How to use Office Hours

Where can you get help?

You can get help at office hours!  But, what are office hours?

Professors and teaching assistants schedule time outside of class to meet with students. These are called office hours. Office hours are times when you can meet with your professors and teaching assistants to discuss the material being presented in class or other related interests you have. Course-related discussions include asking for extra help, seeking clarification of material presented in class and following up on aspects of the class you find compelling. In addition, students also discuss majors and programs of study, and graduation requirements, as well as summer internships, graduate schools, campus events, and much more.

Most professors do not require that students attend office hours. They expect students to decide for themselves when they need or want to participate. Professors usually announce their office hours on the first day of class or on their print or web-based course material.

Most Professors and teaching assistants do not have lessons planned for office hours. They expect students to “drive” these meetings with their questions and their thought. A good way to prepare for office hours is to attempt your homework and review your notes from class and from readings and identify as clearly as you can what you do not understand.

Do not be surprised when the professor and teaching assistants reply to your questions with questions of their own. They are working with you to uncover the source of your questions. Often they will ask students to show them their work and where they got stuck. They may ask you to explain what you were thinking as you moved from step to step. They may ask you to generate alternative ways to solve a problem. Hopefully they will help you change how you think about the material so that you can answer many different kinds of questions about it- not just the question on the homework that is stumping you. Don’t be surprised if they ask you to solve another problem before you leave the office.

TIP: You can always go with a buddy to office hours! Talk with your peer before you go and plan your questions and what you are going to ask!

What Office Hours Are NOT

Office hours are NOT related to activities in high school that require students to stay after school. They are not detention or negative consequences for poor decisions. They are also not a place where the instructor will do your homework for you.

What are my responsibilities as a student going to office hours?

To make the very most of your time with your instructor during office hours, you should:

  • Study your textbook and lecture notes thoroughly and attempt the assigned problems before you go to office hours.
  • Try to identify specific questions or concepts you need to address during the office hours.
  • Expect instructors to ask you questions about the material. They do this to find out what you understand, and to provide you with information and strategies tailored to your individual needs.
  • Be patient! Several students come for office hours at the same time. If the instructor is especially busy, you may have to wait a little longer for individual assistance. Use this time to study the material.
  • Expect the instructor to suggest general study strategies to help you improve your overall academic performance. These strategies will help in all of your courses.
  • Avoid waiting until the day before the test or the day before an assignment is due to seek assistance. Study a few hours each day, and keep up with your assignments. It is EASIER to keep up than to catch up!

Use other resources such as formal study groups and informal homework-help groups.

Keep a positive attitude about the subject and about your potential to excel. Your attitude will go a long way in determining how well you do in your course!

New to Cornell?  Don’t forget to check out our page on learning Cornell’s unique lingo!

Semi-Finals: Tips and Strategies!

Semi-finals are brand new this Fall 2020 semester!  Remember, you don’t have classes during semi-finals so time management will be very important, including balancing time for sleep, rest, and good nutrition.  Add to that, preparing for the transition to completely online learning, it can be chaotic and overwhelming.  We know it is a stressful and uncertain time.  Be sure to take care of yourself – it’s an important part of preparing for any exam.  Find tips and strategies for managing stress here.

The LSC is here to help you think through important steps.  Since semi-finals are different from typical prelims, you will need to think carefully about building a plan for how you are going to carve out the time you need to study.  Read on for resources, videos, and the top 10 tips from study skills experts and LSC tutors.

– Use a semester and weekly calendar to plan your study.  Using a calendar will help you identify when you are busy and when you have some time to do other things like eat, sleep, or be active.  It will be important to identify those times since there are no classes and your schedule will change.  Along the same lines, check out the Guidelines for Creating a Study Schedule to make your study more efficient and the Five Day Study Plan to plan when and how to study for exams.  Don’t forget to check out the homestretch calendar here.

– Utilize tutoring and office hours.  Information about LSC tutoring can be found here.  When questions arise, visit LSC tutors for help.  Make sure to check the schedule for any changes in hours during semi-finals.

– Procrastination happens to all of us!  It’s part of the process but you can overcome it.  Find out out how to break the cycle here.

– Find a study partner!  Cornell students who are interested in finding study partners for a class they are in can sign up here Also find tips on Studying together in-person and Studying together online.

– Visit LSC’s Motivation stations for an online space to study.  Stop by just to study or for a study skills consultation!  We’re on Zoom and Gather Town!

– If you are a Cornell student, you can self-enroll in our Canvas module on Studying for and Taking Exams for a complete step-by-step guide on what works, what doesn’t, how to develop a study plan, and strategies for taking exams. Click on the link here to self-enroll in the module.  Learn about effective study strategies, concept mapping, and how to tackle different types of exam questions.

– Check out our videos on time management, the perils of multitasking, learning from online lectures and discussions, and being flexible.  Find the compilation of videos here.

Advice Corner:
Top 10 tips from the study skills experts and LSC tutors!

1. Prepare early: do practice exams, re-do problems, find online practice exams from other Universities.  Start studying early for big exams!

2. Make sure you’re caught up on lectures and work, especially for asynchronous classes.

3.  Set up a simple time structure for the exam period – during the study period and the semi-final period you will have less structure – make a simple plan – e.g., sleep, meals, exercise – so it feels more like a workday.  Use a homestretch calendar!

4. Study for more than one class a day – especially if you have multiple exams – work in time intervals – switch between classes – for more balance – and to spread out the work on more days.

5. Self-test, self-test, self-test! Do practice problems and get answers on your own. Write about topics and concepts and draw pictures and diagrams from memory. Try to be active – instead of just reading things over and over.

6. For exams that stretch over multiple days, decide how you’re going to budget your time.  Check out the online exam checklist.

7. For timed tests, keep an eye on the clock.  Check out the online exam checklist.

8. Be prepared for different types of tests.  For open note tests make a study guide that’s very organized.  Check out the online exam checklist.

9. Check your sleep schedule—study and take practice tests at the same time you’re going to be taking the test.

10. If you have to pack—do it in little bits, as a break from studying.  Check out our page on preparing to transition to remote learning.


For study skills consultations, don’t forget to stop by our Motivation Station!

Luna on Books

Good luck!

Created November 10, 2020.

LSC Resources Overview

Whether your courses are online or in-person, the LSC is here to help you get and stay organized and maximize your learning and growth as you navigate your Cornell journey. On this page you’ll find detailed information about the LSC’s academic support services—free for all undergraduates at Cornell—plus a wealth of ideas about how you can study most effectively.

Supplemental Courses

Supplemental courses are offered to support students in:

Chemistry 2070 and 2080, Chemistry 3570 and 3580, Economics 1110 and 1120, Math 1106, 1110, 1120, and 2210, BIOG 1440, BIOMG 1350 (Cell and Developmental Biology), Physics 1112 and 2213. LSC supplemental courses help Cornell students:

  • Evaluate and implement effective learning strategies.
  • Enhance their sense of agency.
  • Learn and practice effective problem-solving strategies.
  • Expand conceptual understanding of parent course material.

You can find more information on supplemental courses and the course schedule here.

Office Hours and Peer Tutoring 

The Learning Strategies Center provides FREE tutoring to ALL Cornell undergraduate students in:

BIOMG 1350, BIOG 1440, CHEM 1570, CHEM 2070/2080, CHEM 3570/3580, ECON 1110, ECON 1120, MATH 1106, MATH 1110, MATH 1120, MATH 2210, PHYS 1112, PHYS 2208, PHYS 2213/2214, Statistics courses (AEM 2100, BTRY 3010, HADM 2010, ILRST 2100, ILRST 2110, MATH 1710, NTRES 3130, PAM 2100, PSYCH 3500, SOC 3010, STSCI 2100, STSCI 2110, STSCI 2150, STSCI 2200), and Italian 1201, French 1210 and 1230, and Spanish 1120, 1210, 1230, 2000.

You can find more information on tutoring here and the schedule for office hours and tutoring here.

The LSC can help you with:

Explore the website for more information!

Need additional help with study skills?

The LSC provides additional support and resources to help students develop study skills.  We offer the following:

Check out our study skills tips Youtube Playlist here!  Hear from LSC peer experts on academic success, preparing for exams, self-care, asynchronous classes, back to back or clustered exams, Zoom fatigue, and more!

Find additional Support and Resources: 

For useful information, go to the Cornell COVID-19 updates page

The Learning Strategies Center is committed to ensuring access for all students.
Please email us if you have any questions or concerns about accessing our services.  

Remote Learning Preparedness Checklist

During this time of learning with Covid-19, it is important to patient, flexible, and forgiving! A little empathy from everyone will go a long way. Take some time to get comfortable and proficient with Zoom, Canvas, and other tools.  Below are some things to think about if you are going to be participating in courses remotely (online or remote access).

In this checklist, we share a few things to help you be prepared to learn online:

  • Confirm how you will communicate online
  • Download and try out Zoom
  • Access library and research support
  • Check technology recommendations
  • Download mobile apps (if desired)
  • Explore Canvas
  • Ideas for learning online and taking online exams
  • Resources for families to support online learning

Confirm How You Will Communicate

Your course faculty will be letting you know how they will be communicating with you and will share guidelines for communicating with them and the TAs. Make sure that your Canvas notifications are enabled (and not going to your junk folder!).

Download and try out Zoom

Zoom may be used by faculty for hosting virtual, synchronous classes, offering office hours, and leading review sessions. Students automatically have a Cornell Zoom account. Just install the software and you’ll be ready to go. You can install Zoom on Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android devices.

  • Install Zoom on your device.
  • Test your Zoom setup by trying a Test Meeting to make sure your audio/video is set up correctly.
  • Find the Zoom meeting link for your class. If the meeting was scheduled via Canvas, the Zoom meeting link can be found:
    • In the Canvas course, under Zoom.
    • In Canvas Calendar, as an event.
    • In a Canvas event notification (in your email if notifications are on).
    • In the Zoom app.
    • In an email from your instructor.
  • Once you’ve found the link, join the Zoom session by clicking on the link. Plan to “arrive” a few minutes early. Follow the instructions to join the audio and mute yourself and/or turn off your video. You can unmute when you want to talk. In some cases, the instructor may be recording the session so that you can watch it later.

If the meeting was scheduled via Canvas and recorded, the Zoom recording can be accessed in your course (left-hand navigation) in the Zoom tool > Cloud Recordings tab a few hours after the meeting ends.

Access Library and Research Support

Check Cornell University Library’s guidance for using their resources while you’re away from campus. You can connect to databases and other electronic resources from anywhere with internet connection.

Check Technology Recommendations

Internet stability is critical. If you experience network slowness while attending class virtually, try turning other services (Netflix or video games) that use substantial bandwidth. Consider talking with your roommates, parents, siblings, or whoever else is using the internet bandwidth about when you need to be online. Some in the Cornell community may not have reliable access to a computer or the internet.

You can find specific requirements for Zoom (hardware, software, and bandwidth) here. Check to make sure you meet the following base technical requirements for remote learning:

  • Computer with reliable, high-speed internet connection
  • Up-to-date Internet browser supported by Canvas
  • Camera for still and video images (or smartphone)
  • Headphones or earbuds (computer mics usually work)
  • Smartphone or webcam for office hours or meetings
  • Microsoft Office to open files. Cornell students have no-fee access to Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus
  • Courses can also be accessed on mobile devices

Download Mobile Apps

Many Cornell-supported services have mobile apps. You can download the mobile apps for the tools your instructor is using for remote teaching. Visit the app store on your device to download:

Explore Canvas!

You might be using Canvas in new ways in your online courses. Canvas has a repository of Student Guides. You can look through some useful guides here. Canvas support is provided through CTI (Center for Teaching Innovation) and is available during standard CTI work hours (8:30am-4:30pm).   Find support via the “help” icon.

Ideas for Learning Online and on Taking Online Exams

To learn effectively online, you will need to make an effort to stay engaged with your coursework, with your peers, and with your instructors. To be successful, you cannot expect to just watch some videos and take some tests! You will need to participate actively in your courses–use our resources here to learn how.

Online exams present a unique set of logistical challenges, whether you are home or on-campus. Be prepared! Gather as much intel as possible about the testing format before the exam. Read about taking online exams here.

Resources for Families to Support Students’ Remote Learning are Available!

For addition plans related to Covid-19, please visit

Adapted from The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University—thank you to our colleagues!

Created March 2020.

Getting Organized in Time and Space for Remote Learning

 Organizing your Space

You’re going to need to carve out a physical space to do your remote learning. More and more people are practicing good social distancing and staying home, and it might be challenging to find a spot at home that’s private, quiet, and has internet access. What are some things to consider?

  • Find a quiet space (and negotiate with your family or roommates to help keep it a quiet space!).
  • Consider creating a dedicated study space that is effective for learning. Though it is tempting to just sit on your bed or the couch, these spaces are used for other activities (like sleeping) and might not be ideal for classwork. Ideally a desk or folding table with a nearby outlet, room for taking notes, and some privacy. If you are using a webcam, you will need some light, too.
  • Stay organized! With all the transitions (to home, to online, to a new space), it is important to stay organized. Get a file organizer for paper files and take some time to clean up your desktop and electronic files.

For more ideas, read “7 ways to organize your study space for success” from UTEP Connect.

TIP: If you’re healthy don’t stay in bed all day!

Organize Your Classes

Check your course syllabi to find out what each instructor is offering and expecting in terms of online communication.

  • Will class be held live? Will it be recorded and available later? Will there be opportunities for live discussions or chats?
  • Find out what virtual opportunities there are for help in the class. For example, virtual office hours, virtual TA sessions, and so forth.
  • Take advantage of the LSC’s programs, which will continue virtually. We will still have drop-in peer tutoring, supplemental courses, and consultations! Updated schedules and instructions to access support can be found in the Announcements section of the LSC homepage.

So many things are changing! You may find this period of time a little less disorienting if you can keep track of the changes for each of your classes. Here’s an example:

Organize your Time and Create Structure

The prospect of a whole bunch of unstructured time might leave you filled with excitement, or dread, (maybe a combination?), and/or a million other feelings. Creating and sticking to a routine will help make this away-from-campus-time optimally functional. Setting a “work-day” schedule for yourself can help provide structure and keep you motivated.

Many students find that LSC’s simple weekly planner is useful. In COVID-19 times, it might help to color code the different types of activities you’ll be doing throughout the week: video lectures, on-line office hours, remote study group meetings, reading/studying on your own, breaks to chat with friends, etc.

Like always, you’ll be more productive if you can get some exercise, and don’t forget that it’s effective to break up your day so you’re not doing just one thing for hours at a time.

Here’s an example of a daily schedule, color-coded by types of activities (self-care, study tasks, and classes).

TIP: Change out of your pajamas!

Check out the following videos on “Time Management for Online Learning”:

For tips and strategies for families:

For Families: How to Support Students’ Remote Learning.

For useful information, go to the Cornell COVID-19 updates page

Many of these tips are adapted from the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan, the Academic Resource Center at Duke University and Academic Support for Learning and Advancement at Northwestern—thank you to our colleagues for generously sharing their resources.

Archived Summer 2020

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