This content was originally created by Liz Allen-Pennebaker for the CLT blog, and draws on work by Deborah Bloom and Elin Melchior.
What is a Virtual Office?
Simple interactive virtual office (Liz Allen-Pennebaker)
A virtual office is an interactive, visually fun way to introduce yourself to your students before they even meet you on the first day. It can also be used to help students do the most important things you want them to do – contact you, set up appointments, read your Canvas bio – whatever you think is important that you want to emphasize in this fun way. Your virtual office adds warmth to your Canvas home page or email signature.
To make a virtual office, you can use simple graphic design features in Slides (inserting shapes, cutting and pasting images found on the web, etc), text, and hyperlinks to create a personalized office scene. The idea is that the links take you to various useful things you want students to know – for example, one link could be to a Google Appointments page to sign up for office hours, another could go to an electronic version of the textbook, and another could go to your welcome video.
Virtual offices, like real offices, don’t have to be static. You can update them regularly with new announcements, links to the module you’re working on this week, a quick video summary of what’s going on in the course this week – whatever you like.
For another example, here’s Liz Allen-Pennebaker’s virtual office.
How to Make a Virtual Office
Elin Melchior and the team in the Office of International Education put together these instructions for making a virtual office, which contain a quick written how-to as well as links to some videos, in Summer 2020.
Here are two additional third-party tutorials:
One important thing to know: the Bitmoji Chrome extension helps itself liberally to information typed into your computer – which might even include credit card numbers. If you use it to make a Bitmoji for your office, it’s probably a good idea to install it, do what you need to do with it, and uninstall it again right away before you make any online purchases or type any sensitive emails.
Important accessibility note! Virtual offices are not accessible for screen-reader users and users with low vision. Whenever you use a virtual office, please provide a link to a list of all the links and information in your office in an accessible format like a document.
How to Embed or Display Your Virtual Office
You can embed a virtual office made in Google Slides in Canvas or on a personal website. You can also include an image of it in your email signature that links to the office on Google Slides so students can interact with it.
Embedding your Virtual Office in Canvas or a Website
- Go to your virtual office in Slides
- Choose File>Publish to the web
- When the “Publish” window opens, click “Embed” and copy the code that appears in the box; this is the embed code
- Go to your homepage in Canvas and make you’ve got the layout set to show the “front page” as the homepage
- Once you’ve done that, click “Edit” to edit the front page and add your virtual office
- At the lower left of the content editing box, click the blue icon that looks like this: </> (if you hover over it, the popup text will read “switch to HTML editor”)
- Paste the embed code into the HTML editor
- Note: if HTML is new to you, try adding your virtual office before you make any other changes to the home page. You will be able to switch back to the normal editor and build the rest of your content around it.
- Click “Save”
You should see your virtual office on your Canvas homepage! If you don’t see it, check that you’ve designated the appropriate page as the course homepage and front page. Make sure you also add a link to an accessible version of all the information in the virtual office, such as a Google Doc.
The procedure to embed your virtual office on a webpage is similar, but will vary somewhat based on your platform. After you publish your office slide to the web and copy the embed code, go to your website and identify the tool for adding custom HTML. Paste the embed code into the HTML field and save.
Displaying Your Virtual Office in an Email Signature
- From your Google Slide, navigate to “Download” under the File menu, and select JPEG or PNG image
- Go to the settings in Gmail (click on the gear icon in the upper right of your Gmail window and choose “See all settings”)
- In the signature editor, use the image insert tool to upload the image of your slide you just downloaded
- Once the image has been inserted, highlight it and use the link tool to make the image a clickable link to your slide
- Note: you probably want to link to the “presenter view” of your slide, which is tricky. When you paste the URL for your slide, find the point at the end of the URL where it says “edit”. Highlight edit and everything after it, and replace with the word “present” in the URL (for example: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SpPl80PKdTj52XPNprTePPDFckMe9hpVyseZSITe8Mc/present instead of https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SpPl80PKdTj52XPNprTePPDFckMe9hpVyseZSITe8Mc/edit). This will send people to the clickable presenter view.
- Also add a link to an accessible version of the information and links in your slide, such as a Google Doc
- Make sure to scroll to the bottom and save your changes!