Canvas Spotlight

Best Practices for Holding Virtual Office Hours

Last updated on January 20, 2022

Connect Virtually with Students Outside of Class Time

Office hours are key resources for your students to seek additional help and instruction. In-person office hours are a time-tested system, and these benefits carry forward when you provide an equivalent virtual experience. For a small investment of time and effort to set up a virtual office meeting option, you can greatly enhance how you connect with your students, provide feedback, and meet your learners where they need you the most.

To help you get started, or improve your current virtual meeting practices, CTLD advises that you use Microsoft Teams to conduct virtual meetings with your students, and you have a few different options for how you structure your office hours when using Teams.

There are two main strategies:

  1. Use a recurring meeting in Teams so students can drop into at will, or 
  2. Set up appointment groups in the Canvas Calendar that students will need to sign up for and you will need to monitor.

One other option is to simply open Teams during your scheduled office hours, and instruct your students to call you on Teams during those times. However, you might be overwhelmed by calls if many students try to reach you at the same time, so let them know in advance that they may need to wait for assistance, just like the queue that forms outside of your office on campus. Consider changing your lobby options in Teams to set up a waiting area.

Best Practices

  • Hosting a single Teams meeting in which you wait for students to join through a shared link is the simplest way to conduct virtual office hours, but you may find it difficult to manage if several students join at once.
  • Creating time slots and letting your students sign up on Canvas  can help prevent multiple students from joining your office hours simultaneously, but also requires more management on your part.
  • If you instruct your students to call you directly on Teams, make sure you’re able to effectively manage the volume of calls.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable using Teams (i.e. scheduling meetings, calling individuals, screen-sharing) before trying to hold virtual office hours. CTLD has a large collection of MS Teams tutorials that you can find in the Communication section of our Ready site. 
    • If you need additional help or are feeling uncomfortable with setting MS Teams up, please visit our support hours to practice with us.
  • Communicate office hours availability and policies clearly to your students through multiple avenues, such as in your syllabus, announcements, or modules.

Let’s walk through it together

Create an Office Hours Team and Schedule an Open Teams Meeting

  1. Open the Microsoft Teams App on your computer.
  2. Click Teams in the left-hand bar.
    • You should see a list of all the Teams you are a member of. If not, click Teams again.
  3. Click Join or Create Team in the top right-hand corner of the page.
    • If you have selected the List Layout in Settings rather than Grid, Join or Create a Team will appear in the bottom left-hand corner instead.
  4. Click Create a Team.
  5. Click Class.
  6. Enter a Name for your Team.
    • We recommend naming this team “Office Hours”.
  7. Click Skip in the bottom right-hand corner of the Add People to “Team Name” menu.
  8. Click the Down Arrow to the right of the Meet button in the top right-hand corner.
    • On smaller screens the Meet button might simply be a camera with no text or arrow next to it. In that case, simply click on the Camera icon.
  9. Click Schedule a Meeting from the drop-down menu.
  10. Enter a Title for the meeting. 
    • We recommend naming this meeting “Office Hours” as well.
  11. Click the first Date Box and enter the date of the first office hours meeting you would like to conduct or select it from the pop-up calendar.
  12. Click the first Time Box and select the start time of your office hours meeting.
  13. Click the second Time Box and select the end time of your office hours meeting.
  14. Click the Repeating Drop-Down Menu and select an option if you would like to schedule a recurring office hours meeting (by default this menu has “Does not repeat” selected).
  15. Click Send in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
  16. Click the Meeting that you just scheduled (it will appear in a purple bar in the General channel).
  17. Copy the Link, either by copying the text box at the bottom of the screen or clicking copy link in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
  18. Share the Link with your students.
    • You could paste it in an Announcement, an email, or somewhere in your Syllabus, for example. We recommend sharing it in multiple locations.

Create Appointment Groups in Canvas Calendar

  1. Go to MSU Denver’s Faculty and Staff Hub.
  2. Click Canvas in the Teaching & Learning section.
  3. Log in to your Canvas Account.
  4. Click Calendar on the global navigation bar to the left.
  5. Click  the + Icon in the upper right. The Edit Event window opens.
  6. Select the Appointment Group tab.
  7. Type the Name of the Event or Meeting in the Name box.
  8. Type the location of the event or meeting into the Location Box.
  9. Click the Select Calendars button.
  10. Assign the Event to the correct course(s).
  11. Click the Arrow next to each course to expand options within that course to include specific sections or groups.
    • Click Done.
  12. Select whether you wish Students to Sign Up in Groups.
  13. Select the desired date(s) under Date.
    • Enter the time range for the appropriate date under Time Range.
      • Note: Set the standard Time of appointments within that range, and click Go to automatically create individual events/appointments.
  14. Select the appropriate Options  as you see fit:
    • Limit each time slot
      • Set the Number of Students to allow for each time slot.
    • Allow students to see who has signed up for slots still available
      • Limit participants
      • Set the Amount of appointments each student can attend.
  15. Type any additional details in the Details Box.
  16. Click Publish.