CETL Learning Tips: Office hours — should I go?

Jennifer Coon, Special Lecturer

You likely know about office hours, but might avoid this unfamiliar ground. This week’s learning tip comes from Jennifer Coon, a writing and rhetoric instructor here at Oakland University who voices how many faculty feel as they wait with their door open for a student to stop by.

Should I go to my professor’s office hours?

Q: You are doing well in this class. All your assignments are in. You like the content and you’re even thinking about changing your major.

A: YES! Why not look to your professor as a mentor or suggest a research collaboration?

Q: You’re thinking of dropping this class. You are missing several assignments, the content is just not clicking and you’ve got several work schedule conflicts.

A: YES! Don’t drop a class without talking to a professor or adviser first. You might have different impressions of your progress.

Q: You’re doing OK in this class. One low test score. Perhaps you’re unclear about a few small details, but you’re doing OK. No big deal.

A: YES! Get clarification on unclear topics and set a plan to finish the semester successfully.

Visiting your professor during their office hours or “student hours” might seem intimidating, or maybe like a waste of time, or perhaps bothersome. Whatever the reason, you should know professors are waiting for you. Our role is to listen; to help you develop an agreeable work plan; to model behavior and decorum for this type of (new) relationship; to move you to take action; to talk about your research; and to plan collaborations. The door is open to you because you are the reason we are here. We want you to be successful, and students who visit professors outside of class are infinitely more successful than those who don’t.

Meeting face-to-face might seem outdated due to the technology we use for quick and frequent communications, but nothing beats the give-and-take of a conversation, especially when you are trying to understand a complex topic in your own way. Your role is to question (everything); to make a plan for success; to practice advocating for yourself and your interests; to even look at this as a chance to mirror a meeting with future employers; and to gather clarification that neither books nor Moodle can give.

After extended absences or problems with coursework, you might want to reestablish yourself in the eyes of the professor as someone who really is committed to this class. In the face of group projects, you might bring a classmate or classmates to office hours. Small group conferences can be incredibly beneficial to all involved.

Today, these office hours might be face-to-face, on cell phones, virtual by use of Skype, Google Meet or FaceTime, or on a platform like WebEx. Some professors have open door/walk-in hours, while others schedule appointments. Professors list their office hours/location on their syllabi, on their doors and (some) list them on their Moodle course page.

No matter the format, know that ultimately, our interest in you helps elevate your interest in the class and the coursework. So, engage us. The door is open.

Jennifer Coon teaches writing and rhetoric at Oakland University. If you would like to contribute a learning tip to this column, contact Christina Moore at [email protected].