Creating an interactive advising schedule using Google Calendar

This semester, I’ve embraced Google Calendar for a number of teaching tasks, and this week I added a key advising task to this list as well — namely, getting students to sign up for appointments to plan their schedules for registration.

First, I created a calendar for “Summer/Fall Advising Schedule” in my Google Calendar account. (If you don’t have an account, you can create one for free at the link.) Then, I added in the names and emails of all my advisees and gave them permission to make changes to the calendar itself.
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Then I went through and added any event that would eliminate a block of time for a student appointment, such as a class, to the new calendar. I have all that stuff in a separate “Work” calendar which made this a pretty quick task. So before notifying students, the advising looks just like my usual weekly schedule:
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If any of the people I list as advisees didn’t already have a Google account, they got an email sent to them automatically from Google with an invitation. Additionally, I sent them an email with a notification of my creation of the calendar, instructions on how to get to it and how to create an event on this calendar, and deadlines for signing up for appointments. Finally, I added the RSS feed for the calendar to my reader so that when students add an appointment, I’m notified.

So now, if a student wants to sign up for an appointment, they just go to the calendar and add it themselves. My classes, meetings, etc. are already there so that students know when not to schedule. If a student needs to cancel or change the appointment, they just move the box around on the calendar. And I am notified via the RSS feed any time any of that takes place.

Since the screen gets pretty badly cluttered with all those duplicated events, I go to every scheduled student appointment and copy it to my “Appointments” calendar, and then hide the Advising calendar. The final result looks like this:
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The blue events are my Work calendar and the brown ones are from the Appointments calendar.

Anyway, it’s a simple but useful little lifehack that gives my advisees a little more control over the advising and registration process.

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Filed under GTD, Life in academia, Profhacks, Social software, Student culture, Technology

4 responses to “Creating an interactive advising schedule using Google Calendar

  1. chris

    That’s pretty clever. I’ve been looking for a way to keep our whole department up to date on theatrical events, I may try this. Do you know if you can save and re-use events, like copying pasting on a non-web based app?

  2. Eric

    I have strong reservations about using Google for e-mail, personal calendars, document preparation, etc… given their data mining practices. They make me nervous.

  3. chris

    mmmm, good point.

  4. I’m pretty agnostic about Google’s supposed data mining practices. On the one hand it’s a concern. On the other hand, it’s a concern that could be actualized by a sufficiently well-equipped adversary no matter what kind of program you are using for productivity. If I had very secret information out there, I’d think twice about using Google, and probably encrypt my data first. But I’m working with no such information here.