several times and/or dates you will be available, so that the instructor can fit the appointment in with times available.
  3. Don't wait until the day the assignment it due to contact your instructor. Some will give you an extention, but most will not. And you may not be able to get the information you need in time to get the assignment turned in on time. You are in college, and will be held to a high standard of personal responsibility.

Getting the help you need is your responsibility. Everyone has different learning styles and learns at a different rate than everyone else. If you take a while to learn something new, make sure you give yourself the extra time you need. Take advantage of your online instructor's virtual office hours when you need help.


  1. Lovely facts and figures. I will continue visiting this blog regularly

  2. I really think successful virtual office hours (as with all online college activities) are simply a matter of using the right tools. Screen-sharing, whiteboarding and video chat should all be standard for students to interface with a teacher. I really think teachers and students both need to be trained on those tools, though.

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