Exploring the potential of virtual office hours for online science students
Swanson, Heather Rebecca
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To improve instruction in an online science course, a weekly virtual office hour (VOH) pilot program was offered at an online high school. Lack of student interest did not allow full implementation of the pilot program, but a similar program was implemented over five weeks of instructional time with high school students enrolled in blended learning physical science and chemistry courses. Data collection included a pre-intervention survey and post-intervention survey, including Likert-like items. Other data sources were an analysis of the quality and quantity of asynchronous discussion posts, student and instructor interviews, a VOH journal, and VOH artifacts. In addition, to identify the reasons why students did not participate in the pilot program, a follow-up survey was sent to the initial group of students. Findings showed that the virtual office hours successfully increased student engagement and were overall a well-received addition to the course. Conditions needed for successful implementation of future virtual office hour programs were described, including the need to consider technical and logistical concerns, and the need to consider the specific goals of the program. To support all the observed benefits of implementing virtual office hours, ideal conditions for success are a well-informed instructor, asynchronous discussion forums supporting the development of student questions.