Peter Meckl has been running a small scale experiment on faculty office hours. Here’s what we’re learning. Peter simply changed the location of his office hours from his faculty office to the Commons. While it did not increase the number of students engaged, the quality of Peter’s conversation with students improved significantly.

Peter observed that his conversation with students moved beyond the specific problem in class to include broader discussions. In addition, when two students showed up during the last session, they began to work together on a problem. In other words, by simply shifting the location of faculty office hours, we learned that we may be able to improve faculty interaction with students (and student interactions with each other).

Of course, there are logistical issues to scaling this approach. Not every faculty member can hold office hours in the Commons. However, it may be possible to designate an area of the Commons for faculty/student interactions. And, of course, there may be other locations outside of faculty offices to hold faculty office hours. We are starting to figure out how to map other available locations.

In complex systems, small changes can have large impacts. In chaos theory, that is the so-called Butterfly Effect. We may have stumbled upon one.

 wireframe drawing

Here’s a rough outline of the wireframe drawing we are developing for the ME research for undergraduates site.