Using an approach of "outreach hours" as opposed to typical office hours fits in perfectly with the Community of Inquiry model that we often refer to in our work with faculty. I see it as an expansion of what teaching presence can look like in the online classroom, along with infusing both social and cognitive presence into the activity as well. That’s perhaps what I like about it most; by rethinking what our traditional office hours look like online, we can engage students more deeply in the tenets of the Community of Inquiry and help improve success.
There are many factors which contribute to any students’ success, but online students face more of an uphill battle. Success in online learning requires more self-direction, more persistence, and more assertiveness than traditional face-to-face learning environments do.
Are you ready to breathe new life into your online discussions? [Roles in group discussions] You might want to try out integrating roles into small discussion groups, which can provide more variety in the discussion forum and clearly define tasks. Roles can be assigned to students each week, or you can opt for self-selection using a variety of methods.