instant messaging: the new office hours

I’d like to hear from others about their experience using instant messaging as a means of interacting with students (or with professors, if you are a student). I put my IM info on all my syllabi, and I tell my students that if they catch me logged in, they can ask me questions, discuss assignments, or just talk about whatever they like. I’m logged in pretty frequently, and I find that I interact with students much more in this way than during live, in-person office hours.

Now, when I was an undergrad myself, I never made use of professors’ office hours: there just never seemed to be a good reason. It seems that I was not unusual given that my students now don’t really drop by very often, either. So I’m wondering:

  1. Do students make use of your in-person office hours?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using IM in addition to traditional office hours?

Cross-posted at Palimpsest.

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