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Students often struggle in classes and sometimes need to reach out to their professors for help, but due to their busy time schedules and conflicts with other classes, they may not always have the time to stop by for office hours.

Thanks to the implementation from a few Tech College of Media & Communications professors, students are finally able to talk to their professors directly online rather than in person.

While online classes have been implementing this tactic for a few years, this strategy is a relatively new practice for in-person classes, Lisa Low, professor of public relations, said.

“The thing we are committed to this semester is meeting you guys where you are,” Low said. “You know, if you hang out in the student lounge on the first floor, we are just gonna come down and hang out for an hour and be available to you and be more visible.”

Professors like Low have started using Slack, Zoom, Blackboard, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype and various others. Low has even started giving out her personal phone number, encouraging students to just text her or call her if they ever need anything.

Low said she hopes this encourages students to come visit more often. While when it was first implemented she did not see as many people use it, now it is starting to catch on.

Low has also worked on redefining the term office hours, instead choosing to call them 'student hours' and hosting them at least once a week in a common area where students would often already be in the hope of further encouraging them to join her.

Low said she is hoping this convinces more students to reach out and get the help they need; going to the places students are is the method they believed would be the most effective at actually convincing students that they are there to help.

Maddie Ebanks, a junior communication studies major from Houston, said she was not sure about visiting with her professors online. She said she thought it might be awkward to join them in Google Hangouts or Facetime.

“I just feel like going to hang out with a professor would be weird,” Ebanks said.

Many students felt this way when the system was first implemented but now it is growing. Low is not the only professor doing digital student hours. Mary Norman, a public relations and communication studies professor at Tech, said she often gets far more visitors in her online office hours than her in-person ones on a consistent basis.

“The thing that I really like about it is that I feel like it caters to the students more and more,” Norman said. “I have so many students who are taking you know, 18 hours, have an internship and a job. So, it might be well and good for me to offer a variety of physical office hours I don’t get a lot of visitors. To have office hours outside of that or to let them know a quick phone call is fine I think helps.”

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