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Empowering Students to use Office Hours

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Student waving hello on a video call

Student Appointment Slots

Did you know that Google Calendar has a feature called Appointment Slots? This has been an amazing feature for me as an instructor. I started using it back in 2015 and have never looked back. You might be thinking, why would I want to use an appointment calendar to set up office time with my students? Here are my reasons:

  1. I schedule times that I know I’ll be available. This provides a variety of opportunities for students whose schedules vary considerably. Plus, the times don’t have to be consistent from week to week.
  2. Students feel empowered because they can set up a time dedicated to them vs. open office hours. They know how much time they have reserved and generally come prepared.
  3. I can plan my life better. I know who is showing up and when! They even let me know why they want to meet! Now isn’t that nice? 😁
  4.  A Google Meet link automatically generates when creating an appointment and the student gets an invite too. I can also leave notes in the calendar invite for myself and the student!
  5. I can set up a notification for my phone/computer to ping me so I don’t miss the meeting (especially if I am busy grading or… folding laundry).

I am sure there are more reasons to love using Appointment Calendars, but this is what comes to mind immediately.

How do I let students know about it?

Everywhere! Not really, but rather strategic locations in my Brightpace course:

  1. My Syllabus
  2. My homepage Ask Questions widget in Brightspace
  3. My Instructor Information page in Brightspace
  4. My Intelligent Agent email reminders
    I provide reminders to students who haven’t completed an assignment or received a certain score. In the email that goes out, a link to my appointment calendar is always included encouraging them to set up a time to go over anything that might be challenging.
  5.  My Email Signature

You know what! While writing this list I realized there is another place I thought I had mentioned my appointment calendar, but I forgot! I need to add it to my Welcome video! I just watched it thinking it was there. What a lapse on my part. So, that makes #6. I’m sure you can think of other places as well!

Empowering our students

Since the onset of the pandemic, the use of my appointment calendar has drastically increased. I feel like I am connecting with my student much more than I ever did before as a fully online instructor. I thrive on those interactions. Students are concerned about my time, but they don’t realize how much I enjoy getting to help them and see that light bulb turn on. (I think they do after meeting with me, though. 😊 )  Letting them know they can have one-on-one time with me is important. I want to empower them to feel comfortable meeting with me. A dedicated timeslot lets them feel that this is “their” time and that it wasn’t an inconvenience to me, the instructor, to schedule.

If you need more help than the Google documentation on setting up Appointment slots, feel free to reach out to one of our amazing instructional technology specialists! They excel in helping faculty make their student experience better using technology!

Take care and think of ways you can empower your students to ask you questions this Fall term! 👍

Rondi :)

About Rondi Schei

As the Course Development Program Manager for Online Learning, Rondi works with faculty to develop engaging instructional materials and design high quality online courses. more »

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There are 8 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x (Comment #46069) by Sarah 2 months ago (Comment #46069)

Thank you for your candid and helpful blog! 😊


x (Comment #46071) by Ron Bekey 2 months ago (Comment #46071)

Thanks for sharing how you do this, Rondi! I have had similar experiences and successes with Calendly. It links nicely PCC’s Google Calendar, and the basic version is free. It also allows students to book appointments on their own. The best thing for me is that I am avoiding multiple back-and-forth emails when setting Zoom appointments. Many students were taking a day or more to reply, and it was very difficult to book appointments. Now when I make a comment in the grade book or by email about an assignment and it seems the student could benefit from meeting with me, I point them to my Calendly page and encourage them to book an appointment with me. I also have a ‘Book an appointment with your instructor’ link at the top of the Home Page in each of my classes. I experimented with Appointment Slots also, but I find Calendly is easier for me as my schedule varies, and Calendly allows people to book whenever there is free space on my PCC calendar within my designated working hours. When I need to block off some time with no appointments, I simply make an appointment with myself during those hours. The only thing that isn’t as convenient as Appointment Slots is that I need to set up Zoom appointments manually. The pay version can do that automatically.

x (Comment #46072) by Peter Seaman 2 months ago (Comment #46072)

Thanks, Rondi (and Ron), for your great advice about scheduling. One perennial problem I have is not with the calendaring tools but with people’s last-minute scheduling habits – where someone will go into my calendar ten minutes before an appointment slot and try to book an appointment. Do any of these tools have a scheduling buffer? – say, a student needs to provide a two-hour or four-hour or even 24-hour buffer between booking time and appointment time? Unless I’m sitting at my desk at all times, I’m afraid I’ll miss a last-minute booking. Thanks.

x (Comment #46073) by Laura Sanders 2 months ago (Comment #46073)

Thanks for this great post, Rondi! I have been using Google Calendar Appointment Slots for the past year to great success.

To maximize flexibility and accommodate a range of student schedules, I like to offer slots at different times on different days each week. I typically send out a class email with the appointment calendar link. I try to include a mix of day and evening slots, and I have even offered Saturday slots for papers due the next day.

This method also works well when I am trying to offer appointments to students from different course sections and even different colleges — a great feature for the many PT instructors who are juggling multiple courses at multiple institutions.

I find that students do arrive prepared with their own goals for the session, and this option seems to make them more confident, knowing that they can schedule these meetings when needed.

x (Comment #46074) by Ron Bekey 2 months ago (Comment #46074)

Hi Peter, yes, Calendly has a scheduling buffer, but it is a trade-off, because if you set it for two hours, no one can book a time closer than two hours before or after an existing appointment. You might be able to find a sweet spot that works for you. And no, I don’t work for Calendly ;-)

x (Comment #46075) by Cindy Francois 2 months ago (Comment #46075)

I love this idea!! Very rarely does anyone actually show up at my weekly office hours. So how does this work in D2L? You set it up in Google Calendar but do I just share the link with students? I’m not familiar with this. :)

x (Comment #46078) by Laura Sanders 2 months ago (Comment #46078)

@Cindy — Rondi has added a useful link in her original post. Essentially, you take the same steps you would to create an event on your Google calendar, but instead of “event,” you select “appointment slots” and select the time frame and the length of each meeting (15 minutes, 20 minutes). You can then email your students the link (or post the link in your D2L Brightspace course shell). When students click the link, they are taken to the appointment calendar.

It took a few times for me to figure it out, but I think it’s a great system that saves everyone time.

x (Comment #46079) by Bryan 1 month ago (Comment #46079)

Depending on the course, I like to be a bit more proactive about who comes to a timeslot and when they come. I like to see everyone during the term, but sometimes I like to prioritize who comes when. With WR122, where students tend to be very far on their PCC journey, I would be more inclined to follow Ron and Rondi’s “empower the student” model, but for WR115, my focus is on retaining the student not just in the course, but also in PCC generally. (It’s a “Gateway” course.) There I want to connect with those most likely to drift asap. (I can’t always tell who is most at risk, but frequently I can.)

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