Thursday, 19 July 2012

Google Calendar Appointments...

Used with permission from Google under their
educational purposes permission policy
... or... sometimes it's the simple things that are most effective!

Sometimes in the big fan fair of new technology announcements, the smaller, already existing opportunities get missed!

Recently, there has been a large fuss over the recently updated and shiny-new Google+ Events.  Whilst this is a nice and polished way to manage and produce invites for specific events, and is integrated tightly into Google Calendar, it didn't seem to add that much in terms of how calendaring might be used within an educational context.

Today, whilst attending a White-Rose Learning Technologist's meeting here in Sheffield, Gary Wood of The School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics mentioned their use of Google Calendar Appointment Slots.  This echoed my own use and recommendations of this within the School of Nursing and Midwifery.  I'd like to share this simple, but effective tool and rationale for it's use with an educational context.

What are Google Calendar Appointment Slots?

Essentially in addition to creating an event in Google Calendar you can now create a series of bookable appointment slots, which mimic sign-up sheets that you may currently use to book student tutorials or any other similar activity.

Assuming you are using Google Apps for both staff and students in your institution, you can invite any set of staff or students to the appointment slots simply by forwarding them a link.  They can then sign up and pick a particular slot, which will become booked on your calendar and also show up as an event on theirs.

To see how the process for setting up appointment slots works please see this introduction from Google: Introducing appointment slots in Google Calendar

Why might I want to use them?

  • Make it easier for people to sign up - Unless people are in your building they will have to make one trip to sign up for an event on a piece of paper on your door, and then another to attend the actual appointment.  This is much more convenient.
  • Increase actual attendance at tutorials - Staff that have used this method have found that many more students booked and turned up to their appointments than previously.
  • Make your availability more obvious - By personally e-mailing students, rather than putting up a generic piece of paper on your closed office door, it enables flexibility and has the potential to be wider-reaching.  Students and colleagues can access this on their computers or mobile devices any time.
So, that's it - sometimes a simple tool can really enhance the student and staff experiences and be genuinely more useful than existing solutions.  This is when you know technology is being used properly and not because it's shiny and new. 

Give Google Calendar appointment slots a try!

James Little.


  1. Thanks for this great summary, James, and for referring to my talk, too! I thought I'd add a note to expand on my own experience of using calendar appointments, and to echo your recommendation that colleagues give them a try.

    Having discovered appointments a while back when Ross Mahon (Google Apps Education Evangelist) gave a talk when the University introduced Google Apps, I gave them a try last year when inviting students to sign up for consultation sessions. This worked well, so I then tried it for meetings with my personal tutees.

    The traditional way of having students sign up for personal tutee meetings in the School of English is to put a list of times on your office door, and tell students to come and sign up. This means they have to come in twice: once to sign up for a time, then again for the actual appointment - assuming, that is, that they remembered they'd signed up.

    Using Google Calendar Appointments mean that students could go straight from receiving an email inviting them to see me to booking an appointment slot online. Better yet, not only does this appointment then appear in my calendar, but it automatically gets added to the student's Google Calendar as well - with an email reminder set as default (if students haven't changed their reminder settings).

    The result? Around 90% (yes, 90%!) of people turned up for their sessions! That's quite a difference from paper lists, when far fewer even signed up, and of those that did, significantly fewer again actually turned up.

    So, I wholeheartedly agree with James's recommendation: give Google Calendar appointment slots a try!

  2. Thanks Gary - it was great to hear about your positive experiences with Google Calendar appointments and the genuine difference they've made to attendance at tutorials/consultations - let's keeping spreading the word!



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