Sunday, July 21

Students fail to take advantage of instructors’ office hours


Traffic intensifies only when paper deadlines, examinations approach

Chemistry professor Herbert Kaesz works diligently in his
office, planning assignments and lectures. He looks up occasionally
and glances toward the doorway of his office, but then quickly
returns to his work.

Kaesz is not simply spending extra time working in his quiet
office. These are his office hours. But, there are usually no
students for him to advise.

“The traffic of students during office hours typically
increases as we approach an exam, but other times, we’re the
loneliest guys around,” Kaesz said.

At the start of a new quarter, many professors are finding that
their offices are empty during their scheduled office hours, and
this comes as no surprise.

Many aspects of attending a large university such as UCLA can
make the educational experience an impersonal one. Along with large
class sizes, UCLA’s minimum progress requirement ““
which was implemented in fall 2001 ““ requires students to
take a full load of classes each quarter.

Additionally, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal
released Friday calls for an increase in the student-faculty ratio
at the University of California by 5 percent.

One solution to what can often seem like the impersonal feel of
UCLA are the office hours professors are required to hold. Yet many
students do not take advantage of the opportunity for a more
personal relationship with their professors.

“A lot of times students choose not to come in. In the
first couple of weeks there is very little traffic, and students
are falling behind. When they start to panic, they come in,”
Kaesz said.

Many students believe the best time to visit a professor during
office hours is right before a big exam.

“I typically go three to four times in a quarter, and it
is generally for help on a paper,” said Payshun Hamm, a
fifth-year African American studies student.

Professors are required by their departments to hold a certain
number of office hours, and they encourage students to come and ask
questions.

“Sometimes very few to no students attend my office hours,
and that is why I don’t like to be in a remote room. I prefer
to be in my office doing my own work in the instance that no
students show up,” Kaesz said.

Many professors who teach large classes believe students should
come to office hours to build a personal relationship with them.
They say it is nearly impossible to know all of their students
unless they come to office hours.

“I encourage undergraduate students in my class to come in
and make themselves known. I find that they do better, and we can
get to know each other in case they want me to write them a letter
of recommendation,” said history professor Claudia Rapp.
“It’s a good way to establish a good rapport, and those
students have an advantage.”

Some students said this personal connection with their
professors was why they chose to use office hours.

“There have been a couple of professors that I have had a
connection with and wanted to get to know better, so I see them on
a regular basis during their office hours,” said third-year
history student Courtney Quinn.

Some departments provide alternatives to office hours so
students who may be unable to attend during the regularly scheduled
times can still talk to their professors.

The chemistry department has implemented a program called
virtual office hours, where students can communicate with their
professors via e-mail. An advantage to this program is the fact
that students enrolled in the course can see the questions and
answers of other students.

“We’ve been using the VOH program for about five
years, and it’s really excellent. Sometimes it eliminates
students asking the same questions, which is helpful to me,”
Kaesz said.

Fifth-year math student Huy Tran said virtual help from his
professors is a good solution, but only for certain problems that
can be answered with one answer.

“Sometimes I e-mail for math homework help. But, usually,
if I have a conceptual problem, I go to the office hours because it
requires a conversation,” Tran said.

Professors often believe that some of their office hours are a
waste of a valuable resource for their students.

“I really think office hours are very important, and they
are a great resource for students. (Students) should take advantage
of them as much as possible, and especially as early in the quarter
as possible,” Rapp said.

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