How to Conduct Virtual Office Hours

How to Conduct Virtual Office Hours

Guest Post from Arlen Meyers

We have all had experience with various forms of virtual interactions, be they meetings, seminars, presentations, informal get togethers or virtual networking events. One form of that experience is office hours be they as part of a formal class or a more informal meeting.

In the academic setting, office hours are a way for professor and student to communicate outside of the pressure and sometimes hurried nature of a class. To persuade students to come to office hours, professors can invite students genuinely, and also post their office hours in a way that students can easily sign up.

The purpose of office hours outside of the classroom is to have a conversation about topics of interest and get to know each other better. By their nature, they are typically unstructured and open and require some moderator knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies to be successful. In many ways, they are like a news anchor moderating a panel of analysts who are discussing a recent newsworthy event. The main purpose is to explore opinions and insights around a specific topic and inform, educate and engage the audience and participants. What’s more, they are a great way to include people with international cognitive diversity.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to conduct virtual office hours inside or outside of the classroom:

  • Schedule them at convenient times and inform participants about the schedule sufficiently ahead of time.
  • Get to know the participants. Ask them to introduce themselves and post contact information in the chat box and introduce themselves. Ask them to turn on their video when they speak.
  • Clearly define the broad goal or subject of the conversation, but allow the learning objectives to evolve based on what the participants want to discuss
  • Perfect your moderator communication skills
  • Challenge participants with probing questions about controversial topics and explore them with follow up questions

In most Zoom office hours, 10% of the participants will do 90% of the talking. Prompted cold calling is way to engage the silent 90%, To avoid embarrassing the 90%, use the chat to ask them if they would be willing to comment. If they agree, then call on them.

It is best to have a “director” on the Zoom call who can direct traffic, deal with technical issues and questions so the host can focus on the conversation.

  • Be careful not to hog the podium and confuse your moderator role with being a member of the audience. If you want to add your two cents, wait until others have had a chance to speak and then contribute. Keep your comments short and to the point.
  • Be careful to stay within the allotted time, politely interrupt those who get on a soap box to allow others to speak, and let the audience know when there is only 5 minutes left.
  • At the end, summarize or synthesize the conversation and offer other resources or solicit them from the audience to post in the chat.
  • Invite a guest expert or key opinion leader to “tee up” the topic with a 10 minute discussion.
  • Try to make the sessions as Powerpointless as possible.

In short, invite the audience to discuss the topic, have the conversation, and then tell the audience what they discussed and thank them for their ideas.

I hope to see you at our next office hours on the First Friday of every month at 8am Mountain Time.

Image credit: Pexels.com

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About Arlen Meyers

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, an instructor at the University of Colorado-Denver Business School and cofounding President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameyers/
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