By Ty Collins
Until recently, in-person office hours have been the way for college professors to connect with their students outside of class. Whether students need help with a project, have questions about an assignment, or want to go over their plans, office hours offer college faculty the chance to help.
Well in to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many educational institutions have revamped the way they teach. Though some institutions have chosen a hybrid of in-person and digital learning, most classes are still only being offered online. The same goes for the professor’s office hours.
In an article for Inside Higher Ed, Jennifer L. Brinkley, an assistant professor at the University of West Florida, describes her experience teaching digitally. Brinkley describes a professor’s office hours as a time to “build trust and engage thoughtfully with the source material.”
At the beginning of the semester, Brinkley asked her students how they’d like to set up office hours with her. She gave them the option of video calls on a set day and time or emailing her to make appointments at their convenience. They overwhelmingly chose the second option. Says Brinkley:
“I thought the first suggestion would be the desired response, as it was a specific opportunity for students to meet, and I would be available without them having to schedule a specific time. Based on the survey results, my initial thought was wrong. Overwhelmingly, students wanted to reach out to me at their convenience via email and to schedule a time to meet online if necessary.”
Letting students make their own appointments was what made the most sense to them. And as long as you have the right tools, it’s an easy decision to support.
No matter what kind of appointment you’re scheduling, Calendly offers a simple and powerful way to do it. It integrates with just about any calendar app you’re using—from Outlook to Apple Calendar. You can tell Calendly your schedule, and it’ll make sure you never double-book. Program in your availability, and let your students pick the day and time that’s best for them.
Educational institutions from Harvard to the University of Houston are already using Calendly. It’s one of the top integrations for Zoom and can be used to seamlessly schedule your next online appointment for office hours with your students.
Scheduling an appointment for office hours with Calendly can be done in just a few simple steps and with greater customizability than scheduling your appointments in Canvas.
In the Calendly menu, click Event Type in the top bar, then the + Add Event Type button in the top right corner.
You’ll see two types of events: one-on-one and group. If you want to schedule a traditional office hour-style appointment for a one-on-one meeting with a student, click the one-on-one option.
Now that you’ve created the event, you’ll need to give it a name, location, and other details. There’s also an area to include notes for your students, like “bring your paper” or “have your notes up for review during the meeting.”
You can also customize the event URL if you so choose. If not, a default URL ending with “calendly/[your email address]/[name of event]” gets created instead. Premium Calendly users can color-code events to help further differentiate meetings.
Once the event information has been added, click Next to continue.
In order to make sure you never double-book or overbook, you’ll need to tell Calendly your schedule. The first step in doing that is to program how long each meeting with you will last. You’ll have the option of scheduling anywhere from 15-minute blocks to custom amounts of time.
Next, you’ll determine your availability. This will tell the system how far in advance to let students book an appointment with you. The default is set to 60 rolling days, meaning a student can set an appointment up to 60 days out from any given day. You have a few options to change this if you like:
Change the period of rolling days: For example, if you only want students to be able to book two weeks ahead, you can change it to 14 days instead of the default 60.
Change the availability to a date range: Don’t allow appointments to be booked past a certain day. In your case, that would be the end of the semester.
Allow appointments to be booked indefinitely: This places no restrictions on when someone can book an appointment with you.
Once you’ve settled on availability, you’ll decide an actual range of days and times you’ll be open to making appointments. The default is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Pick your desired days and times. Say you want to have appointments on Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. in 30-minute time slots. You’d click on Monday’s default time slot of 9 to 5, which will bring up the edit menu.
There, you can change the time slot from 9 to 5 to 1 to 4, then click Apply to and select Mondays and Wednesdays in the list that comes up. This will let you apply your desired office hour time slot to all Mondays and Wednesdays in your calendar.
Click Done to complete. You should be able to see the changes in your time slots right away. To remove time slots from all the other days of the week, simply click the default time slot on each day, then click Make Me Unavailable on [Day].
After removing those time slots, you should just have the two available that you want for your office hours.
You’ll use the advanced settings menu to dial in the last of your meeting options. Scroll down the page until you see Show Advanced Settings and click the arrow symbol to access them.
Once there, go through the following options to set them:
Show availability in increments of lets you determine how often a time slot is available. Set this as equal to the length of your meeting time—in this case, 30 minutes.
Max number of this event acceptable per day lets you cap the number of slots that can be booked in a given day. You’ll want to leave this blank so all time slots are available to your students.
Minimum scheduling notice lets you have a buffer between when someone schedules a meeting and the meeting time. Program in some time here so you won’t have anyone scheduling a meeting moments before it’s supposed to happen. For example, if you program in a four-hour minimum notice, students won’t be able to schedule a meeting fewer than four hours before your time slot.
Buffer event lets you schedule space between meetings so you have time to prepare. You can program in time before and after each meeting.
When you’ve gone through all these options, click Next to finish creating your meeting event. You’ll be taken to a screen with a summary of the event. Make sure the text below says “[your name] is ready to accept new events,” and that the toggle in the upper right-hand corner is switched to “on.”
To manage your meetings, log into Calendly and click Event Types in the top menu bar. You’ll see the event you set up for your office hour meetings. If you want to edit that event, just click the gear symbol on the right. Premium Calendly users can have multiple events set up at a time.
To see a list of upcoming meetings that students have booked with you, click the Dashboard option in the top menu bar. Time slots that haven’t been booked won’t show up. Both parties also automatically get an email notification whenever a meeting gets booked through Calendly.
To distribute the booking link to your students, just click the gear icon next to the event on the Event Types page. You’ll see an option to copy the link. You can either copy/paste it into the web platform your students are using or send out a mass email.
When a student clicks the link in the email, they’ll see a variety of days they can choose from. Once they choose a day, the system lets them pick a time within the window you set. After choosing their time and entering their information, they’ll get a confirmation email.
Since all of your office hour meetings for the foreseeable future will probably be video meetings, make sure and connect Calendly to your Zoom account. Once you’ve done that, a dynamic video conference link will be created for every scheduled meeting. You’ll also be able to select Zoom under the Location tab when editing your meeting events.
And there you have it—everything you need to schedule your virtual office hour meetings. Once you’ve programmed everything in up front, the rest is easy and automatic. Visit our site for educators to learn more about our education solutions and see what we can do to make teaching online a little easier.
Ty is the head of digital acquisition and content at Calendly.
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