As anyone who has worked in academia knows: meetings are an essential part of academic life. They facilitate direct interactions with students and other faculty members. They’re also necessary for arranging the many administrative activities that underpin academic life. And, of course, they’re integral to the various layers of committee decision-making that takes place inside universities.
Research indicates that faculty may spend as much as 30 percent of their time in meetings. The recent transition of many academic institutions to online classes is yet another reason that scheduling one-to-one and group meetings quickly and efficiently is so important right now.
While meetings are integral to academic life, the process of scheduling meetings can be such a painful process. I know this to be true from personal experience as a university lecturer myself, it has at times taken several days of back and forth to get a single meeting booked.
However, while educators often bemoan the time devoted to administrative tasks, arranging appointments needn’t be so complicated. Online scheduling tools can streamline the entire process and get a meeting booked in a matter of minutes.
Since I’m an active user of Doodle, I thought it would be helpful to share six reasons that educators, including myself, should believe in the power of online scheduling tools.
Reason #1: Reduce the need for countless back and forth emails
One reason educators (at all levels) turn to online scheduling software is to cut back on the constant flow of emails involved with scheduling, and often re-scheduling, meetings. Establishing availability, choosing a time and confirming the details inevitably takes longer than expected from the outset.
The countless back-and-forth emails not only impact faculty and staff, but also students. The time wasted on avoidable administrative tasks is tiring for everyone involved, and increases the risk of confusion. Keeping track of everyone’s responses via email is a long, drawn out and mentally exhausting process.
With physical sign-up sheets no longer an option for courses that have transitioned online, educators are quickly learning that email chains don’t scale when coordinating ‘office hour’ style appointment slots. The ability to use an online scheduling tool to send calendar invites to an entire class, allowing meetings to be created without any email exchanges or running the risk of double-booking a time slot, can transform the entire scheduling process.
Reason #2: Schedule meetings on your own terms
The next big advantage of having a centralized scheduling tool is the ability to block off specific time periods in your calendar reserved for meetings with students. Without fixed office hour meeting times, there’s a danger that individual appointments will quickly begin to pepper your calendar, scattered throughout your week and leaving few, if any, solid gaps of time to prepare for classes or undertake other research demands.
Indeed, one of the key challenges of remaining productive on other academic tasks and research during periods of teaching has less to do with the total time associated with meeting with students, and more to do with the constant interruptions to address individual student issues. Having specific times devoted to student meetings makes it easier to segment your time, clearing up your calendar so you have more time to focus on addressing student questions. It also allows you to carve out specific time to concentrate on other activities, including class preparation and research.
Reason #3: Prevent meetings from encroaching on other commitments
Another way that appointment scheduling tools prevent meetings from encroaching on other commitments is by having the ability to define start and end times. First, establishing the clear expectation in advance that the meeting will only last a specific duration of time (i.e. 30 minutes or 15 minutes) helps to avoid situations where students may draw out conversations past the set meeting length, discussing tangential material or asking repeated questions that with limited effort they would have easily been able to find the answers to themselves.
Having predetermined time slots sets an expectation of how long the meeting will last, which helps ensure that students come into the meeting prepared to discuss what they’re struggling with or areas they don’t understand in course material. Pre-defined time slots also create a shared understanding that faculty likely have another meeting immediately following, helping to bring an end to any meeting that begins to needlessly drag.
The fixed nature of the appointment slots can also help with ensuring that students remain punctual and respectful of your time. While beginning five minutes late may not feel like a substantial departure from an agreed upon time, knowing the fixed end time in advance adds additional motivation for them to be there on time.
Reason #4: Get advanced notice of the meeting topic
One of the historical challenges of meeting with students is the breadth of possible questions that may be asked with expectations of immediate answers. While many student questions are routine in nature, there are inevitably some topics that can catch even an experienced educator off guard. Inquiries on specific aspects of the syllabus or intricacies of course concepts can be difficult to recall in the moment.
A key advantage of using online meeting scheduling tools is the ability to include a text field to record in advance what students are specifically enquiring about. Knowing what topics the meeting will cover not only provides the opportunity to prepare in advance, but also reduces the need for concern over how the meetings will unfold.
Reason #5: Get a clear snapshot of your meetings – never worry about forgetting an appointment
One of the risks of scheduling meetings via email is forgetting an appointment. With aranagements scattered over different email chains it is easy to overlook a meeting, schedule multiple at the same time, or to spend a lot of time and mental energy keeping track of various commitments. Arranging meetings in one central location goes a long way to avoid these issues.
By using an online scheduling tool, it is possible to view all of your meetings in one location, quickly review the daily schedule to make sure none are forgotten, and in turn avoid having to devote time to remembering your schedule in advance. Integrations with other calendar software also helps ensure that scheduled meetings remain synced with your existing calendar appointments, and that you receive your regular meeting notifications to remind you of appointments.
Reason #6: Reduce the barrier to individual, face-to-face meetings
One of the less obvious, but potentially most important benefits of an easy-to-use and robust scheduling tool is reducing the barriers for students to arrange direct interactions with faculty. With the recent rise of remote learning, traditional opportunities for students to clarify questions on course concepts or assignments have been cut down significantly. No longer is it always possible for students to verify material with their classmates or ask simple administrative questions after class.
Providing the option for students to simply book appointments online not only makes the scheduling process easier, but also means that scheduling faculty meetings is more inviting, increasing the likelihood that even the most isolated students will feel comfortable in arranging a time to clarify material. Indeed, simply publishing office hour appointment slots provides students the feeling of easier access to the faculty, which is especially important for online classes, which otherwise have a tendency to feel impersonal. Such individual appointment slots also enable more personal discussions than are feasible with a drop-in style office hours, allowing students to bring up topics that they may have been uncomfortable sharing in front of their peers.
The simplest to use meeting scheduling software
Doodle offers one of the simplest, yet most comprehensive, platforms for scheduling office meetings in the academic world. From offering appointment slots, perfect for scheduling student meetings, to identifying times when multiple members of a faculty committee can meet, Doodle takes the difficulty out of arranging meetings.
To learn how Doodle can make the scheduling process effortless for your academic institution, get in touch with one of Doodle’s scheduling experts.
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.