1. Weekly virtual office hours

Academic staff are available online at a designated time each week for individual student ‘drop in’ consultations.

This should be a minimum of one hour per week, and can be conducted via Zoom, email or other methods used in real time. Virtual office hours allow you to manage the time you are available to your students to answer individual questions. They support flexibility and increased productivity for both staff and students and can improve student satisfaction. You can also use this time to specifically invite individual students or groups who may be experiencing challenges with assessment tasks or group dynamics.

How to implement this in your subject

Step one: determine your timing

Subject Coordinators and tutors nominate a minimum of one dedicated hour to be available each week, at a time when they can focus on students and work without distraction. To improve flexibility for students, including those in different time zones, consider having more than one hour, scheduled at different days and times across the week. For larger cohorts, more hours are recommended.

Consider whether you will have drop-in sessions with Zoom and a virtual waiting room, or if you will allow students to sign up for an appointment within your virtual office hours through the Canvas calendar.

Step two: select and prepare your tools

If using Zoom

Enable Zoom in your Canvas subject. Ask all teaching staff to install and familiarise themselves with Zoom.

If using email

Consider using Canvas Inbox to maintain a record of subject-related communications.

If using another tool

Ensure you have student- and staff-facing instructions on how to use the technology.

Step three: schedule your sessions

Use Canvas Calendar to add the virtual office hours to the Canvas calendar. Depending on the tools you have chosen, include Zoom links, email address and links to technology support. You can also use Canvas Scheduler to allow students to sign up for an appointment within your virtual office hours.

If using Zoom, choose one of the following options:

Step four: communicate your virtual office hours to students

Before the teaching period:

  • Add your virtual office hours to your staff information and availability page.

During the teaching period:

  • Use Canvas announcements to remind students of the virtual office hours. This could form part of a weekly announcement to students directing them to the week’s activities.
  • If you need to reschedule your hours in a particular week, communicate this to the cohort or tutorial group via an announcement.

Step five: prepare for and run your virtual office hour

  • Set up a quiet and organised space where possible
  • If using Zoom, log in to the meeting room and ensure it is working as expected
  • Consider taking notes to communicate any relevant responses as part of general anonymised feedback in a weekly summary announcement or ‘mail bag’ video, so that all students can benefit from your response.

Support and resources

You can use this guide to implement the 2020 category two Learning and Teaching Initiatives.