Reach More Students with Targeted Office Hours

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One of the biggest challenges instructors face with large class sizes is connecting with students individually. Often students will make use of office hours for that personal connection, but there are only so many hours in the day, and teaching online adds another layer of complexity.

What are targeted office hours?

Have you ever noticed that during office hours several students had the same question or came in to discuss the same topic? Why not speak to them all at once? Hamann, Pollock, and Wilson (2012) found that students rated small group face-to-face discussions higher than whole-class and online group discussions in terms of satisfaction and critical thinking skills. Scheduling office hours with small groups focused on a specific topic would provide more control over how you allocate your time, would allow you to meet with more students in a shorter amount of time, and it would free you up to spend more time with the individuals who need it the most. This strategy makes more efficient use of the instructor’s time and increases the number of students that can be reached during a limited window of availability.

When do I use it?

When a line starts to form outside your office, it’s time to start making more efficient use of your time! One use case is to set up targeted office hours before and after an exam. When preparing for the exam, students who are struggling with the same topic can all meet with you together and benefit from each other’s questions. After the exam students wish to discuss the same test question or set of questions can also hear the same information without forcing you to repeat it multiple times.

How do I use it?

Start by:

  1. Determining common questions:
  2. Check your “Ask your Instructor” discussion topic
  3. Look through email
  4. Ask teaching assistants
  5. Discussion interests:
  6. Poll students directly
  7. Themes of discussion prompts
  8. Current events in subject area
  9. Other student needs:
    1. Review grade book
    2. Address logistics of degree program
    3. Discuss industry or career options
    4. University events

Schedule times for students with common needs to meet with you at the same time.

This strategy can be used in isolation or in sequence with the following strategies to more effectively engage with your students outside of class:

Create a Personalized Student Intervention

Reach More Students with Targeted Office Hours

Managing Student Interaction with Sign Up Sheets

Use Web Conferencing Tools for Office Hours

Link to example artifact(s)

Instructor: Dr. Carolyn Massiah

Course Title: MAR3023 Marketing

Description of MAR3023 by Dr. Massiah

Targeted office hours impact by Dr. Massiah

Link to scholarly reference(s)

Hamann, K., Pollock, P., & Wilson, B. (2012). Assessing student perceptions of the benefits of discussions in small-group, large-class, and online learning contexts. College Teaching, 60(2), 65-75.


Raible, J., Howard, W., Chen, B., & Thompson, K. (2015). Reach more students with targeted office hours. In B. Chen & K. Thompson (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning.

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