Students and Office Hours

Karen Koehler sent me a link to an article from Inside Higher Ed about a faculty member who banned student emails unless they were emailing to schedule an appointment with her. On first glance, it seemed drastic and un-Hampshire-like to Karen (and to me). But the purpose was to get students to use office hours. We do want students to come see us, to discuss their ideas, to get help if they need it, etc.

I am left with these questions:

  • Does email interfere with the face-to-face interactions?
  • When do we want students to come to our office hours and when would we rather a quick email?
  • Do students understand what office hours are for? (someone told me that they had a student who thought “office hours” meant faculty were working in their office and could not be disturbed)
  • Are there other ways that are less drastic to get students to come to talk to us?
  • When do we want them talking to each other rather than coming to us?
  • What should a student try on their own before coming to us?
  • How do we communicate these ideas to students?

Clearly, there is no one rule about office hours and office hour use. In addition to varied needs of students, we as faculty will have different wishes for how we communicate with students.

If you would like your students to use your office hours more effectively, consider the kinds of assignments you might give your students – maybe particularly starting with tutorial students – that help them to understand your role as a mentor and that gets them to work together. For example:

  • Give an early writing assignment and have students sign up for office hours to discuss their paper with you
  • Have students peer edit their papers and then bring the revision to you to discuss in office hours
  • Have a specific type of communication that your require in person (e.g. No excuses for late assignments by email – you must come talk to me to discuss the work and negotiate a new deadline)

What Karen shared is that she has a project in her new NEH “Enduring Questions” course that she is teaching next semester for new Div II students where the students have to pick an object in the library, (book, film, photograph), find a faculty person they think would be interested in it, and interview them (which of course means finding their office hours…)

Be creative and send your ideas to

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