Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Instructor contact information

Instructor name, contact information, and office hours

Office Hours

In addition to your name and contact information, the University of Minnesota requires that you hold office hours for each course you teach and that you communicate these hours in the syllabus.

Other additions to consider

In addition to your name, contact information, office location and office hours, you may also want to include:

  • email address
  • preferred mode of communication (telephone, email)
  • preferred form of address -- for example, “Chris” vs. “Dr. Brown”
  • short biography
  • teaching assistant information

Furthermore, how you present the “instructor information” in your syllabus can have an impact on how students view your accessibility and interest in talking with them. 

Accessibility to Students

Increase your accessibility to students by considering class schedules when selecting your office hours. Vary the days and times of your office hours so that students have a greater chance of being able to attend your office hours. If you are teaching an evening class, holding office hours immediately before or after the class increases the likelihood of students being able to see you. Always provide an alternative, such as scheduling time for an individual meeting, for students who can't make the regular office hours.

Envision scenarios about when and why students might need to contact you and provide the information they would need on your syllabus. For example, the final paper is due in class today. Mary wakes up with a fever of 104o. Does the syllabus provide the information she would need? Can she look at her syllabus and know how to contact you? How would you want her to get the paper to you?

Consider the difference in the message a student receives about your accessibility between the minimum requirement:

Office hours: 9:00a.m.-10:30a.m. T, Th 120 Fraser Hall

and the following section from an art history class on the Twin Cities campus:

I am generally in my office, 107 Jones Hall, from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily and am easily available with a prior appointment. To make an appointment, call 625-5555 and ask whoever answers the phone to schedule a time that suits your convenience. I'll keep Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for drop-in appointments, or contact me by email at chrisb@tc.umn.edu. Please feel free to talk to me about any issue relating to the course. - Frederick Asher, Art History 3014: Art of India

It will often be the case that you may not be available whenever students would like to talk with you. It's better to set realistic guidelines and expectations as to how and when you are available to students than to create expectations that you cannot meet. One faculty member provides students with the following information about office hours:

I will do everything within my power to always be available during my office hours, although sometimes important meetings are scheduled at that time without my consent. Please sign up for times in advance. As a faculty member with other teaching responsibilities who is trying to do research and be a good citizen, I am juggling many responsibilities. At times, I may be able to talk with you in my office at the spur of the moment outside of office hours. Often I cannot. Please ask if this is a good time and do not take it personally if I am busy. - Public Affairs 5441

 

Teaching Tip: If it is necessary to cancel office hours, be certain to notify your students. It is advisable to notify students through more than one medium, e.g., announce it in class and post an e-mail.

 

Willingness to Communicate With Students

You can encourage students to use your office hours by expanding this section of your syllabus to include an explicit invitation to come talk with you and suggesting ways students may use this time to their advantage. These techniques also send a message to students which says, "I care about your learning. Helping you is important to me." This friendly, accessible attitude is important to students whether or not they choose to see you during office hours.

Here are some statements included on University of Minnesota syllabi along with the listing of the professor's office hours:

Do not hesitate to ask for my assistance. Believe it or not, that's what they pay me for!

I enjoy teaching and I enjoy talking with you. If you have questions or just want to explore an idea, come by.

I am eager to talk to you about any concerns you may have. You can communicate by telephone, e-mail, or in person. Make an appointment to see me when needed.

Please see me if you are having a problem with some aspect of the course, but also keep in mind that office hours are not only a time to address problems. I'd be happy to talk with you about your areas of special interest, help brainstorm topics for your final paper, etc.

Remember that students are often intimidated by professors and may need frequent invitations to your office hours. Some professors schedule an initial mandatory office visit with each student (or with small groups of students). This policy makes it more likely that your students will come to office hours when they need it.

Short Biography

You might want to add a personal touch to your syllabus by sharing some biographic information with your students.

Example

Edward M. Griffin, Professor of English. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Grew up, until age eleven, in Homestead, Pennsylvania in the shadow of the largest steel mill in the world.... - Edward M. Griffin, English 1016: Introduction to American Literature

Teaching Assistant Information

Do you have TAs who will also be holding office hours? If so, it is helpful to provide their names and office locations and hours on your syllabus. Providing relevant information about the background and abilities of the TAs may increase the likelihood of students seeking out the TAs for assistance.

Example

The TAs (all doctoral students in mathematics) and I meet weekly to discuss ways we might best provide assistance for students who are struggling with the homework problems assigned. Be assured that each of the TAs has a thorough understanding of the problems and is eager to work with you. - a math course

When you have completed the instructor information section of your syllabus, ask someone else to read it and respond to these questions:

  • What does this section tell students about how I feel about talking with them and addressing their questions and concerns?
  •  If you were a student in this class, would you feel you could come to me with questions?
  • What questions would you still have regarding how and when you can contact me?

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