Course Communication and Office Hours

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Educational research has shown that student–faculty interactions are important [1]. Therefore, it is essential that you include multiple ways for students to contact you and for you to interact with students. Frequent and quality student–faculty interactions lead to better student outcomes[2].

Consider the following ways that you can promote students interacting with you:

Syllabus/Course Outline and Course Communication

  • State on the syllabus your preferred method for students to contact you, such as by email or through Brightspace. Also, clearly delineate when you will respond to any communication received by students. This is important so that students do not become too stressed regarding when they will hear from you.
  •  Communicate often. Weekly updates or reminders on Brightspace, help students feel connected to you and the course. When appropriate, send students links to resourcessuch as the Learn Anywhere site or adjusting study habits to help students. 

Office Hours

  • Hold regular office hours. Recently, instructors have found using Zoom for office hours a convenient method to interact with students. Remind students often of the benefit of coming to see you in office hours, such as increased sense of belonging, motivation, and involvement in the course[2].
  • If there is a teaching assistant (TA) for the course, encourage the TA to also set up office hours so that students have multiple ways to talk about the course. Often, students, especially in first year, may feel more comfortable talking to a TA.
  • Use office hours for feedback purposes on assignments[5].
  • Consider making office hours part of the course (e.g., students are encouraged to attend once so that the instructor and student can talk about a particular assignment) or part of students’ participation marks. For example, consider incentivizing the first office hour to encourage students to engage with you or your TA.
  • Send personalized invitations to students to office hours and if using Zoom, post the link visibly on Brightspace.
  • Pair office hours with discussion forums. Discourage email by asking students to attend office hours for assistance and support; or have questions asked by students anonymously visible to all by setting up a discussion forum or class-based questions that you will address in office hours.


Provide ample opportunities for students to provide feedback; do not rely solely on the end-of-term CES survey. Instead, consider implementing an anonymous feedback survey through Brightspace early in the term and at the mid-point. You may even want to send a “Get to know you” survey before class begins. This can include diagnostic questions to help you learn what students know about the subject matter. Once the course starts, the focus of early feedback is more on the logistics of the course, such as can students find everything on Brightspace, do they need any assistance to do well in the course, and/or are they clear about the assessment expectations. Mid-term feedback can address aspects of the course and student learning. You want to keep the focus of feedback on what in the course is supporting their learning and what could be enhanced.

  1. Anaya, G., & Cole, D. G. (2001). Latino/a student achievement: Exploring the influence of student-faculty interactions on college grades. Journal of College Student Development42(1), 3–14.
  2. Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, pp. 3-7.
  3. Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Cokley, K. (2000). Perceived faculty encouragement and its influence on college students. Journal of College Student Development41(3), 348–352.
  4. Drew, S. (2001). Student perceptions of what helps them learn and develop in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education6(3), 309–331.
  5. Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R., Burson, K. M., Camper, K. M., Chen, Y., & Smith, M. A. (2014) Starting the conversation: An exploratory student of factors that influence office hour use. College Teaching, 62(3), 94-99.
  6. Thompson, M. D. (2001). Informal student-faculty interaction: Its relationship to educational gains in science and mathematics among community college students. Community College Review29(1), 35–58.

About this post

This post was last updated:

February 1, 2022

We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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