During these unprecedented times, nearly every aspect of human interaction must be handled virtually, including law school office hours. Your professor is more than likely holding office hours via Zoom, or another type of virtual conferencing software. This new system, combined with inevitable course planning changes, can make it difficult to stay on top of attending office hours. But, you should certainly still try to take advantage of them. Most of the things you should do in general to maximize your time there still apply now that they are virtual, but you may benefit from a little extra planning. Below are a few things to keep in mind to make the most of virtual office hours.
Put it on your calendar
Since the transition to virtual learning began, everyone’s schedules have likely been turned upside down. You’ve probably gotten a million and one emails about scheduling changes, including changes to your professor’s office hours. All these changes can be overwhelming, and the time can run together when you aren’t leaving your house. As a result, it can be difficult to keep track of your schedule, and plan in time to prepare. Try to go through your emails and mark the times your professor will have virtual office hours on your calendar to help you keep track.
Make sure you have a reason to go
Next, if you’re going to take up your professor’s time, make sure you actually have a reason for it. There are many things you can bring to office hours to make it a productive learning experience, but you shouldn’t go just for the sake of going. Your professors are busy people, and they have many students who need help, probably from more than one class. Additionally, your professor should be a resource after you’ve tried to study the material yourself. Of course, they are there to help you, but putting in some effort yourself first can make it more efficient for everyone.
Do your own legwork ahead of time
Again, you should try to work through the material thoroughly yourself before going to office hours. This not only allows office hours to be more efficient for both you and your professor, but it will help you get more out of the time you spend there. Working through the material yourself first is important because it allows you to identify specific areas of confusion, and specific questions. This is beneficial because your professor can better help you if you bring them a specific question, rather than just saying “I don’t understand ‘x’ from last class.” It will be more difficult for them to help you if you can’t be more specific about what it is you’re struggling with.
Bring questions about hypos
Another good use of time during office hours is reviewing questions you have about hypos. Trying to work through a hypo on your own before going to office hours is a great way to prepare ahead of time. Thinking through a hypo can show you exactly where your confusion lies, and help you prepare your specific questions in advance. Further, some professors may be willing to review (short) portions of a written-out hypo answer just to see if you are on the right track.
Be respectful of their time
Of course, even with remote office hours, you should still be respectful of your professor’s time. Working through issues yourself first can help with this, because having specific questions will help you to be more efficient and avoid causing your professor to re-lecture on the topic. Try to attend during their regularly scheduled hours as much as possible. Just because no one is going anywhere right now doesn’t mean they can be available to you at all hours.
Check your technology ahead of time
Now that everyone is probably using Zoom to conduct office hours, try to check your connectivity and microphone before you join the Zoom session. This will help you and your professor be more efficient. It will minimize any disruptions caused by a lack of connectivity and reduce distractions so that you and your fellow students can get more out of office hours.
Finally, even though everyone is at home, you should still be professional during office hours. It is easy to feel more relaxed when you can join a Zoom meeting from your couch, but try to remember that you are in professional school and should treat this like your job. If you’re going to have your camera on, try to look reasonably presentable and avoid looking like you literally just rolled out of bed.
While these are unprecedented times and virtual office hours are new to everyone, your approach to them shouldn’t change much from when they were in person. By preparing ahead of time, you can maximize what you get out of office hours.
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