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OK, you still want to see students F2F–faculty interactions after all are consistently cited as the most important learning opportunity in college. (Keep in mind, students rarely see class time as high quality faculty interaction!)  But, the world has changed and there are now many more opportunities for student interaction outside of the classroom.

First, remember, your office is a SCARY place.  You are old. You have degrees many students have never even heard of and you have stacks of these funny old book things. Many students would never consider going to your office hours: it would mean they are failing or trying to suck up.  I advise the Hispanic fraternity on my campus and when we were constructing an academic plan that included study hours and the like, I suggested including ONE visit to office hours. SHOCK!!  Oh no, we couldn’t. Wouldn’t that be a hardship on our professors? Good students don’t do that, etc.  It is actually traumatic for many students. Read Rebecca Cox, College Fear Factor (Harvard Univ Press) if you really want to know what college feels like to many students today.

Second, the barrier to communication is much lower on chat, email or Facebook.  And it may actually be more important for your students to get smaller and more timely interaction than telling you their life story over coffee.  In any case, the prerequisite for F2F interaction is now often social media. (If you really want to know how things have changed, ask students about dating or how they find romantic partners. Yes, there is now an app for that:  Tinder.  fathers of daughters, I’d skip the next part: in other words, if they would rather have casual sex with someone they have only met online rather than a person they meet in a bar, how are you going to get them to come to your office hours as a first step?)

So consider creating an E-communication Policy for your syllabus.

1. Establish how you will communicate   How to contact you is vastly more important to most students than your office hours!

  • The best way to contact me is: ________________ (email, FB, Google+, LinkedIn)
  •  I will respond to e-mail (or FB chat, messages etc.) within _____ hours,
  •           except on ___ or between ________ (9pm and 9am etc.)
  •   I also accept/do not accept chat/Skype/Facebook/LinkedIn friend requests.

 

2. Create a schedule for yourself

  • When is the best time or the best day of the week to announce new assignments?
  • When are students most likely to need your help?

 

3. Be clear and consistent about what information is in which channel

  • Example: use email for announcements but Facebook for questions.
  •  Do not mix the personal and the professional.

 

4. Limit the forms of communication.

  •    Don’t do everything.
  •    Limit duplication (but DO archive all email in your LMS!)
  •    Ask students for feedback
  •    Stick to your plan; do not randomly change your mode of communication

 

EXAMPLES:
1. Communication with Me:
Email: prof@XU.edu (I will answer email within 24 hours, usually sooner.)
Facebook: I will respond to questions on the Fb Group page within 24 hours.  Everyone can see the questions and the answers. If someone else has the answer, don’t wait for me.
Physical Office Hours: Mon-Wed 2-3 (just after class in the atrium lounge.)
Chat: I will be in the Google hangout on Tuesday from 7-8. If you see me on Fb or Skype, you can chat with me there too.
Phone: 111 My Office
Appointment: If you want to see me live outside of office hours, email me.

2. Communication:
I am very responsive, but not always at my computer.
Email: prof@XU.edu (I will answer email within 4 hours between 1pm and 5pm, MWF.)
Facebook: This class has a private Fb Group where I will post articles, video and questions. You should check it 3x a week.  I will be there and respond as needed (within a few hours) most MWF afternoons.
Chat: You can also ask me private individual questions when I am on Fb. I will announce virtual office hours when I will do chat and Skype as needed.
Physical Office Hours: If you want to see me live outside of class, email me.
Phone: 111 My Cell: use for texts between 7-9pm most evenings and I will respond.

More examples at teachingnaked.com or in Teaching Naked.

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