Holding virtual office hours helps to reinforce instructor presence, provide greater support to students learning remotely, and makes the instructor more accessible to students. There are several approaches and tools that can be used to effectively hold and manage virtual office hours including open office hours, scheduled appointment slots, web conferencing options, and text-based, chat options.

Scheduling Open office hours

Google Calendar

Google Calendar can be used to schedule one time as well as repeating blocks of office hours with web conferencing included.

  1. Go to calendar.google.com and sign in using your Lafayette email, then Lafayette credentials
  2. Add an Event on the day/time you wish to schedule the office hours
  3. If you would like the event to repeat, click “More options” at the bottom
    1. On the next page, click “Does not repeat” for a list of options for repeating events
    2. To add a custom stop date, choose “Custom…”
      Choose "Custom..." to set a custom end date to your office hours.
  4. To add conferencing, click [Add video conferencing] and choose either Google Meet or Zoom. This will automatically add a meeting URL to the calendar event
  5. To invite your students, add them individually in the “Guests” section or add the Google Group for your course (see Google Group for Courses for more details)

Zoom

Zoom is an effective tool for open or scheduled office hours as it allows you to use the Waiting Room feature to admit students one at at time. You may also use the chat feature in Zoom to message those in the Waiting Room with an update about when you will be available to talk to them.

SCHEDULING OFFICE HOUR APPOINTMENT SLOTS

Appointment slots can be used to schedule one-on-one meetings with students or groups of students.  Both Google Calendar and Moodle have options for scheduling appointment time slots.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots

Google Calendar has a native appointments feature allowing students to sign up for a specific meeting time that can be made available to a single class of students, multiple classes, or an ad-hoc group of students.

  1. From Google Calendar, click to create a new event in the desired day/time slot
  2. In the event box, click Appointment Slots
    Click "Appointment slots" to add appointment slots.
  3. Choose the slot duration to set the length of each appointment slot
  4. For repeating office hours, click “More options” at the bottom and then click “Does not repeat” on the next page to set the parameters for repeating events
  5. To ‘invite’ students to sign up for a time slot, share the “Go to appointment page for this calendar” URL
    Share the "Go to appointment page for this calendar" URL to allow others to sign up for a slot.
  6. When students go the the URL, they will see the available slots and can click on a slot to reserve it and create an appointment
    Appointment time slots in google calendar
  7. Once a student reserves a time slot, a new Google Calendar event is created on both instructor’s as well as the student’s Google Calendar with a Google Meet URL attached
    Example Appointment slot calendar event

Note: Each reserved time slot will have its own individual Google Meet link. If you would like a consistent meeting link or would like to use Zoom instead, you can add a single Google Meet link or Zoom link into the description field of the Appointment Slot calendar entry. Instructions should be given to use that meeting link instead of the automatically generated Google Meet link.

Add Zoom meeting URL to appointment slot description field.

Moodle Scheduler

The Moodle Scheduler activity allows for the scheduling of appointment slots within a Moodle course that is available only to the students enrolled in that course. Web conferencing links would need to be added to the description of the activity or in the “Location” field (see instructions below). The benefit of using Moodle Scheduler over Google Appointment is the ability to send reminders to students scheduled for meetings as well as the sending of reminders to students who have not reserved a slot yet.

  1. Click the gear menu, and then click Turn editing on
  2. Choose the topic block to which you would like to add the Scheduler to and click Add an activity or resource
  3. Scroll down to the resources section and click the radio button next to “Scheduler,” then click the [Add] button
  4. Enter a title and choose initial settings such as the maximum number of students that can register (Options section), whether or not the activity is graded (Grade section), and if a booking form will be used to collect information or files from each registering student (Booking form and student-supplied data section)
  5. Click [Save and display]
  6. To add slots, click “Add slots” and choose to either add repeated slots or a single slot
    Click "Add slots" to add slots to the scheduler
  7. On the next screen, you will have the option to determine the duration of each slot, repetition of time slots until a specific date, and the ability to add a “Location”. You may want to add a Google Meet link or Zoom URL here for web conferencing (see the Scheduling Open Office Hours instructions above for information on how to generate a meeting link)
    Add web conferencing link to the "Locations" field
  8. Save

Once time slots have been generated, you may choose to send an invitation to students to sign up for a time slot or to send a reminder once students have reserved slots. You may also manually assign students to specific slots by clicking “Schedule” by a student’s name.

Manually schedule a student with the "Schedule" option.

Office Hour Chat

An alternative to web conferencing is to use a text based chat option to answer student questions either at a designated scheduled time or in a more open ended format. Moodle Chat and Google Chat are the recommended tools for this option.

Moodle Chat

Moodle Chat is an activity in Moodle that allows you to schedule specified “chat” or texting time with students on a single occurrence or on a reoccurring basis. The Chat is only available to students in the Moodle course and may be saved for future reference. Chat is also accessible from the Moodle Mobile App.

  1. Click the gear menu, and then click Turn editing on
  2. Choose the topic block to which you would like to add the Chat to and click Add an activity or resource
  3. Scroll down to the resources section and click the radio button next to “Chat,” then click the [Add] button
  4. Add a title and optional description
  5. Other settings include the “Next chat time” for the start day/time and whether the chat time will visible to the students, a single occurrence, or repeated on a specified basis in the “Chat sessions” section
    Select whether the Moodle Chat will be repeated or a one time occurrence
  6. You can also elect to save the messages from the chat and if the saved messages will be visible to students
  7. Click [Save and Display]
  8. To start the Chat, click “Click here to enter the chat now”. There is also an option for a more accessible interface for those using screen readers

Google Chat

Google Chat is a G Suite product that is available from chat.google.com, the Google Chat app for mobile or tablet, or within the Gmail web browser using your Lafayette credentials. Chat can be used to direct message other members of the Lafayette community or used in conjuncture with “Rooms” to have group discussions available to a select group such as your class. Chat is more appropriate for ongoing discussions instead of scheduled ones.

  1. To direct message another person at Lafayette or to create a new Room, click “Find people, rooms, bots” box in the upper left corner.
    Click "Find people, rooms, bots" to message another person or create a Room.
  2. Type in the name of person at Lafayette to direct message them or choose “Create room” to create a new room
  3. Name the Room and once created, click “Add people & bots” to add members
    Click "Add people & bots" to add people to the Room
  4. From here, you can add members individually or type in the name of your course Google Group to add your entire class
  5. Choose whether or not to notify people via email
  6. Chat allows you to share items directly from your Google Drive within a message, upload a file from your computer, or start an impromptu Google Meet session
    Google Chat messaging options

To mute notifications and change your availability (Active or Away), click the “Active” button on the upper left side. There you can set yourself to “Away” by muting notifications for a specified length of time or return to “Active” by clicking “Turn off do not disturb”. Your availability is visible to others when they message you (green dot = Active, white dot = Away).

Set your Google Chat availability by clicking on the "Active" button.