Online Office Hours: How to Take Advantage and Stay Connected with Your Professors

by Ben Kissam

For some students, office hours can seem intimidating or awkward. But the truth is, one-on-one time with your instructors is a valuable resource—the kind that can help you get ahead both academically and professionally.

With the move to remote learning for the fall semester at Azusa Pacific University, meeting with your professors during online office hours can be even more beneficial. Here’s why you should take advantage of office hours and a few best practices to help you get started:

What Are Office Hours?

Office hours are set times throughout the week when students can meet with professors one-on-one. Information about a professor’s office hours can be found on the course syllabus or in Canvas. Many professors are also available by appointment if their regular office hours don’t align with your class or work schedule.

If you haven’t taken advantage of this resource before, it might seem strange to sit down with an instructor for individual feedback or instruction. But it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself in an engaging, helpful conversation.

“One of the things students don’t know is that most professors are actually chomping at the bit to do office hours,” said Tim Samoff, MFA, a professor in the Department of Cinematic Arts at APU. “We are there to teach and make connections with students. When we do have office hours and no one shows up, we assume that students are doing okay and are not feeling overwhelmed.”

4 Reasons to Take Advantage of Office Hours

Wondering what you can talk about with your professors during their office hours? The possibilities are endless. Here are four ways you can make the most of this opportunity:

  1. Receive help with course material. This is the time to clarify points made during lectures, request help on specific sections of assignments, or ask questions that you might not want to ask in front of your classmates. With more time during a one-on-one conversation, you can ensure you clearly understand assignment or course expectations.
  2. Deepen your understanding. “Historically, office hours were meant to deepen student learning,” says Samoff. You can use office hours to enhance your understanding of lecture material, or even ask questions about topics that interest you. This could help prepare you for classes you’ll take later in your undergraduate program or even graduate school.
  3. Get individualized instruction. Need guidance to help you narrow down research paper topics? Are you still having trouble understanding a key concept taught earlier in the semester? Do you want to better understand your instructor’s feedback on an assignment? This is the perfect time to make that known, so you can get the one-on-one instruction you need to succeed.
  4. Build relationships with professors. Getting to know your professors is a great way to strengthen relationships and showcase your skills and personality. This investment can pay off later in the form of a recommendation letter or a reference for your first job. Plus, it’s a great way to build a strong community, which is one of APU’s Four Cornerstones.

The benefits of office hours are plentiful, so don’t miss out on this opportunity. The faculty at APU are ready and eager to connect with you.

Online Office Hours Best Practices

If you’re planning to attend online office hours, it’s a good idea to spend a little time preparing. Here are some ways you can make the most out of these virtual meetings:

  • Have a goal in mind. “Jot down a bullet list of the things you want to discuss,” says Samoff. “If there’s anything specific that you’re uncomfortable with, rehearse or come up with a clear way of articulating the questions you want to ask.” This should only take a few minutes and it can help maximize your time with a professor.
  • Schedule an appointment. Perhaps the biggest difference between in-person and online office hours is that you can’t just drop by their physical office. Send an email to see when your professor is available, then confirm a time that works for you.
  • Be personable. Remember: professors are humans, too—they enjoy connecting with their students! As such, be prepared to answer a question or two outside of the curriculum. And don’t be afraid to ask how their day is going, either.
  • Be a good student. Be punctual and try not to run over your allotted time if others are waiting. Also, try taking notes or recording the Zoom to reference later (make sure to ask before you record, though).

Whether virtual or in person, meeting with your instructors during office hours can be an investment in your present and future. Following these best practices can help you maximize your time and make the experience enjoyable for you and your professor.

Ready to move forward? Use Azusa Pacific University’s faculty directory to connect with one (or more) of your professors today.