Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

Online Office Hours

A subcommittee of the Committee on Distance Education looked into office hours and how they might be utilized to improve student success in online courses.

Review an infographic to learn more about the value of online office hours, tips and best practices, and technology available to conduct them.

If you would like to learn more about what the research says about online office hours, review a synopsis of articles (covering online office hours for both online and on-ground courses).

Summary of Research

Purpose: The benefits of faculty-student interaction outside of the classroom include increased student retention, engagement, satisfaction, and performance. In the hope of increasing faculty-student interaction, office hours on most campuses are required.  Many online courses also require or offer office hours virtually via asynchronous text-based communication modes and increasingly synchronous via video-based modes.

Findings: 66% of students never use campus office hours and online office hours are also underutilized.  The most significant factor in student use of campus office hours was the feedback that students received and the extent that students felt that feedback was useful to their success.  Research into online/virtual office hours indicates that student sense of instructor presence increases when they are offered; and that there are effective design and delivery practices to increase online student use of this valuable resource.

Reviewed Articles – Virtual/Online Office Hours

Balayeva, J., & Quan-Haase, A. (2009). Virtual Office Hours as Cyberinfrastructure: The Case Study of Instant Messaging. Learning Inquiry, 3(3), 115-130. (Ordered ILL 12/4/17, Have FT via ILL)

Factors included:

  • Undergraduate sociology course, 76 students enrolled with 52 participating voluntarily, anonymous. Survey questionnaire distributed at end of the semester.


  • Research shows out of class communication enhances student learning.
  • Office hours are an opportunity for out of class communication yet, for a variety of reasons, students do not participate.
  • Offering Virtual Office Hours (VOH) offers new opportunities.
  • Students perceive VOH as useful for convenience, interactivity, and ease of use.
  • Despite positive perceptions, students used it very little when VOH was made available.

Cifuentes, O. E., & Lents, N. H. (2010). Increasing Student-Teacher Interactions at an Urban Commuter Campus through Instant Messaging and Online Office Hours. Electronic Journal Of Science Education, 14(1), 1-13.

Factors include:

  • The article discusses a study on the use of instant messaging (IM) in promoting student-teacher interactions in a lecture-hall setting in a biology course at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. It found that IM enable the students to directly contact their professors through the Internet which lead to increased in-person interaction. It argues that Internet-based communication technologies break the barriers between the students and professors at the undergraduate level.
  • The perennial problem of engagement between students-faculty in a large classroom environment, identified especially for commuter students and minority students. (biology course, 3 sections, 110 students total)


  • Research shows personal relationships between students-faculty promotes student learning and academic success.
  • IM was successful at fostering student-teacher interaction, both via the internet and subsequently in person.

Elander, K. R.  “I’m Here for You”: instructor Presence Online. in Creating Teacher Immediacy in Online Learning Environments edited by Steven D’Agustino. 2016. IGI Global. Retrieved from

Elander writes that virtual office hours or “pre-scheduled Q&A sessions” provide students with immediate help to answer questions or respond to concerns. Lehman &  Conceição (2010) write that office hours should be optional but the
perception of instructor availability persists even for those who do not attend.

Ellis, T. (2010). Technology review: virtual office hours. Community College Enterprise, 16(1), 99-100.

Factors included:

  • The article discusses the benefits of the implementation of virtual office hours of work for both students and faculties. Office hours are considered as one of the requirements of teaching that is commonly known among professors as the predetermined set of working hours, may it be in class or in the office. With the use of a virtual office concept called a virtual office, communication will serve as a great way for students to interact with their teachers without the need for physical contact.


  • Use of a variety of technologies can accommodate VOH activities.
  • Used Elluminate, which can be used to share computer screen, applications, and assignments in a live collaborative environment.
  • Put “Virtual Office” button in Blackboard, provide guidance on how to access and use Elluminate.

Golovko, S and Wooten, J.J. (September 23, 2016). The Effectiveness of Office Hours in Online Classes. Retrieved from

The authors conducted a study on an online Introductory Microeconomic Analysis and Policy course over two years at a large public university to determine whether online office hours impacted performance in exams. The authors suggest best practices for online office hours in the area of scheduling (scheduling when online students will be available, for example weekends), email policy (will online office hours “compliment or substitute” email assistance), personal accounts (suggestions for setting up a separate account), and preparation of back up material when office hours are not well attended.

Kohorst, K., & Cox, J. R. (2007). Virtual Office Hours Using a Tablet PC: E-lluminating Biochemistry in an Online Environment. Biochemistry And Molecular Biology Education, 35(3), 193-197.

Factors included:

  • The availability of online collaboration software has provided new opportunities for instructors to interact with students outside the classroom. This report describes how Elluminate “Live!”[R], a particular conferencing software package, can be used with a tablet PC to conduct virtual office hours in a biochemistry course. The educational value of engaging students in an online environment, with text messaging, voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP), and application sharing is also discussed. A student perspective is provided to illustrate the advantages of conducting virtual office hours and how the combination of online collaboration software and tablet PC technology can provide an enhanced learning experience.
  • Online, collaborative communication. Text messaging, audio, screen sharing, and application sharing.
  • Students have demands on time so teacher made evening VOH available with an emphasis on nights before exams.
  • Biochemistry course. Article documents VOH activities by the teacher and has a section with the student perspective.

Lavooy, M. J., & Newlin, M. H. (2008). Online Chats and Cyber-Office Hours: Everything but the Office.International Journal On E-Learning, 7(1), 107-116.

Factors included:

  • This study addressed the implications of delivering weekly, interactive, web-based lectures and web-based cyber-office hours to college students enrolled in an advanced, undergraduate course. These web-based lectures and office hours were available to all enrolled students (240), providing them the opportunity to meet, at the same time, at a particular location in cyberspace from any location with internet access. Data collected represent seven, consecutive semesters and support the correlation between the frequency of student’s web-based lecture and cyber-office hour attendance, and objective course outcomes such as quiz scores and final course point total.


  • Course materials all provided online, no F2F meeting except initial orientation. No required synchronous online meetings. Students can complete course independently. There are weekly web-based lectures and cyber office hours offered. The required discussion forum is part of the class
  • Relatively low use of chat or VOH, yet statistically significant.
  • Quiz point total: chat attendance frequency, VOH attendance frequency, total attendance frequency.
  • Final point total: chat attendance frequency.

Li, L., & Pitts, J. P. (2009). Does It Really Matter? Using Virtual Office Hours to Enhance Student-Faculty Interaction. Journal Of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 175-185.

Factors included:

  • The use of Web-based learning technologies has increased dramatically over the past decade providing new opportunities and avenues for students to interact with their professors virtually using computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies. In this article, the authors share their experiences and findings with the use of virtual office hours as a medium for students to communicate with their professors using a Web 2.0 technology, namely Facebook’s instant messaging (IM) client. Participants in the study included both traditional and nontraditional undergraduate students enrolled in on-campus MIS courses at a public U.S. university in the southeast. The findings suggest that students’ use of virtual office hours is not significantly different from their use of traditional office hours; however, participants in classes that offered virtual office hours reported higher levels of satisfaction with office hours than students in classes that offered only traditional face-to-face office hours. Implications for faculty designing courses using virtual office hours as a teaching and learning tool are discussed.


  • Used survey before and after implementation.
  • 89 students, five courses with a mix of day/night courses, some with VOH and traditional OH, some with only traditional.
  • Actually, very little use of VOH, as students indicted preference for finding answers online, in syllabus, notes, books, and also preferred email.
  • Although very little use documented of office hours, virtual or in-person, students indicated in post-implementation survey higher satisfaction with office hours.

Lih-Ching, C. W., & Beasley, W. (2006). Integrating Instant Messenger into Online Office Hours to Enhance Synchronous Online Interaction in Teacher Education. International Journal Of Instructional Media, 33(3), 277-287. (Have FT, via ILL)

Factors include:

  • Modern communication technologies have modified the tradition of instructor’s office hours in numerous ways. This article explores the use of Instant Messenger (IM) software in the context of “online office hours”. The authors discuss strengths and weaknesses of IM interactions for instructor/student communication and examine a sample of such communications from two graduate classes to determine the types of content found there. The authors propose a categorical structure drawn from this content which contains three major dimensions, two of which have sub-dimensions; the purpose of the structure is to better understand the potential pedagogical use of TM. The “24-hour professor syndrome” is a real hazard for instructors making increasing use of any type of online interactions with students. This article helps to understand how better to use computer-mediated communications to improve instructor/student interactions through integrating IM into online office hours while remaining aware of the potential disadvantages of failing to establish a boundary defining periods of instructor availability.


  • 34 grad students in an introductory (course #1 in a 5-course sequence) Educational Technology course. Most students were current teachers.
  • Identified 3 types of communication
    • Tech support issues
    • Clarification of course content.
    • Student personal issues
  • Advantages: free, easy to use, quick, works well when integrated with email, can help overcome shyness, can be anonymous, can be saved.
  • Disadvantages: relies on internet connection, may have pop-up ads, grammar, spelling, typing issues, context and misunderstandings, no time for reflection, possible expectation for 24/7 responses/availability.

Lowenthal, P.R., Snelson, C., and Dunlap, J.C. Live Synchronous Web Meetings in Asynchronous Online Courses: Reconceptualizing Virtual Office. Online Learning Journal –Volume 21 Issue 4 –December 2017. Retrieved from

Authors describe revisions to virtual office hours approaches in fully online, predominantly asynchronous graduate courses.  Early experience with virtual office hours was that 10% or fewer students attended. The instructor subsequently revise his approach to virtual office hours and saw increased usage. The authors make 21 suggestions/recommendations organized into five categories:

  • Orientation to live sessions (for example use a more inviting title)
  • Scheduling (schedule sessions strategically)
  • Relevance (for example, to share questions in advance)
  • Incentive and Assessment (for example, add incentives)
  • Interaction (for example, start with ice-breakers)

Meyers, D. M. (2003). The Impact of Virtual Office Hours on In-Class Participation. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, April 21-25, 2003).

This study investigated whether there would be an increase in college student’s participation in a college methods course that utilized virtual office hours. Virtual office hours involved a specific time when the professor was available for private or public questions and discussions via the Internet. Two groups of students participated in a social studies methods course where virtual office hours were made available twice a week. Laptop computers were issued for the duration of the semester. Students also participated in required asynchronous discussions online. Data were collected from the course and from student interviews regarding the virtual experience. Results indicated that participating students developed a classroom culture that functioned during the virtual office which not only supported classroom discussions but also created a comfort level that augmented participation during the actual class time. Students reported that the virtual office hours had a direct impact on class discussions. The virtual office provided students with a model of thoughtful discussions that they could then practice for themselves. With the confidence developed from this practice, students subsequently developed their own means of putting these ideas into practice.

Serapiglia, A. G. (2011). Augmenting the communication channel between professor and student: Online chat use for virtual office hours (Order No. 3485863). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (908423870). Have FT, Retrieved from

Out-of-Classroom Communication (OCC) has been shown to result in major benefits and positive influences on student satisfaction with their on-ground college experience. Such levels of satisfaction lead to higher levels of persistence, achievement, and retention. Yet little has been done to foster this behavior formally by on-ground colleges and universities. With increasing workloads and travel demands on students and professors, traditional location-based office hours have become inconvenient and infrequently used. The office hour could be more valuable if facilitated through mobile communication technology, such as Instant Messaging, but few professors offer this option. This study organized a semester-long experiment in which 14 sections of a computer literacy course containing 334 students participated. The course sections were broken into two subgroups: the treated group that had Virtual Office Hours (VOH) available to them through instant messaging (IM), and a control group that did not. A pre and posttest survey was administered to measure (1) shifts in student perceptions related to VOH as a valuable resource, (2) satisfaction level with the available resource, and (3) expected response time of the professor to OCC. Results show little use of VOH in an introductory level class. However, there exists support for the concept that students are willing to use IM for communicating with professors if given reason to do so. Student responses show a trend toward preferring electronic communication and dissatisfaction with currently available methods of communication offered in the classroom.

Watson, F.F., Castano Bishop, M. & Ferdinand-James, D. Instructional Strategies to Help Online Students Learn: Feedback from Online Students. TechTrends (2017) 61: 420. September 2017, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 420–427

This article describes a study of over 600 online master’s students at a midwestern University systems.  Based on survey responses, the authors ranked the Top Ten Instructional Strategies The number 1 highest ranked strategy was “be available and responsive to students.”  This was further defined as providing “instructor availability (e.g., schedule for: consultations and office hours online, in-person or phone; response time to email; and timely return of assignments) and promptly respond to students when contacted (e.g., via email and chat).”

Reviewed Articles – Face-to-Face Office Hours

Factors include

What are office hours for?

  • Many students report that they assumed office hours were times that professors were working and should not be disturbed.
  • Others think office hours are like a visit to the principal’s office: something you only have to do if you get into trouble.
  • Still others think office hours are only supposed to be utilized by a certain kind of student, either the ultra-prepared or those on the brink of failure.


  • This means the first step to getting students to attend your office hours is to dispel such notions.
  • Explain to your students early and often how you might expect them to use office hours and try to make those visits as pleasant and rewarding as possible.

 Farley-Lucas (2012) Enhancing Out-of-Class Communication: Students’ Top 10 Suggestions. Retrieved from

Factors include:

  • Electronic consultations via email have diminished the use of in-person office hours. Although students and faculty favor email contact because it’s so efficient, interpersonal exchanges still play an important role in the learning process.


  • Invitation in the syllabus to visit during office hours. Give students a by appointment option, since your set office hours may conflict with their class or work schedules.
  • Say more times than you think necessary that you welcome questions, comments, and the chance to interact with students.
  • Work to learn students names sooner rather than later. Recognize and greet students when you see them in the hallways or around campus. Smiles and waves are also appreciated.
  • Provide specific feedback on course projects, and allow opportunities for revisions prior to assigning a final grade on major projects. Offer tutorials during office hours and encourage small groups of students to attend.
  • Students do pay attention to those classroom behaviors that convey we care.

Freishat, R. (2017) Don’t Be Alone During Office Hours. Retrieved from

Factors include:
  • Students don’t want to let you know they are struggling.
  • Everybody’s busy. Students don’t think you have time for them.
  • Make it an assignment.
  • Tell students how to use office hours.
  • Tell students how to start a conversation during office hours.
  • Stagger office hour days and times to enable students with varied schedules to attend.
  • Talk about office hours and how to use them throughout the course.

Lammers, W.J. (2017) Why Won’t They Ask Us for Help? Retrieved from”

Factors include:

  • Instructor attitudes dominated their research. One thing that stuck out how students felt like “it wasn’t going to help”. This echoes the above sentiment that students have to believe that they will get something from it.
  • Professor’s personality
  • Office hours
  • Time issues
  • Professor doesn’t care about student
  • Professor’s approachability
  • Intimidation
  • Laziness
  • Professor doesn’t reiterate to visit him/her
  • Class difficulty
  • Going won’t help


  • Recommends honest review of own behaviors and a willingness to adapt teaching styles to appear more transparent and accommodating to students. Remind ourselves to regularly communicate available, approachable, and readiness to provide help.

Smith, M. (2017) Office Hours are Kind of Weird: Reclaiming a Resource to Foster Student-Faculty Interaction. Retrieved from″
Factors include:
  • Study finds a mismatch between the institutionally intended purpose of office hours and student perceptions of office hours. Do more to demonstrate to students the value of interacting with faculty and to consistently support the development of relationships between undergraduates and those who teach them.Students think office hours are for “emergencies” (academic crisis).


  • make it clear that contact out of class is “normal”;
  • make it explicit as to what you expect office hours to be;
  • use email, chat, etc. Instead of a physical meeting. Students often feel that a physical visit “is not worth the effort”

Factors include:

  • Use your syllabus to explain what happens during office hours.


  • The friendlier you are in class, and the more accessible after a lecture—a good time for making appointments—the more likely students are to come around.
  • Invite your students to drop by, and repeat the invitation several times during the quarter.
  • Suggest the kinds of things they might want to discuss, such as questions about projects, assignments, graduate school, research opportunities, or careers in your field.
  • It’s also a good idea to put a map on the syllabus if your office is not in the same building as your classroom; it may seem a bit silly, but it will signal to students that you really do want them to stop by.

Factors include:

  • Instructor extended a simple invitation to all of his students. He got an 80% response rate.

Tries to communicate to his students:

  • You are not alone; we are a team.
  • History is a good teacher.
  • Patterns and trends in behavior emerge.
  • Learning to communicate effectively is the gift that keeps giving
  • A simple conversation may have far-reaching implications
  • Note-taking is an evolving skill that demands attention, perseverance, and guidance

Walsh, M. (2011) How to Make the Most of Your Office Hours. Retrieved from
Factors include:
  • Most faculty schedule at least three office hours per week—that’s 2,700 minutes a semester. If you have 135 students, that’s 20 minutes for each student. Even if you have 270, that’s still 10 minutes per student.


  • Selecting times that maximize the number of students who can meet with you during office hours, recognizing the constraints of college students  (attending part-time, working full time and commuting to campus).
  • Consult with students before deciding when you’ll hold office hours and then schedule times that are convenient for them.
  • three different weekdays, and don’t rule out virtual office hours held at other times.
  • Use every way possible to let students know when you hold office hours; posting on the door, make sure it’s on the syllabus, position office hours on the course website, announce them in class.
  • Make office hours welcoming.Have a chair ready. Put away your cell phone. Turn away from your computer. Put peppermints in a bowl on your desk.
  • Teach: make clear that questions and additional help are available during office hours. Students sometimes think that professors are not willing to review content again in the office.
  • Advise: Ask a few questions of your own. Listen to their concerns. What information does the student need to succeed in your program, beyond your signature?
  • Collaborate: If you encourage students to seek out additional sources on topics introduced in class and they bring material to your office, ask them about it give them practice answering questions like, What’s your research question? What have you found so far?
  • Offer book: have a decent personal library that you are will to share with students
  • Listen well: taking notes; jot down names, phrases, and details of the conversation so that you can refer to these topics next time you talk with the student. If you are meeting with several students on the same day, this kind of record keeping is essential.
  • Mentorship: Sharing your own educational and work trajectory can be very insightful. You can also direct students to alumni, library resources, and websites that will help them make their own decisions. If students need advice that is beyond your expertise, be prepared to say so and send them to Career Services

Weimer, M. (2015) Office Hours Redux

Factors include:

  • Require a visit
  • Give them points for coming


  • Offer office hours when they are convenient for prof and student (an online scheduler was included);
  • Require that students attend;
  • Offer a reward for attending;
  • Meet someplace other than your office

Weimer, M. (2015)Office Hours Alternative Resonates with Students. Retrieved from

Factors include:

  • Offer alternatives for ways to get help.


  • Supplement office hours with a course center.Develop course centers where students could come together to study without the pressure of meeting with faculty. The faculty member would float around the center making themselves available for questions. The focus would be on students helping themselves.
  • Rethink the office in office hours.

Weimer, M. (2015) Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours. Retrieved from

Factors include:

  • Faculty set office hours to fit their needs, maybe not the needs of students. Faculty also control the feedback offered during office hours. Because of both of these factors, students are fearful of approaching the faculty.  Faculty “know’ their subject matter and students may feel intimidated asking for a review of material already covered in class.


  • Faculty need to educate students to on the benefits of office hours but faculty may need to also change their idea on what to offer during office hours
  • Topical office hours:  if you discover a number of students are struggling with a something, offer some office hours that you will work on a topic with small groups
  • Scheduling office hours: Identity 3 or 4 possible times that work with your schedule and see what the student prefer.
  • Also, offer alternative locations for office hours.

Whitney Griffin, Steven D. Cohen, Rachel Berndtson, Kristen M. Burson, K. Martin Camper, Yujie Chen & Margaret Austin Smith (2014). Starting the Conversation: An Exploratory Study of Factors That Influence Student Office Hour Use, College Teaching, 62:3, 94-99, DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2014.896777

Finding: Factors that significantly affect student use of office hours are largely out of instructor’s control with at least one important exception: usefulness of instructor feedback.
Factors include:

  • Interactional (including ways in which instructors make themselves approachable to students)
  • Ease-of-access issues, including when, where, and increasingly how office hours are held.
  • Class size, the level of the course, the availability of peer tutors, and where a student is in his or her progress towards a degree (administratively determined)

Instructors should consider:

  • Do students perceive my office hours as convenient? What time, location and even medium (i.e., face to face or online) might work best for my students?
  • Consider getting student input
  • Instructors educate students about the benefits of office hours as a way to potentially overcome perceptions of time and location inconvenience.

Von Bergan, M. (2011). Meaningful Learning through One on One Conferences. Retrieved from
Factors include:
  • Required 1-1 meetings


  • Happen while efforts are ongoing, so students can make the necessary changes to succeed.
  • Be timely, actionable, and user-friendly
  • Providing feedback when students are able and willing, to apply.
  • Teacher’s office is student-friendly in a way that classroom space is not
  • Speak directly to their individual needs
  • Free to talk about all kinds of things.

 This resource was compiled by the Subcommittee of the Committee on Distance Education: Brian Kennison, Aura Lippincott, Monica Sousa, Thomas Schmiedel, Catherine Vanaria, and Scott Volpe.