While office hours are an important component of any course, they can take on extra significance in a remote environment, where opportunities for interactivity and engagement may not otherwise exist. As the academic year presses on, here are some tips, tools, and best practices to consider for planning and implementing remote office hours.


In a traditional face-to-face course, office hours tend to be small group or one-on-one meetings where students receive extra help and ask questions outside of lecture time. In an online course, office hours can take on a variety of different formats, including informal group chats, review sessions, and pre-planned synchronous activities. Before implementing remote office hours, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I want my students to use office hours? Consider what purpose your office hours will serve. Are they designed as an open forum for students to ask questions and discuss course materials and assignments? Or will it be an opportunity for small groups to work together on an assignment?
  • Does my course offer other opportunities for synchronous engagement? The answer to this question may help dictate the scope and format of your office hours. For example, if you hold live/synchronous lectures and allow students to ask questions during class, the structure of your office hours may differ from an instructor who posts pre-recorded lectures.
  • How can I structure my office hours to supplement my lecture content? In some cases, office hours can serve as a way to reinforce lecture content or help students connect themes from one lecture to the next. As you plan your lectures, consider what role office hours can play in your overall content delivery strategy.

  • How can office hours make life easier for me and my students? Instead of treating office hours as an additional activity on top of lectures, class discussions, etc., think about how to design them such that they enable you to answer questions and facilitate engagement in an efficient and effective manner.


The answer to each question outlined above will differ based on your course structure, the size of your class, and the needs of your students. Depending on how your course is structured and what you’re trying to achieve, here are some best practices to consider as you plan your remote office hours.

  • If your lectures are asynchronous, consider open group office hours. Instead of scheduling 1:1 meetings, make your office hours a time for students to interact with each other, ask questions, and review material in a group setting. If office hours are the only synchronous activity in your course, some students may even attend simply as a means to interact with each other, even if they don’t have questions.

  • Plan your content and format ahead of time. Instead of treating office hours simply as a forum for students to ask questions, you may utilize some of this time to review material in a more structured manner. However your course is designed, consider planning the format in advance. (e.g. “On Mondays, I recap recurring themes from the previous week. On Thursdays, I answer pre-submitted questions.”)

  • Encourage students to submit questions in advance. This is especially important in larger classes, where it may be difficult for students to ask off-the-cuff questions in a synchronous remote setting. By inviting students to email their questions or post in a Canvas Discussion ahead of time, you can maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your office hours.

  • Use the platform that works best for you: The University provides access to several different platforms that can be used for remote office hours, including Zoom. Review those options here.

  • Make office hours easily accessible. Schedule virtual office hours as a recurring meeting directly within your Canvas course. This will allow you to better control access and to make joining meetings easier on students. For step-by-step instructions on setting up Google Calendar appointments and integrating with Canvas, view this short video.

  • Use Canvas Announcements. To help students prepare, consider using Canvas Announcements to inform them about what you plan to cover, FAQs you’re receiving, changes to the time or format, and any other information you deem relevant in advance of your office hours.

  • Establish a recurring, routine schedule. Regardless of format, consider hosting recurring remote office hours at least 1-3 hours per week for a semester course.

  • For 1:1 office hours, use Google Calendar appointment slots. Even if you host group office hours, you may still be looking for an effective way to schedule individual student appointments. To reduce administrative effort and enable students to self-schedule directly on your calendar, consider using the Appointments feature and integrating Zoom with your Google Calendar. Click here to learn more. For step-by-step instructions on setting up Google Calendar appointments and integrating with Canvas, view this short video.


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