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Can anyone comment on their own implementation of online office hours, ideally with the following characteristics:

  1. Free. (I'm happy to install software on my own server if needed)
  2. Allows for live text conversations, but, ideally, some sort of white-board as well.
  3. Suitable for around 20 students (although a solution allowing 100 would be better).
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about work place or a software recommendation question, not about academia. – Enthusiastic Engineer Mar 30 '15 at 15:04
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    Your school should typically have a license for this. Something like Sakai, for example. – Compass Mar 30 '15 at 15:08
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    @EnthusiasticStudent This is about how to hold office hours for an academic institution. – Ari Trachtenberg Mar 30 '15 at 16:05
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    @MaartenvanWesel Your argument is ridiculous. Toilets do not need text conversations or have multiple students using them at the same time. I am interested in conferencing environment for a specific academic purpose ... I have altered the question a bit to clarify this, but I really do not see why this is off-topic. – Ari Trachtenberg Mar 30 '15 at 19:54
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    Personally, I think that (1) this use case is specific enough to make this a respectable question on this website: for instance, in typical online conferencing setups, one assumes that all peers have been configured by a professional, while with students you have to rely on their laptops and aim for maximum compatibility. (2) Software recommendations.se is a horrible idea and shouldn't exist. There isn't such a thing as a "software expert". If I want to ask which computational chemistry textbook is the best one, I ask a computational chemistry expert, not a book expert. – Federico Poloni Mar 30 '15 at 21:50
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Is there any system that enables online office hours?

Yes there are multiple systems; for instance blackboard collaborate (previously Elluminate), which would require your institution to have a license. Blackboard Collaborate is a Web conference tool (video, speech, text, white board, screen sharing etc) which is can be integrated with the Blackboard Learning System. However, it is not necessarily bound to it, and you can get a licences, and use it, without the Blackboard Learning System. You can even get a 30-day trial; http://try.bbcollaborate.com/trial/register.go

More off these systems exists, often bounded to or provided by sellers of Learning Management Systems (LMS), also known as e-Learning Systems. However there are also systems which are either used without LMS (as also is the case with Blacboard Collaborate) and systems which can be used with, for instance, Microsoft Sharepoint (such as Adobe Connect, which can also be used stand alone).

It would be helpful if OP could answer which Learning System (and possible other products) his/her institution uses. As this could indicate what is available. If OP would answer this question this answer will be edited if this would lead to new information.

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    Could you expand more? What are other examples of these multiple systems? How is this dependent on the e-Learning system? – Federico Poloni Mar 30 '15 at 21:44
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    Blackboard Collaborate requires that your university use the Blackboard learning management system. Instructure's Canvas LMS has an online office hours feature called "Conferences." Of course this requires that your university subscribe to the Canvas LMS. You could also make use of general purpose online conferencing systems like Google Hangouts or Skype calls. – Brian Borchers Mar 31 '15 at 1:13
  • As Brian rightly indicates these systems are typically bound to a learning system. Skype is indicated to be insufficient, as it does not support up to 20 students (which would not make it office hours, but an online course...). However OP doesn't seem able or wanting to answer the question about the learning system. It was asked, by me, in the comments above as well. – Maarten van Wesel Mar 31 '15 at 3:11
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    Did you answer a question that you thought was off topic? This answer feels half-hearted and bit disingenuous. This answer doesn't even explain what "blackboard collaborate" is and how it answers the OP's question! – WetlabStudent Mar 31 '15 at 3:20
  • I have not indicated it was of topic, I have indicated that it being in an academic setting doesn't make it necessarily an academic question. It was 'Enthusiastic Student' who made the 'off topic' remark. I will edit my answer to explain what Blackboard Collaborate is abit – Maarten van Wesel Mar 31 '15 at 3:29

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