My Best Unkept Secret – Office Hours

What’s my secret for your success at West Coast University? It’s really no secret, it’s written in every syllabus and provided to you at the start of every course. So, what is it? Office hours!

But wait, what are office hours?

Office hours are specific times that your faculty are making themselves available to you. That’s right, your faculty will let you know when they hold office hours and attending office hours can make a big difference. Office hours are your opportunity to ask questions, talk through concepts, clarify assignment expectations and instructions, receive additional support or find out about even more supplemental resources. There’s even evidence that being able to talk with your faculty can reduce stress surrounding the course or your education (Freeman & Wash 2013) and who doesn’t want to have less stress?

What about my instructor’s time?

You might be thinking, “I don’t want to take up my instructor’s time.” However, that is exactly why they set up office hours at all. They want you to use this time. Several hours of each week are set aside to meet with students. During this time, your instructor’s attention is focused on you and they can devote the time to make sure that you have the support and understanding you need.

Should I admit confusion?

You might also be thinking, “I don’t want to let my instructor know I am confused.” Here’s an additional unkept secret: Instructors at West Coast love being able to help a student who is initially confused. We would much rather have you tell us you are confused during an office hour than to have to figure it out ourselves while grading your work. If we can clear up your confusion before grading comes into play, it’s a definite win for both of us.

Shouldn’t I just email?

You might be more comfortable asking questions via an email or on a discussion board in the course, and those are both good options for getting information. However, your instructor can likely focus more clearly and specifically on you and your question if you ask it during office hours. That is the time they are expecting questions and requests for clarification and can dedicate their full attention to you.

Do I need office hours if I am passing?

Another thing you might be thinking is, “I am doing well in the course overall, I do not need to go to office hours.” While it is true that office hours can be critical if you are having a tough time in a course, they are also an important source of “face time” when you are doing ok or even well. It gives you a chance to clear up even the small things that may contribute to your success.

Office hours provide you with the opportunity to get to know your faculty members and for them to get to know you. This can make it easier for you to reach out when you do find that you need some help and can also help your instructor understand any questions you ask because they have a stronger understanding of what concepts you already understand. We can use the foundation we know you have to help shore up any misunderstandings or explain new concepts.  Being familiar with your instructor can help you to understand their tone or meaning when you get new feedback on an assignment or read their responses on the discussion board.

Also, there’s no rule that you can only discuss the course or subject matter in office hours. You could be looking for a reference letter writer or some practical career advice. You could be interested in a news article you read that is related to your field of study or the instructor’s expertise. These less “academic” conversations could be just as important to your success as the ones that help you with graded materials.

West Coast University is committed to your success in the classroom and beyond. One of the ways we can support you is during office hours. Utilizing office hours could be the ultimate secret to your success, but we don’t want to keep secrets around here. So don’t hesitate to reach out and attend office hours, have the conversations that can help you get ahead.

Freeman, G. G., & Wash, P. D. (2013). You Can Lead Students to the Classroom, and You Can Make Them Think: Ten Brain-Based Strategies for College Teaching and Learning Success. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 24(3), 99–120.

WCU cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.