Virtual Office Hours increases student engagement with ‘hybrid’ approach

When the pandemic forced Betsy Stovall to move her large calculus class online last spring, she wondered how it would affect her office hours, which also became entirely virtual. The answer came soon enough. “I sat there alone staring at the walls,” says Stovall, an associate professor of mathematics. “Even with in-person office hours, students often feel they need a good reason to come in or it’s awkward. I think that was especially true online.”

Colleagues in the Department of Mathematics reported similar experiences, leading to some collective brainstorming. For Stovall, the solution was a hybrid approach to office hours this past fall — partly scripted, but flexible enough for lots of give and take.  Stovall credits colleague Melissa Lindsey, among others, with helping her land on the approach. Lindsey, the associate director of instructional support for the Department of Mathematics, says it has been interesting to see how instructors can take the same idea — structured office hours — and implement it in a way that best suits who they are as a teacher and who their students are as learners.

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