What If: Office hours suddenly disappeared

Photo by Leon Sankathumar / The John Hopkins News-Letter

Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor

Right out the gate, this would clear up a bunch of time out of our semester. We would no longer need to spend a large chunk of the first lecture specifying times and places for something that relatively few people will go to (to the point that many lecturers and TAs joke about the lack of people who come to see them).

For the students who need them though, it would become their responsibility to organize appointments. But as the main users of office hours are students in need of extra attention, or top students trying to improve further, this slight additional effort is probably reasonable.

That shift aside, the sudden disappearance of office hours likely would have different effects on professors than on TAs. The profs’ lives would be very pleasantly simplifed. Few students use office hours, and the utility the timeslot can provide is limited as it is. Most often, an email is enough for little questions, and larger questions can be asked during, after, and before their lecture.

TAs’ jobs might become significantly more difficult, though. Rather than having consistent schedules, they would be need to spread themselves out through the entire week regardless of how many students need to see them. If very few do, they still need to be on-call for all of this dead space. If students constantly need attention, they may be doing office hours every day of the week.

The sudden disappearance of office hours would certainly make things easier in a lot of respects, but not all parties would likely benefit. This fantasy is likely just more difficult and less effective than what we have now.