It’s no secret in education that a critical component of being a successful educator is providing opportunities for direct interactions between students and faculty. From allowing students to clarify their understanding of difficult concepts to resolving important questions on the course structure, making faculty available to students is important in addressing individual learning needs. Sometimes just five or 10 minutes of one-on-one interaction can transform the educational experience.
Office hours play a key role in ensuring student success. But as students and educators know, scheduling office hours isn’t always a smooth process. From difficulties arranging individual appointment times to the long wait times associated with drop-in style sessions, the office hour experience is often not a positive one. And while the importance of providing opportunities for student contact may be greater now more than ever – large remote classes can often be an impersonal experience – the challenges of scheduling appointment slots have only increased. Gone are the days of paper signup sheets. The long lines that used to stretch around corridors have now transitioned to long email chains.
The process of arranging office hours need not be a challenging one, though. As a university lecturer who believes in the importance of making it easy for students to meet with faculty, I can vouch that Doodle is possibly the simplest way of setting up office hours.
As illustrated below, you can create signup slots within five minutes, saving you time and making the whole process much more inviting for students.
Understanding Doodle's Booking Page slots
The real strength of using Doodle to help arrange office hours is its simplicity and flexibility. Doodle’s straightforward approach for creating Booking Page slots is perfect for even the most technically adverse, with customization options that work for educators of all levels. Plus, the intuitive sign-up process makes it inviting and simple for students to complete.
Step 1: Connecting your calendar
One of the many advantages of using Doodle's Booking Page slots is its ability to integrate directly with both Google Calendar and Office 365. Scheduled meetings booked with Doodle will integrate directly with your primary calendar, and any other meetings you enter in your calendar will sync with Doodle, automatically preventing that time from being reserved by students.
Step 2: Creating a Booking Page
After you have connected your external calendar, you can start entering your office hours information. This includes:
Calendar Title: A way of making it clear to your students that they are signing up for the correct calendar
Customizable Link: A link that you can share with your students by email or on your course wall. This is customizable, again helping to make clear to your students what the link is for.
Description: This can be useful in adding further instructions, for example, direct your students to sign up for one meeting slot.
Location: For in-person office hours, this can be used to remind students of your office location. For online office hours, this box can be used to add the link to your online meeting room. If you are using Zoom, Doodle has further options available to create an individual meeting link for each meeting, so you can leave this box blank.
Step 3: Setting available meeting times
The next stage in configuring your office hours is to block off the periods when you will be available to meet with students. This helps you ensure that the meeting times work for you and avoids the possibility of student meetings encroaching on your entire week. While the time slots conveniently carry over week to week, if there is a week that you are unavailable for a specific block of time, you can simply create an event in your connected calendar, mark it as ‘busy’ and those times will automatically be removed from the Booking Page on Doodle.
Doodle also detects the user’s location, so while the meeting times that you create are all in your time zone, any student located in a different part of the world will see the available meeting slots in their local time.
Step 4: Defining meeting details
The Booking Page meeting slots created in Doodle are customizable in the following ways.
Meeting Length: Specify how long you want meetings to last. If you want more than one meeting length (for example, 15 minutes for office hour slots, but one-hour slots for group meetings), just create two separate Booking Pages. Since the separate calendars all sync with your main calendar, if a meeting is booked on one, that time option will automatically be removed from the other Booking Page.
Future Horizon: The future horizon option is a great way of restricting how far in advance students can book appointments. For example, you are able to restrict sign-ups to only the next two weeks. This gives you the flexibility to make other commitments, without having to worry that a student may have already booked that time with you far in advance.
Minimum Notice: Another great feature to help you stay in control of your calendar is the ability to set a minimum notice period. By ensuring that students must sign up a specific amount of time in advance, you can structure your day accordingly, without having to worry if suddenly you will get a last-minute flurry of students signing up to meet.
Buffer Time: Meeting back-to-back with students can be tiring. So it can be useful to factor in a buffer time between meetings to allow some time to regroup or simply take a quick break. All you have to do is select the buffer time you want between each meeting slot.
Step 5: Adding in custom questions
The final step in configuring your office hours, and one that can help ensure that your office hour meetings go much smoother, is to collect additional information from students. For example, asking in advance what the students want to discuss can help you to prepare ahead of time, taking off the pressure on the day. If you teach multiple classes or sections, it can also be useful to collect this information, avoiding the need for you to look these details up.
Step 6: Previewing available slots
At this point, you’re all done setting up the Booking Page for your office hours and can preview how the meeting will look when students are signing up.
Students can sign up directly from the link without needing to create an account and will receive a confirmation of the booking by email. The appointment will also automatically sync with your main calendar, helping to alleviate any danger of forgetting the appointment.
Students also have the ability to directly reschedule a meeting from their confirmation email, saving you the time of having to coordinate an alternative date.
A few minutes later…the headache of scheduling your office hour slots is solved
Doodle is one of the easiest ways of scheduling student office hours. As illustrated above, it only takes one to two minutes to create a Booking Page link that can be shared with students, enabling you to schedule office hour appointments with minimal oversight.
The versatility of the meeting scheduling options available in Doodle means that once you’ve experienced the power of scheduling with Doodle, you may find yourself using it beyond just booking office hours to arrange all your other meetings. You’ll never want to go back to manually scheduling meetings via email again.
To learn how to leverage the features of Doodle to improve your education meetings, check out “The Educator’s Meeting Playbook.”
Author: Gareth Keeves
Gareth is a lecturer in strategy at Rice University and the University of California, Davis. He received his PhD in strategy from the University of Michigan. He enjoys meeting with students and learning new ways to improve the online educational experience.