Students used to have to walk to their professors’ offices for face time.

Now, Duke’s online office hours series enables students, alumni, parents and the general public to interact with professors through live streaming video.

Students used to have to walk to their professors’ offices for face time.

Now, Duke’s online office hours series enables students, alumni, parents and the general public to interact with professors through live streaming video.

The interaction takes place through Duke’s new channel on Ustream, which has 19 followers and 19,892 total views as of Sunday afternoon. The channel launched in May with commencement, providing live video of television talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s speech. The first online office hour was at the end of July with Dan Ariely, James B. Duke professor of behavioral economics.

Ustream is a video streaming service which has carried live video of various notables from President Barack Obama to the Jonas Brothers.

“Ustream was founded by myself and Brad Hunstable to allow soldiers to connect with all of their family and friends at once. Three years later, there are a lot of other applications,” said Ustream co-founder and Chief Executive Officer John Ham. “Our technology is an enabler for education and [it connects] teachers with students like it connected soldiers with families. The faculty that shows up on online office hours are at the cutting edge of their various skills, so their time is valuable, and Ustream is a very efficient tool for them.”

The topics discussed every Friday at noon vary from Muslim-Americans to global warming, and from genomics to Michael Jackson. Professors with expertise in these subjects are asked to sit in a studio for 30 minutes to an hour and answer five or six questions submitted by viewers either before or during the live broadcast.

The channel is a part of Duke’s new initiative to use technology to share Duke’s faculty with the world, said David Jarmul, associate vice president of news and communications, who has helped lead the project.

Upcoming broadcasts include online office hours with Noah Pickus, associate research professor of public policy studies and Nannerl O. Keohane director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and a session with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag.

Professors who have conducted online office hours said they found the sessions convenient and enjoyable.

“A lot of the time we have office hours and nobody comes, so I thought it’d be fun to do it on the Internet and give students the ability to access me and ask me questions from wherever they are,” said Jen’nan Read, associate professor of sociology and global health, who discussed Muslims in America during her office hours Sept. 11.

Mark Goodacre, associate professor in the Department of Religion, who held his first online office hour Friday, said the sessions might also help students make more informed choices about classes in the future by introducing them to professors.

Ustream is just the latest of Duke’s efforts to increase its visibility online.

“We’ve been focusing our digital initiatives in two directions. One is developing our own programs and services…. The other part is to develop partnerships with some of the more innovative and active new media companies,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “With Ustream, we were looking for a partner to essentially be our live streaming partner for broadcast purposes, for news public information purposes, and we talked with Ustream about being basically their flagship education partner.”