All fulltime instructors should have received a webcam and headset. It is becoming more the standard rather than the exception that part of an instructor’s load involves at least one distance class. And it only seems natural that if we are teaching a distance class, that office hours could be virtual as well. There are several tools out there that can facilitate online office hours. I am going to focus on just one option, Skype. It is free and easy to use. The student and instructor would need to create an account and download the software. For help with how to do this, read this help document. Both take less than 5 minutes. Then you are ready to use Skype. The instructor would communicate to the students the time frame they would be online. The students would then search for the instructor by name to initiate a chat. The type of chat is up to you. The communication can be all text–just instant messaging (IM). It can be a voice chat–a headset or internal mic needed. Or, it can be a video chat–webcam and mic needed (note, the webcams I have distributed have a built in mic).
Online office hours make you more accessible to your students. If you are teaching distance classes, try holding virtual office hours in the next semester, whether it be through Skype or some other provider. If you need help stepping into the virtual world, please don’t hesitate to ask for help, dLstanfi@davidsonccc.edu. If you did not receive a webcam and/or headset and think you would put it to good use, contact me. And if you are already holding office hours online, I would love to hear what you are using and how it went.