Virtual Office Hours

If you are working from home due to University closure, it could be useful to set up virtual office hours.

The key thing is to make it clear to your students how and when you will be available.

Aside from pre-recorded lectures and scheduled online seminars/tutorials, you will probably want your students to be able to ask questions and seek support at other times. The following may be helpful.

Ways to keep in touch

Discussion boards

You may wish to set up Discussion Boards on your Blackboard sites. This provides a place where students can ask questions or raise concerns at any time, and you can check and respond periodically. You may also find that students are able to provide each other with answers and support. In order for discussion boards to work effectively, make sure you:

  • are clear about the purpose of each discussion forum. You may want different forums for different topics, or just one space where people can create their own threads as necessary.
  • state when you will be monitoring the boards. You can do this in the forum description. If you can specify a block of time when you will be available to answer questions, students can come to the forum for live chat. Otherwise you might say that, for example, you will check the forums daily. This gives people an idea of how soon their question might be answered.
  • remind people to be respectful and supportive.

You may also wish to create a forum for social chat so that students can stay in touch (but make it clear that this is what it is for, and not a way to contact you).

Blackboard Collaborate

If you want to hold live office hours, you can use Blackboard Collaborate to set up a webinar room. While you are in the virtual room, students can drop in and speak to you either through the Chat box or with their microphone, as you prefer.


You can use email as usual. However, you may want to manage student expectations by adding a reminder in your Blackboard course of your working hours, especially if there are any changes to them due to you working from home, or if you are actually off sick. Remember you can also set an out of office message.

Read the article Contingency plan for move to online delivery for more information.


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