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Jason (J)

I give out my IM screen name as well as hold in-person office hours.

1) Yes, students still come by my office. Our students are not always especially tech-friendly, or even economically in a position to make always-on (or even frequently-on) internet access possible, and few of them live on campus.

2) There are, from my point of view, several disadvantages:

First, students know who I am, but I don't always know who they are. I've had students write me from obscene screen names, etc. This can be a bit awkward, especially at the start of the semester.

Second, there are boundary issues that arise with IM that aren't relevant in the flesh. This isn't always the students' fault: I'll forget that I'm logged on, and all of a sudden people will want to chat while I'm trying to write or grade or whatever.

There was a third, but I can't remember it.

The solution I've found is to use Fire, which lets me log on in "Invisible" mode. During times when I really can be available, I turn this off.


I always used IM as a method of contact. I used Trillian so that they could reach me on all major mediums, but almost every student used AOL IM.

I found that it cut down on email and phone conversations more than office visits. I also found that students will use it anytime you're logged on--which was great for me but not great if you like to compartmentalize your one-on-one time.

In my writing courses, I tended to get a lot more in-process, check-in style questions via instant message. Things that they probably might not email me or come in to see me about, they felt comfortable discussing via IM.

When holding classes in MOOs, having every student's IM facilitated emergency operations the one or two times the MOO crashed.

One other, vaguely evil use: Several times I've had students "go missing" for a week or so. They won't return emails or my phone calls. But when an IM comes in from "Twoguyswalkintoa" saying "Hey _______", they immediately respond because they don't know my screenname by heart--and usually schedule a face-to-face to discuss their issues.

Austin Lingerfelt

I've experienced similar issues.

By and large, students would now rather communicate with me through instant messenger in contrast to meeting with me in person. Personally, I find communicating through e-mail or instant messenger much more affective, although instant messenger can become a problem late at night. I use IM to talk to friends but occasionally, especially when there is a quiz, test, or assignment due the next day, some students will IM me, asking for a postponment, saying they don't understand the assignment (often a sign students haven't thought about the work until that night), or that they are unable to do something etc. After a long day of work when I finally begin to unwind between 10-11 pm, it's not always a joy to receive an IM. However, I am much more likely to think carefully about what I say with an IM.

With IM, I can transfer files, read student papers, talk to students with audio chat, and generally, communicate much more effectively. All in all, it's a great resource.



I actually had a threat of violence made against me via AIM.
Students think that AIM is untraceable, but it isn't. The police got a subpoena and went to AOL, and they coughed up info. We're pretty sure it was a student. I'd know who except that at the last minute, the police got itchy about cooperating with the university security personnel, and they dragged their feet, and I decided I didn't have the time to keep on their backs. I also felt it would be hard to prove (someone leaves the room and leaves on his/her AIM, who's to say who'd walk in and type something?).

My university also decided to implement a policy that faculty are to communicate with students only via university email accounts. AOL accounts, particularly if the student uses a second or third screenname based on a parent's main account, can be accessed by the parent via parental controls, thus putting the student's privacy in question.

Plus, how can you be sure it is your student emailing you from that Hotmail or Yahoo account? Even if she says, "Hi, it's Ashley from your ENG 101 class! Can you tell me my final grade?" you can't know it's her.

Liz Lawley

I actually get a good number of students in my office hours--which is helped by the fact that the primary lab I teach in is across the hall from my office.

I provide a lot of support to students via email, but haven't given out my IM screen name. My experience is that it creates an expectation of 24x7 availability and instant response that I'm just not able to maintain. Office hours and email make it easier for me to establish boundaries for my availability.

Wendy's right, also, that there are serious privacy issues involved. I verify email addresses before sending information, and would be concerned about IM because it's harder to verify.

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