I just held my first virtual office hours. I told my students that during my "real" office hours I will also make myself available via chat. I figured it can't hurt since my office is usually very quiet during the hours of 4pm-5pm on Tues. and Thurs.
So students came to my virtual office! Maybe it is because I am less scary online than in person. Maybe they think that I will bite their head off or something.
Anyway, something that I have been playing around with lately is this electronic classroom called Blackboard. I have set up a website where I have made all of the images that I show in class available to my students so that they can review them. Today they have their midterm and I specifically reminded them that they should review the images and know them. So I would assume that unless they all have brilliant memories they would need to go online to look at the images. The cool thing for me is that as the instructor I get to track their movement on the site. So I know when they visited, for how long, what they downloaded and what discussions they've read. Even chats that they have participated in. It is kind of sneaky but initially I just looked to see if anyone was coming since I had put so much time into developing the site I wanted to see if it was being utilized.
Then today I was able to see what students started studying and when. So for example this one woman in my class just logged on to look at the images one hour before the class! Anyhow, this is brilliant and scary. I'll have to make sure that it does not jog a bias while grading. But in reality I know which students are the hardworkers and which ones are the slackers already. I'm just cool like that.