Over the years, I’ve questioned the usefulness of regularly scheduled office hours. It seems that no matter where I hold them (office, coffee shop, library) or when, students don’t take advantage of this routine time to chat with me. Instead, I find myself alone having this internal debate:
I could really use a cup of coffee.
But what if a student stops by while you’re gone?
True. But hardly anyone ever stops by.
The second you leave to get that coffee, a student will show up.
Dammit. You’re right. I’ll just sit here and try to grade papers.
One hour later and no students stop by.
I should have gotten that coffee.
I’ve tried office hours early in the morning, during lunch, in the evenings. . . It doesn’t matter. More often than not, students have class or work during my office hours so we have to set up a special appointment. But then we run into the never-ending email chain:
Let me know when you’re available.
How about Wednesday at 2:00?
I’m sorry, I have class.
Okay, what about Tuesday or Thursday at 4:00?
I have to be to work by then.
And on and on it goes. So I’ve been searching for a painless way to schedule appointments that doesn’t require emailing, is simple to set up, and is free. There are numerous software packages that institutions can get site licenses for (our student advising office uses Appointment Manager) and there are paid platforms used by salons and other small business owners. But I don’t need bells and whistles and I definitely do not want to pay a monthly fee.
These conditions ultimately led me to Google Calendar. If you have a Google for Work or Google for School account, you have access to an appointment feature in your calendar. I almost always look at my calendar month-by-month so I never noticed the appointment option because it only appears when you display the day or week. So here’s how you set up appointments:
Create Appointment Slots
1. Using your Google for Work or Google for Education account, access your calendar.
2. Make sure you are in Day or Week view.
3. Click on the date and time during which you’d like to establish a single appointment or block of appointments. In the event box that pops up, click Appointment Slots.
4. Next, I recommend clicking Edit Details to modify your appointment slots.
5. Enter the details, including name, date, time, and location. You also have the options to make an appointment recurring and to change the type to a single appointment or multiple time slots (the green text boxes in the screenshot below).
Invite Others to the Appointment
There may be times you want to invite specific people to an appointment, such as a colleague or a teaching assistant.
- Click in the Add Guests field and enter their email addresses (the blue text box in the screen shot above)
- Keep in mind anyone that you add here will be invited to every appointment throughout that block of time, and will also get an email each time someone reserves an appointment.
Invite Your Students to Book Appointments
1. Open your Google calendar and click on one of your appointment slots.
2. Copy the link at the top of the page called the Calendar’s Appointment Page (the red text box in the screenshot above).
3. Paste that link into an email, your LMS, syllabus, etc. so students have access to it. The link is very long, but you can shorten it with Google’s URL shortener: goo.gl
4. This link will take students to your appointment calendar and they will see all available time slots you have established.
5. Keep in mind that students will need a Google account to make appointments. Many universities and colleges are Google Apps for Education institutions, so students have free accounts. Otherwise, they can sign up for one.
If you don’t have available appointments in the near future, students will be notified and prompted to jump ahead on the calendar.
Tell Students How to Make an Appointment
1. Tell students to click the link for the appointment page that you shared with them.
2. Unless their login credentials are cached, they will need to sign into their Google account.
3. On the appointment page, they should click an available appointment button.
4. Since they’re logged in with their Google account, their name should appear next to “Who.”
5. If they need to add a comment, such as the purpose of the appointment, they can type it into the Description box.
6. Click Save.
7. If a student wants to cancel the appointment, they can delete or decline the appointment event from their calendar. Then others can book the appointment.
Once a student makes an appointment, it will show up on your Google calendar in a small box offset from the overall appointment slot. You will also get an email notification.
And that’s it! Simple, quick, and free. There are other options for those who don’t have a Google for Work or Google for School account, such as YouCanBookMe and Doodle. If you use another tool to schedule appointments, please share!