3 Tools in Schoology that Support Virtual Office Hours

Contributed By

Kellie Ady

Director of Instructional Strategy, Schoology

3 Tools in Schoology that Support Virtual Office Hours

Posted in Pro Tips | April 22, 2020

If you’re thinking about ways to connect with students when doing distance learning, there many options when using an LMS like Schoology.  In our video on “3 Ways to Hold Virtual Office Hours in Schoology,” Gretchen Kassel walks through different ways that Schoology supports those connections both between teacher and student(s) and between the students themselves.

Distance Learning: Synchronous or Asynchronous?

Similar to using any tool for learning, the first thing to consider is “why.”  Thinking through the purpose for a digital conversation will then point in the direction of the best tool to accomplish that purpose.  

Synchronous Learning

If you need to connect with students in real-time -- just like you would if they were in your physical classroom -- you need a tool that supports that live interaction.  This is synchronous learning or learning  “in real-time.”  

Asynchronous Learning

If you need to connect with students but you don’t necessarily need it to happen live -- just like you would if you were using something like email -- you need a tool that accomplishes the basics of communication.  This is an asynchronous learning situation or learning “outside of time.”  If you need more information, see our blog post, “Asynchronous Learning: Definition, Benefits, and Examples of Activities.” 

*See Gretchen talk about the differences between the two in the video.

Synchronous Communication Tools

Backchannel Chat

One of the tools you can use for synchronous conversations in Schoology is the Backchannel Chat app, available in our App Center.  Backchannel Chat, when installed in a course, allows for a live conversation stream between students and the teacher.  

Backchannel Chat is available for free but there is also a premium version that costs $15.

*See Gretchen talk about tips and ways to use Backchannel Chat to hold virtual office hours in Schoology.

Conferences, MS Team Meetings, & Zoom

You may need to do more than have a live conversation or chat, like interacting directly, showing a resource live, or even sharing a screen.  If you would like to see student faces, like when doing direct instruction with your class or a group of students, you will want to use a video-conferencing tool, like Conferences* in Schoology, MS Team Meetings, Zoom, of Google Hangouts, all of which can be used with Schoology.  (For districts who have licenses for Blackboard Collaborate, that can be installed from the App Center by a system admin for access in Schoology).  See our previous blog post, 4 Virtual Conferencing Options to Keep the Learning Going for more information on how to install these in Schoology.

*See Gretchen talk about tips and ways to use Conferences to hold virtual office hours in Schoology.

Asynchronous Communication Tools - Schoology Discussions

One of the favorite materials types in Schoology, the Discussion Board is a way to hold, well, online discussions.  We’ve posted previously about using Discussion Boards as part of an online learning strategy, including 6 Blended Learning Examples for Online Discussions and an interview with one of our Schoology Ambassadors, Kristie Burk, about “The Importance of Online Discussions and How to Make Them Awesome.

Discussions can also happen in Schoology Groups, which can be a great way to keep conversations going for collaboration that happens outside of a course, like for clubs, extracurricular activities, and even staff meetings or teacher teams/PLCs.  The powerful thing about using Discussions is that it isn’t dependent upon students all being online at the same time.  This allows for students to contribute and reply when they choose to -- allowing for flexibility for anytime, anywhere learning.

*See Gretchen talk about tips and ways to use Schoology Discussions to hold virtual office hours in Schoology.

Final Thoughts

When using an online learning platform like Schoology, there are many ways that we can connect, communicate, and collaborate with our students.  Whether you need to meet with students in real-time or provide flexibility for classroom conversations, these tools can support those vital connections in distance learning.  

Need more ideas on how to better leverage digital tools for remote learning? Be sure to check out our Distance Learning Readiness Toolkit.

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