Have any of you ever tried virtual office hours? For example, using a forum or chat session instead of sitting around your office for an hour twiddling your thumbs waiting for nobody to show up? I'm asking because I'm trying it right now for one of my courses. I could not find an hour during the normal work day that I could keep free for an office hour that didn't conflict with my students' other courses (they are in a program where they all take their courses as a group, so everyone has class at the same time). I'm wondering how effective they really are (of course, if students have big questions, I invite them to make an appointment for an in person explanation). A few pluses that I can see. So far there's only one question asked, but there are 21 views of it (I do wish our course software allowed me to see who was online and viewing...I have no idea if that's the one person who asked the question neurotically checking if I added anything else, or 21 students all with the same question reading my response). With only one question, if they really do all have the same question, I only have to answer it once, not 15 times if they all came into office hours one after another. It's really convenient for me to be sitting at home with a bowl of popcorn, other websites open, the TV on, and in my PJ's (shhhh...don't tell my students ) when there aren't any questions, and I can then hold office hours in the evening, which might be more convenient for the students too. And my perception of a positive, but I don't know if it's true, is some students who might otherwise be timid about using office hours might be poking their heads in to see what other people ask without being embarrassed about not having questions. Some possible negatives... I don't have a whiteboard at my disposal if I want to illustrate something I explain (I suppose I could whip together a PDF and upload it to the course site if necessary). The informal discussion with students in an office aside from their direct question sometimes leads to just generally getting to know them better for things like writing letters of recommendation. It's only one learning style that's addressed, while in person, I can adapt...giving verbal explanation, drawing a picture, taking them to the lab to show them, etc. I'm just trying to figure out if people use this primarily for convenience, or if it really is a way students prefer communicating nowadays. Are there other negatives? Other positives? We use SOLE (Secure On-Line Learning Environment), and the forum features there are very limited (I'm spoiled by PF!). Do you think chat or forums work better for office hours, if you tried either or both?