Small Teaching Tip 18
Small Teaching Tip, Teaching Advice

Small Teaching Tip #18: Increasing Students’ Use of Office Hours

Many faculty lament how few students take advantage of office hours. Often, undergraduate students do not perceive office hours to be beneficial unless something has gone wrong, such as a failing grade. But interactions between students and faculty outside the classroom (particularly mentorship-type interactions) have been shown to increase retention, student satisfaction, engagement, a sense of belonging, and overall academic performance. So, how can we change students’ perceptions and increase their use of office hours?

Explain What Office Hours Are

Since most of us have been in academia for many years, we forget that undergraduates are academic novices who are unfamiliar with our lingo and norms. Many students, particularly first-year and first-generation students, do not know what office hours are.  When I asked my freshmen students a few semesters ago what they thought office hours were for, multiple students stated they are hours when professors are working and shouldn’t be disturbed! So, during the first week of classes, make sure you explain what office hours are for and even provide examples of what you could do together (e.g. review drafts of papers, talk about the readings, work through practice problems, etc.). Hopefully, this will clarify the purpose of office hours and make them feel more welcoming.

Consider Your Students’ Schedules

Given the number of responsibilities that faculty have, most of us choose office hours based on our schedules. While this, of course, has to be done to some degree, consider the times when your students are more likely to be available. For example, it’s not likely that the average undergraduate will come by your office at 8:00 AM.  But they may be willing to come by at 3:00 PM. Try selecting times that maximize the number of students who can meet with you, recognizing the constraints that today’s college students face such as working part- or full-time jobs, participating in internships, or commuting to campus.

Involve Your Students in Scheduling

If the goal of office hours is to provide students with support and guidance, we need to ensure we are truly being student-centered when designing them. Have you ever asked your students why they don’t come by your office?  I have and the most common response was “I have class when your office hours are.”  Thus, at the beginning of the semester, I ask for students’ feedback about where and when I should host office hours. Simply consulting my students significantly increased their visits to my office. This could be accomplished in many ways, such as using an OAKS survey, Google Forms, or PollEverywhere (your instructional technologist would be delighted to help you with this!).

Meet Somewhere Other Than Your Office

Some students, particularly first-year and first-generation students, may feel intimidated meeting with a professor in his/her office. But holding your office hours in more open and neutral spaces, like a coffee shop or the library, could put some students at ease. This doesn’t mean you have to host all office hours outside your building, but experiment with an hour or two in a centrally-located place on campus that might be more student-friendly.

Try Virtual Office Hours

Let’s face it — we all have lazy days when we just don’t want to leave our homes. Students are the same. But offering office hours using a web conferencing tool like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype could encourage students to participate from the comfort of their dorm or apartment. Using a web conferencing tool could also allow you to host occasional office hours in the evenings, which could benefit all students but especially student athletes, students with families, and those who have full-time jobs.

Stage Your Office

Much like realtors recommend we “stage” our home when it’s for sale, we should make our offices inviting to students. When it’s time for office hours, limit distractions in your mind and your space.  For example, clear off your desk so students don’t have to look at you over a huge pile of books or so the manuscript you’re reviewing doesn’t grab your attention. If you share an office, try to stagger hours with your office mate so your students have privacy. Silence your cell phone. Turn away from your computer. Have a chair ready for students to sit in. If possible, set up your office furniture so that students sit to the side of your desk rather than across from you. This may encourage them to perceive your interaction as a collaboration rather than an occasion to be scolded, interrogated, or spoken down to. These little gestures not only help you focus but also make students feel welcome rather than like they are interrupting you.

Encourage Group Sessions

Frustratingly, students who need the most help are often the least likely to come to office hours. For some of these students, their confidence has been shaken and they feel ashamed about their performance. For other students, they know they need help, but they aren’t sure what questions to ask or how to articulate what they’re struggling with. These students may view office hours as “too scary” or “too embarrassing.” One way to encourage students to get support is to reframe office hours as simply a study session opportunity. You could use an empty classroom or a space in the library and encourage students to drop-in to work on homework. If students want help, they can ask for assistance. Otherwise, you could float around the room, moving from group to group. This “study hall” format may feel less threatening to some students.

For example, Professor Megan Condis has had a lot of success by making office hours a required group activity. She asks three or four students to work together on an assignment, and then, in order to receive the maximum amount of credit on the assignment, requires that all the members of the group attend a meeting in her office to review their work. She reports her students are much more likely to show up at these meetings when they are experiencing a bit of peer pressure. This exercise may also reduce the anxiety some students feel when meeting with professors one-on-one.

Your Turn

Office hours are one of the best ways to engage students outside of the classroom and can be when we as professors do our most meaningful work. When students understand the purpose of office hours and are able to take advantage of them, they can have an incredibly positive effect on their learning and overall growth. If you’re struggling to get students to visit office hours, give one of the above tips a try and let us know if it made an impact.


Condis, M. (2016, November 1). Making office hours matter. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from:

Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R. Burson, K. M., Camper, K. M, Chen, Y., & Smith, M. A. (2014). Starting the Conversation: An Exploratory Study of Factors that Influence Student Office Hour Use. College Teaching, 62(3), 94–99.

Kim, Y., & Lundberg, C. (2016). A Structural Model of the Relationship Between Student-Faculty Interaction and Cognitive Skills Development Among College Students. Research in Higher Education57(3), 288–309.

Custom banner
Teaching Advice, TLT

Create and Upload a Custom Course Banner in OAKS (D2L)

Our recent OAKS (user interface) upgrade, Daylight, introduced several new features, including course banners. And while course banners can be a great way to generate (initial) interest in your course, they can also confuse students if the system-generated images are unrelated to your content (e.g., architecture, rainbows, mountain landscapes, etc.), as is often the case. With a custom course banner, not only can you choose the image, but you can also add your contact information, class meeting time and location, and office hours. Sure, it’s on the syllabus, but…

So, how do you create a custom course banner?

pre-design checklist 

To create your own custom banner, you will need:

  • a free Canva account.
  • a free Pixabay account. 
  • to explore and experiment with both Canva and Pixabay to learn “the basics”.

Need additional help with Canva? Check out their collection of 25+ step-by-step tutorials.

Designing your custom banner

1. Log into Canva and click Use custom dimensions (top-right corner).
Canva custom dimensions

2. Enter 2400 x 980 pixels and click Design!. This is the preferred banner size, according to D2L.
Custom size

3. Click on 2400px x 980px – Untitled Design (beside the Share button); enter a Design title (e.g., PSYC 103 OAKS Banner); and click Done. Click File > Save (top-left corner).
Design title

4. Click the BKGROUND tab (on the left) and select white. Pause your work in Canva, and open a new tab in your browser.
Background tab

5. Log into Pixabay and search for an image relevant to your subject area.
Pixabay search

6. Select an image and click Free Download. Choose the largest size (PNG) available and click Download.
Pixabay download

7. Open your “Canva” browser tab and click the UPLOADS tab (on the left). Click Upload your own images and select the Pixabay image from your Downloads folder (or other file-save location).
Upload image

8. Click on the image to add it to the banner. Move it to the left side of the banner and resize it appropriately.

9. Click the TEXT tab (on the left) and select Add subheading.

10. Click on the Add subheading textbox to change the text–adding your name, when and where your class meets, your office hours, etc. Feel free to change the font and font size, but use a dark color (preferably black) so it shows up against the banner’s gradient (visible in OAKS). Position your text on the right side of the banner, vertically centered.
Banner text

11. Although Canva periodically auto-saves your design, it’s a good idea to click File > Save before you download. Click Download; select PNG (Recommended); and click Download.
Download banner

uploading your custom banner

1. Log into OAKS, and click on your course. On the current banner, click the  (menu) button (top-right corner) > Change Image.
Change image

2. Click Upload (on the right) and select Browse under Course Image. Click My Computer; select Upload, or drag and drop your banner image into the box; and click Add > Save. Click Course Home to see your new banner. Enjoy!
Custom banner

Don’t Forget

  • When creating a banner in Canva, use custom dimensions: 2400 x 980 pixels
  • Select a white background and black (or dark) text for the best visibility
  • Keep text vertically centered on the right side of the banner
  • Use Pixabay for CC0 images

Have questions and/or need help with this project? Contact your instructional technologist or email us at