Office Hours for the Online Learning Environment

AOI | Learning Innovations
Faculty Insider

Office Hours for the Online Learning Environment

In a previous Faculty Insider entitled, “Office Hours—An Often Underused Key to Student Success,” we defined the purpose of student office hours, and how to communicate office hour expectations to students. Since that post in 2019, the world has shifted to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, student office hours have also made a shift to online. What do virtual office hours look like? Here are some tips to help you facilitate office hours for an online learning environment.

Determine the Right Type of Virtual Office Hours to Meet your Student Need

Technology aside, there are a few different ways virtual office hours can be conducted.

  • Synchronous Drop-In: The instructor is available and present in the office hour space for a set amount of time. Students may choose to drop-in at any point during the designated .
  • Synchronous Scheduled: This option allows students to schedule a time that works best for them, and then meet in the virtual space live and in real time. The advantage for students using this option is that they are guaranteed to get dedicated time with you without the possibility of other students interrupting.

Pro Tip: When using technology such as Zoom for office hours, consider enabling the “waiting room” option. This will keep students you are working with from being interrupted.  

  • Asynchronous: This option allows for flexibility for both the student and the instructor. One example would be a “Questions for the Instructor” discussion forum where students can leave questions throughout the course of the week. Students then have the added advantage of seeing other questions that have been asked potentially reducing the overall amount of questions. For more private questions such as grades, encourage your students to contact the instructor directly.

It is important to note that each of these modes are not mutually exclusive. They can be combined in ways that will best meet the need of your students.

Tips for Success

  • Set clear expectations: Make sure your students know how virtual office hours will be conducted, and how they can reach out to you if they have any questions.
  • Be encouraging: Office hours can seem intimidating to students. Encourage your students to attend by reassuring them that you are there to help and want them to be successful in your class.
  • Require students to attend at least one office hour session: Consider requiring students to attend at least one office hour session early in the semester. This can bring a sense of ease to the student and help showcase the value in attending.

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.