Online interactive sessions are important for keeping in contact with students for both academic and pastoral support. Whether structured or impromptu, meetings held online can help build and sustain the important connections between you and your students that cannot always be created effectively through email or discussion boards alone.
Varying office hours helps ensure coverage for students who cannot make specific times due to timezone differences or other commitments.
Creating a virtual office
A virtual office is an online space that you can create that students can use to speak to you at specified times and days of the week, replicating those important opportunities students would have to find speak to you in your office when on campus.
Ways in which you could achieve your virtual office:
- A recurring Teams meeting that has a shared link on a Blackboard module
- A recurring Collaborate room on the module. Guidance: Event Details for Blackboard Collaborate
- An open Collaborate session that students can drop into at anytime when they know you’ll be online.
Managing a virtual office
Operating a virtual office to meet with your students works best by establishing clearly how and when your students should use it to contact you. Clearly signpost your students on Blackboard, either as an item in the course information or through announcements.
Aspects for consideration:
- How often do you expect students to meet you? How will this be communicated to them?
- Are these mandatory tutorial meetings, “as-required” drop-in sessions, or a mix of both?
- What tool will you use to host your meetings and how can students access the link to your virtual office meetings?
Students may wish to speak to you confidentially about certain issues, which brings challenges when using the “drop-in” style of virtual office. You can either arrange a private one to one meeting with these learners at a specified time, or you may prefer to create an office that has a “waiting-room”. You can do this by setting up your online meeting space, such as a Blackboard Collaborate session.
- Start Breakout Rooms (without students).
- Share a slide in the main room that has information about the virtual office. This should inform students that they are in the waiting room and that you will move them in a breakout room to speak to you privately when it is their turn to talk to you.
Watch this short screencast to see this method in action.