Office hours are key resources for your students to seek additional help and instruction. In-person office hours are a time-tested system, and these benefits carry forward when you provide an equivalent virtual experience. For a small investment of time and effort to set up a virtual office-meeting option, you can greatly enhance how you connect with your students, provide feedback and meet your learners where they need you the most.

To help you get started, or to improve your current virtual meeting practices, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Design advises that you use Microsoft Teams to conduct virtual meetings with your students. You have a few options for how you structure your office hours when using Teams.

There are two main strategies:

  1. Use a recurring meeting in Teams so students can drop in at will.
  2. Set up appointment groups in the Canvas Calendar that students will need to sign up for and you will need to monitor.

One other option is to simply open Teams during your scheduled office hours and instruct your students to call you on Teams during those times. However, you might be overwhelmed by calls if many students try to reach you at the same time, so let them know that they may need to wait for assistance, just like the queue that forms outside your office on campus. Consider changing your lobby options in Teams to set up a waiting area.

Best practices

  • Hosting a single Teams meeting in which you wait for students to join through a shared link is the simplest way to conduct virtual office hours, but you may find it difficult to manage if several students join at once.
  • Creating time slots and letting your students sign up on Canvas can help prevent multiple students from joining your office hours simultaneously, but it also requires more management on your part.
  • If you instruct your students to call you directly on Teams, make sure you’re able to effectively manage the volume of calls.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable using Teams (i.e., scheduling meetings, calling individuals, screen-sharing) before trying to hold virtual office hours. The CTLD has a large collection of MS Teams tutorials that you can find in the Communication section of its Ready site.
    • If you need additional help or are feeling uncomfortable with setting up MS Teams, please visit our support hours to practice with us.
  • Communicate office-hours availability and policies clearly to your students through multiple avenues, such as your syllabus, announcements or modules.

Let’s walk through it together

For complete written step-by-step instructions, visit the CTLD Ready Spotlight tutorial page.

Have questions?

Want help on this or other teaching and learning topics? Please visit us for drop-in support (10 a.m.-3 p.m., M-F) or try one of our self-help tutorials.