Professors should continue to offer virtual office hours

Alexandra Purchatzke

Although more than 91% of classes are scheduled to be in person this fall, faculty should consider keeping some activities online. While online learning has taken a toll on education, one benefit of the virtual environment for students has been the ease of going to office hours over Zoom.

In order to ease the transition back to in-person classes and maintain the accessibility of online learning, professors and teaching assistants should continue to offer online options for activities held outside of required classes, such as office hours or review sessions.

Quynh Nguyen, a medical lab sciences freshman, said she attends office hours almost every day, and that if she didn’t do so, her grades would suffer. 

“Office hours (are) carrying my grades right now,” Nguyen said. “Not for every class, but for more of the intense classes. If I don’t attend office hours, I practically don’t get good grades at all, and that was a really hard lesson I had to learn.”

There is convenience in attending from any location and not having to worry about the time spent getting there. Given that office hours are a vital part of college education for many students, educators should strive to make them as accessible as possible.

Nguyen believes that online office hours will help increase accessibility for students who do not have the option to visit in person next fall.

“I think online office hours will help transition to in person,” Nguyen said. “Other people may need to rely on those online office hours, even though most things will be in person next semester, because they’re in a tricky situation.”

For professors, holding online office hours would ease the burden of having to find a big enough space for all of their students to attend. There are also benefits to using online programs like the chat function, having breakout rooms on Zoom and recording sessions for students to watch later — all of which are not possible in person. Even before online learning became the norm, many professors held office hours and exam reviews online because of the higher attendance potential and convenience for students.

Biology learning specialist Jace Klein said that having online office hours increases accessibility for students and that he’s open to streaming and recording his in-person study reviews. 

“I totally agree that the online office hours are way more accessible. … I think that it’s a real benefit,” Klein said. “Honestly, I think online and in-person office hours can go hand in hand. I do these reviews and maybe max 10 people show up, but I get the feeling a lot of people watch (the recordings).”

Given that in-person activities in the fall semester may be rough for students, professors should consider keeping some virtual options for their classes. While many of us have gotten sick of online learning this past year, there is still convenience in being able to ask your professor a quick question at their office hours while in pajamas or from a coffee shop instead of trekking to their office.

I know I would prefer it.

Purchatzke is a biochemistry freshman from Boerne, Texas.