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Two New Ways to Hold Office Hours

This semester, I’m teaching Composition I for OTC online. It is an adventure for sure. I’m just now starting to get used to answering the varied and informal questions I’ve been getting in my OTC inbox, and I’m taking a professional development course that shows instructors how to make the most of multimedia like images, screencasts (using Jing and Screenr), videos, automated narrated PowerPoint presentation, and flash. It’s really making me think of new ways to bring audio-visual elements into my comp classes.

I’m enjoying learning all of these new methods, and I will slowly begin integrating them into my teaching methods. But I am about to make a change that I will implement immediately, and it’s a bit unconventional.

Yesterday, I met with three other instructors and had a Wimba Playdate. We logged into Blackboard and entered the Wimba Classroom. What’s Wimba, you ask? Yeah, I had no idea until yesterday at 10:30 either. Wimba is an online tool that allows for synchronous discussion, presentations, instant messaging, link sharing, and whiteboard use. It’s a really fascinating tool and I wish I had learned about it sooner, but the semester isn’t even half over yet, so I’ll have plenty of time to use it.

And today, all OTC faculty and staff received an email sharing various mentions of OTC in the news. One that caught my eyes was a News-Leader article about a professor who has moved his office hours to the Border’s cafe. I love it. He’s getting more students because, he conjectures, they feel more comfortable in that environment, they feel less like they are bothering him.

I definitely see his point. I have always had students visit me during my office hours, then apologize for bothering me. I don’t get it.

Currently, my office hours are from 10:00 until 2:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 Monday through Friday. I offered so many hours because I have many students who work full time jobs and have families to take care of. They need alternative times to reach me. But, like always, no one is really taking advantage of my current office hours. So I’m going to change the way I do office hours.

Starting next week, I’m cutting way back. I’ll offer two daytime options throughout the week and two nighttime options. One of each time frame will be in Wimba and one will be at Barnes & Noble (gotta support the hubby, right?). Because I teach online, many of my students are not in this area, so I don’t know how successful the Barnes & Noble office hours will be, but I’m willing to give it a try and re-evaluate later. At the least, I’ll get to enjoy a skinny Chai latte and work around other people, outside my home office.

I’ll remind students that they may of course call my Google Voice number anytime, which I have set to DND during certain hours. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful about these unconventional options, and I hope my students will use them, partly so I can play with Wimba and have a legitimate excuse hang out at a coffee shop and enjoy fancy drinks.

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