When I taught on campus I always held office hours and yet no one came to visit me unless I asked them to or they thought that they were in some sort of trouble, i.e. too many absences, failed an exam, plagiarized on a paper etc. Since I have been teaching online I have not held traditional or regular office hours. Should I hold office hours online? Perhaps I should not have office hours at a specific day and time since being online offers me and the students the flexibility being on campus does not. Of course I am more available to my e-students more than my on-campus ones since we all email all the time as well as the questions and answers discussion thread on Blackboard, but I would like to chat with them once in a while and would also like to see them, so for I have used skype, but that also becomes a bit cumbersome as we all need to go outside of blackboard. Currently, I meet my students online via video chat whenever they need to speak to me. It is a more on-demand office hours. When students want to speak to me they ask me to meet them on campus instead of online. For some reason, they tend to avoid speaking to me online even though I try to schedule a time that is convenient for both of us.
I think that if there was a skype type tool students might find it easier At this point blackboard does not offer a tool I can use exclusively for office hours or private chatting. In an older version, they had a chat tool that I used to talk to my students in real time. I guess they feel that I and the other instructors don’t need that kind of a tool. The only thing that is available is Blackboard Collaborate I thought it could a great alternative for virtual office hours as I can actually use it to talk to my students without having to log into different software. From the video that watched this tool is meant to be used for holding synchronous lessons, but it is not so good for private one-to-one teacher-student discussions or private office hours as anybody can enter the virtual room and be part of the discussion. Below you will find a link that explains what Blackboard Collaborate is and what features it has: https://youtu.be/PvoNGOKHY80
I believe that meeting with students face-to-face or online is important. It allows the e-students to feel more connected to their instructor. So what are my choices? Either go into campus to meet with students, which in my opinion is odd, as the whole course is held online. On the other hand, the online options are to use skype or Google hangouts, which for some reason the students don’t like to use when I suggest it. I wonder why is that? Is it more intimidating to walk into your professor’s office or video chatting online? I think the second!