The era of brief, face-to-face meetings between college students and their professors is coming to an end, higher-education officials say. Instead, colleges and universities are embracing a new forum for student-teacher conferences—virtual office hours, which extend class discussions into cyberspace.

Rather than forcing students to adjust their schedules to meet with professors during the relatively small window of opportunity afforded by weekly office hours, virtual meetings allow for much greater flexibility—which, in turn, means more students can benefit.

Virtual meetings are gaining popularity in higher education for a number of reasons, officials say. Off-campus students can have their questions answered without having


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