Like most instructors, I have a few scheduled office hours per week, but I try to make myself available to students as much as possible. On the other hand, I usually prefer to work from home, or somewhere other than my office, whenever possible; I just find that I get more done without the comforting distractions of my own office. To balance these somewhat-conflicting goals, this semester I’ve been experimenting with scheduling student appointments using youcanbookme.com (see my scheduling page at friedenberg.youcanbookme.com). So far, the results have been fantastic, and I encourage anybody with similar needs to give this free service a shot.
This system provides the most value to me in one common scenario: right before or after class, when a handful of students (or more) invariably converge on me and ask about setting up an appointment. In that time-crunched environment, when I’m trying to set up my classroom technology or pack it up so I can turn the classroom over to the next instructor, I can just say “go to friedenberg.youcanbookme.com and pick a time of your choice.”
When students visit my scheduling page, they see something like this:
The dates and times that are listed as available or busy are determined based on the following settings that I modified in my youcanbookme.com account:
Any events that are listed in my linked Google Calendar. In other words, friedenberg.youcanbookme.com updates in real time based on the events that are in my personal calendar (including, of course, other student appointments that have been scheduled with youcanbookme.com). Yes, you must use Google Calendar – and yes, this might involve transition costs for some people. But it has been well worth it for me.
Detailed settings of when I would like the system to list me as available (subject to the above). Obviously I don’t want to have students scheduling appointments with me at 3am on a Sunday, so I use the youcanbookme.com management interface to set specific times for each days of the week when I’m “open for business.”
Minimum and maximum booking times. Again, there is a simple interface for this. I currently have my minimum and maximum as 5 and 30 minutes, respectively.
After a student (or you, I guess…) clicks on a time, here’s the next screen:
I love this screen. It’s quick and easy to fill out, and I was able to customize it by asking for notes (what the student wants to talk about in the meeting) and the course(s) in which the student is enrolled (I’m ashamed to admit it, but my lookup table between student and course is woefully incomplete).
After the student fills out the form, both the student and I get a confirmation e-mail (see below for mine), and the appointment (including the notes and course) shows up instantly on my Google Calendar. I can easily cancel the appointment (and include a short explanation) if needed.