Academic Outreach

Faculty Focused

Digital Office Hours: Part Two – Connecting via the Internet

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 by annek

As schedules get more hectic for everyone in higher education, more and more instructors are offering alternatives to traditional f2f office hours. Instructors and students have increasingly complex schedules and it is often difficult to meet during the work day or on campus. Online meetings are a useful tool for the instructor who is unable to spend much time in his office or who is traveling and allows for more flexibility in scheduling appointments with students.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, faculty members can take advantage of web-based alternatives to the printed appointment slot sheets posted on doors throughout campus. In this post I want to focus on Web 2.0 tools you can use for meeting with students, but your first steps should be to decide how to interact with your students.

How do you want to talk to your students?

  • I want to see & converse with my students over the internet.
    1. Adobe Connect – free for UM online instructors – $150/yr otherwise
    2. Google Hangouts – free for UM faculty, staff & students
    3. Skype –– free for everyone
      • You can include up to 10 simultaneous video connections
  • I need a sharing application that will allow students to watch the instructor work through a problem, allow me to share documents or view my desktop.
    1. Adobe Connect
    2. Google Hangouts
    3. Skype
    4. Scribblar –- monthly cost based upon the number of simultaneous video connections


Adobe Connect is a video classroom that allows up to 200 participants. It is easy to share your desktop, a group white board or video. There is also a chat feature for side conversations or if students are having audio connection problems. Instructors who are interested in this service will have to pay for an annual license ($150). ODeL will pay the annual fee for online instructors. It is easy to record the sessions and post for later viewing. Once you set up your classroom, students can access it through the link and they do not need an account to login. We also have a real-time captioning service available if a student with a disability requests this accommodation.

A Google Hangout is a video chat that allows up to 10 video simultaneous participants. In a Hangout, you can talk with the other participants and even share your computer screens. If your audience is very small, this is a convenient way to interact. If you want to record the video meeting, select ‘Hangout On Air’ which will automatically post the video to your YouTube channel. Just post a link to the Hangout and students can login via their Gmail accounts.

These are just a few of the many web 2.0 technologies that will allow you to connect with your students regardless of where you are physically located.