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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
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Unreal office hours

With+a+return+to+full-capacity+and+in-person+learning%2C+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+professors+across+campus+are+encouraging+students+to+mask-up+and+are+offering+incentives+in+response+to+a+rise+in+COVID-19+cases.%26%23160%3B
Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

With a return to full-capacity and in-person learning, Texas A&M professors across campus are encouraging students to mask-up and are offering incentives in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases. 

For students who call Texas A&M home, classes can be anywhere from the Zachry Engineering Education Complex to the Innovative Learning Classroom Building. Travelling across campus can be time-consuming and exhausting. With the sheer size of Aggieland, virtual office hours feel like a stroke of luck for the weary campus walker.

When COVID-19 cases were first reported in Texas, holding office hours virtually became the norm. To avoid potential spread of disease, as well as to cater to students attending classes remotely from outside of the Bryan-College Station area, professors answered queries using resources like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Whether the virtual office hours are scheduled as one-on-one meetings or a first come, first serve basis, professors and students alike have a love-hate relationship with this alternative resource. 

In the spring 2022 semester, faculty have been split between online and physical office hours on campus. Society, ethics and law junior Katelyn Maldonado said some of her professors continue to utilize Zoom for scheduled office hours, which is a resource she appreciates. 

“It is perfect for people who are prone to getting sick or if they’re scared of catching [COVID-19],” Maldonado said. “It is much more accommodating.”

Having been in online classes where Zoom breakout rooms are deathly quiet and no one answers any questions, Maldonado said she feels better speaking to her professors one-on-one in their virtual office, as it fosters a better connection.

“It definitely feels more personal,” Maldonado said, “Because you have to look at them and actually talk.”

The biggest downside to speaking to a professor virtually is that Wi-Fi connections may be inconsistent throughout the meeting, Maldonado said. Oftentimes, audio quality may fluctuate at seemingly random intervals. Additionally, in the current semester, most classes are only held in person, so attending virtual office hours during the day can become an issue.

“The only issue is that the internet connection may go out,” Maldonado said. “It’s difficult to find a spot where Wi-Fi is strong enough to support an online meeting that can last for over 15 minutes.”

Biochemistry and biophysics professor Dorothy Shippen holds two sections of virtual office hours a week. With these hours being open-ended, multiple students can attend and clarify as many inquiries as needed. In contrast, when students attended office hours at her physical office, Shippen said they were often greeted with a mob of their peers.

“Before [virtual options], no one was able to get my individual attention,” Shippen said. “Now, students go into a waiting room. Then, I admit them individually and work with them one-on-one.”

In addition to helping students, Shippen said virtual office hours work better for professors as well. As opposed to having dozens of students swarming her office, Shippen said she can answer questions in a more organized manner. 

“Students can just hop on [the Zoom meeting],” Shippen said. “It is much less disruptive for me.”

An obvious benefit of having office hours online is being able to attend them from virtually anywhere. Industrial and systems engineering junior Ewan Laing said attending office hours virtually was the best option in terms of convenience. 

“I can be at my house, or in between classes at Evans [Library], and still talk to a professor,” Laing said. “I don’t have to walk from one side of campus to the opposite for my professor’s office.”

Laing said he often had questions about coursework that he felt shy asking during class. A virtual meeting with an instructor gives students the freedom to ask any questions and the instructor to answer them in a safe, coordinated setting.

“Having office hours virtually is what works best for me as a student,” Laing said.

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