Students, parents, prospective students, etc can check to see if I'm online and available. If I'm available, the little dot next to "Chat with Michael Qaissaunee" is green, if I'm away or unavailable, the dot is grayed out. Pretty cool! I've had students ask me questions after class, before class, even at 11 pm. It's a communication medium they're very comfortable with.
Here's the a chat session with one of my engineering students:
I've blacked out the student's name, to protect their privacy. Notice that the student comes up as "Guest" - I've told them in class that they have to identify themselves and the class. By default the chat session is not logged or recorded. Lastly, I do have the ability to make myself invisible, if I'm working on something else or it's too late at night.
How do you connect with your students?