Virtual education is not a new concept. It is a model that was available pre-Corona times as well. Online education is a pretty simple concept; students and teachers use software and apps for education. But, I wish it to be as simple as it sounds, which it is not. Virtual education is more about teachers and students helping each other rather than just watching lectures online.
This is where virtual office hours come in. This is one essential aspect of online education that enhances students’ and teachers’ experiences. If this is the backbone of the success of virtual learning, you won’t be exaggerating.
To understand its importance and how virtual office hours can be beneficial to you, let us first understand what it is.
What are virtual office hours?
Virtual office hours are the times when teachers are available for personal interaction with students. This interaction is other than the classes, lectures, and seminars that the students attend. Since, these hours are available through video calling, hence the word virtual is used.
These hours are flexible and offered to help and guide students that need help. It is also a very effective way to keep a check on students’ progress. Monitoring the students is very important to complete the work cycle of online education.
Benefits of using the virtual office hours:
- Virtual office hours have their benefits. It offers a flexible timeframe for students. This enables the students to interact with the teachers according to their schedules. Online lectures and webinars have a set timetable. But the virtual office hours let each student pick an individual time slot.
- Students with limited mobility and access to the school can use it to their benefit. Students with disabilities and students from remote areas can use these individual online sessions.
- One-to-one sessions between teachers and students help build a bond between them. In physical class, many students don’t get a chance to interact with the teachers in a relaxed environment. Individual online interactions help them trust each other and confide in their problems freely.
- Teachers can stay updated about the progress of the students. They can encourage the students and boost their morale through regular interactive sessions.
There are three types of real-time meetings that can be arranged according to the preference of the teachers and students:
- The Drop-in type of synchronous meetings lets the teachers set a time for the session. Then they come online, activate the session, and wait for the students to join in. They give an open invite for the session so any student who has questions or problems can join in. This approach is ideal for long-time projects where students can drop in extempore for guidance.
- Scheduled meetings mean that you have set aside individual time for each student. This type of real-time meeting ensures that every student gets an equal amount of time and attention from the teacher. It might be less flexible but it gets all the students to participate.
- Hybrid sessions are a combination of the above two types. This way they can have fixed and flexible time slots for drop-in and a workable schedule for students who need it.
Best ways to use virtual office hours to your benefit:
Good technology and software come first:
A virtual office is dependent on technology. The sessions between the teachers and students are all done online and for that good webcam and software are needed. Usually, a mobile app and camera work fine. Video conferencing apps are pretty easy to install and use. All you have to do is share the link with your students to join your sessions.
Set reasonable time slots for your students to utilize:
It is understood that teachers need to schedule their time. You cannot be online 24/7 for the students that is why setting a reasonable schedule is very important. You have more on your plate other than the virtual office hours. Set the time slots that you and students can maintain easily without draining your energies out.
Set clear directions for your students to avoid waste of time:
The amount of time you can give each student might be limited. Setting distinct directions and emphasizing the students to follow them. This will save your time and avoid any confusion among the students as well. This will also increase the productivity of the sessions.
Follow up on the sessions enhances productivity:
Following up on the sessions and projects of the students can help them in concluding their projects. Real-time checking on their projects can be done through follow-up sessions. This will also let them keep a check on the progress of the student’s development. You can send the student’s transcripts and summary of the meeting through the software that you use. You can also set up follow-up reminders after the session is done.
A virtual waiting room can help you streamline your sessions:
By creating this virtual space you can queue your appointments. This helps you to focus and give personal attention to each project. You can also decide about the time you want to give to each session. It is especially useful in drop-in sessions when many students come at the same time. You can guide them to the virtual waiting area to meet with them one by one.
Take students’ preferences into account:
Before deciding on the type of session you want to set, make sure you understand what your students will respond to. Many students prefer to meet in groups while many prefer one-to-one attention from the teachers. Understanding what works for them can make the sessions fruitful and productive.
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