Nov 242010
 

UPDATED 9/5/2011: Be sure to read a more recent post on this tool.

Last month I wrote about a new service (YouCanBook.Me) that lets students schedule appointments with you themselves. (See the original blog post.) Now that I’ve been using it for a couple months, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned.

The booking form

The default booking form asks those making an appointment with you to give you their email address (required) and leave a note (not required). I, however, want more information than that, and YouCanBook.Me gives me the power to ask for whatever I’d like. Specifically, I want the appointee’s name, email address, and the reason for the meeting. And I want the appointee’s name to show up in the subject line of my calendar.

In the YouCanBook.Me dashboard, clicking the ‘booking form’ tab allows me to make those changes. Each line produces a separate input box. The asterisk means the appointee must enter something in that field. Whatever is entered in the first line will be entered as the subject line for the appointment.

Default Booking Form

My Customized Booking Form

What the appointee sees:

How to get it to look that way:

[Thanks to my colleague Rich Bankhead for his suggestion to add a ‘bigbox’ for the ‘reason for meeting’ area instead of the default small box.]

A different calendar for each quarter

With the fall quarter coming to a close, it occurred to me that I didn’t want students to be able to schedule an appointment with me after the last day of the quarter, but I didn’t want to block off all of the days from mid-December to early January in my Google calendar since I use my calendar for things other than scheduling time with students.

YouCanBook.Me lets you select start and end dates for booking, so I changed the dates to match the dates of fall quarter.

But then I thought that some students may want to schedule an appointment with me next quarter right now. If the calendar ends on December 9, they won’t be able to do that until I change the calendar dates on December 10. Keith Harris at YouCanBook.Me suggested that I solve this by creating separate calendars for each quarter. What a great idea!

On the main dashboard, you’ll find a list of all of your calendars. If you have just one calendar, you’ll see just that one. Once it’s set up as you’d like, click ‘copy.’

I created three, one for each quarter. I changed the dates of each to match the dates for the quarter. Then I changed the title and the subdomain (on the ‘basic’ tab) to match the quarter.

For example, for the winter quarter calendar, I changed the title to Winter 2011, and I changed the subdomain from sfrantz to sfrantz-winter. Here are my three calendars.

Rather than link to each of these separately, I embedded the calendars on a newly-created ‘appointment’ page on my website. On the top of the webpage I put the instructions for scheduling an appointment which I deleted from each calendar. And then I copied the embed html code from each of the calendars and pasted it on the webpage. You can use the embed code wherever you can use HTML code, including on pages inside your course management system (e.g., Angel, Blackboard).

The embed code can be found right above the preview pane in your YouCanBook.Me dashboard for each of your calendars.

[UPDATE 12/3/2010 : To embed calendars on a page, YouCanBook.Me uses iframes.  Unfortunately the security settings on some browsers keep some users from viewing that content.  After having a couple students say that they couldn’t see the calendars, I deleted the web page I created and am again linking directly to my YouCanBook.Me calendar.  In the calendar instructions I’m including a link to the next quarter’s calendar for students who want to schedule an appointment further out.  When this quarter ends, the hyperlink on my website will go directly to next quarter’s calendar whose instructions include a link to my spring calendar.  To see what it looks like, go to my main web page and click on “Schedule an Appointment with Me.” ]

Schedule 15 minute appointments for the first two weeks of the term

Keep the ability to create different calendars in mind if, say, you want students to set up 15-minute appointments with you at the beginning of the term, perhaps as a ‘come introduce yourself’ sort of meeting.

Copy an existing calendar, change the subdomain to something like YourName-15, set the start and end dates to whatever you’d like, then set the appointment length to 15 minutes. Give the link to students.

If you want to do the same thing at the end of the term, edit this calendar so that the start and end dates are for the end of the term.

Syncing with Outlook

I sync my Google calendar with Outlook 2010, and I’ve discovered that Google has a weird bug. When events with guests are scheduled in Google calendar, they get stuck in a weird loop with Outlook.  A ‘ghost’ version of the event (only those with guests) gets created and set to 1979.  Whenever Outlook syncs with Google calendar, that 1979 event gets dumped into Outlook’s deleted folder.  Since it happens every time they sync, that deleted event shows up over and over again.  The only solution I’ve found is to go into Google calendar, search for the appointment (which is not 1979) and remove the guest from the appointment (or delete the appointment altogether).

The default for YouCanBook.Me is to add the appointee as a guest to the appointment. This is handy because if you delete the appointment, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to notify the appointee that you’re canceling the appointment. If you don’t sync with Outlook, or if you do but don’t have the 1979 experience, there’s no need to change anything.

If you’re in my position with those ghost appointments showing up in your Outlook’s deleted folder, you can change YouCanBook.Me so that appointees aren’t brought in as guests. On the ‘afterwards’ tab, uncheck the ‘add participants’ box. That’s it.

If you’re using YouCanBook.Me, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!

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  9 Responses to “YouCanBook.Me: Customizing for My Purposes”

  1. […] 11/24/2010 : Check out a newer post that offers some ways to customize […]

  2. Sue,

    Thanks for turning me on to this scheduling tool! Instead of posting my Spring schedule to the bulletin board, I’m simply posting a note to “book me” and my calendar site. This seems to be a good way to deal with my regularly evolving weekly schedule and lab hours…

    -Jeremy

  3. Sue, this is awesome. There are other similar solutions, I’ve since learned. But, none are quite as convenient for me or the students (or as free). I used it for the two weeks of registration advising this semester with my advisees. It was so successful that I immediately launched it in all my classes mid-semester. For the many students who want help with their APA lab report in research methods, it was awesome. They realize they want help when they are working on the paper at 1:00 in the morning. They can immediately book a time instead of hoping that I’ll be available sometime the next day. My only problem is that I use iCal/MobileMe instead of Outlook on my Mac. I’m considering going some different directions to solve this. Probably, I’ll lose the MobileMe account (MobileMe and Google don’t talk) and have my iPhone sync with Google calendar because of the issues I see you have with Outlook. I’ll be toying with it in the summer term before going 100% online with this in the Fall.

    • Paul, thanks for writing! I’m thinking about adding an awesome rating for the tools I write about. YouCanBook.Me anchors the far end. There are about a dozen people using it on my campus now, and whenever I see them, they’re effusive in their praise for it. (They thought Dropbox was the coolest thing ever until YouCanBook.Me came along!) We know we spend a lot of time setting up appointments, but it’s not until we don’t have to anymore that we realize exactly how much time that was eating up. I also don’t think we realize how much stress that causes students either, until they start using YouCanBook.Me to schedule a meeting. My students tell me that they don’t understand why all faculty don’t use it.

      As for getting Google and iCal to sync, have you tried this:
      http://www.google.com/support/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=99358#ical. Let me know if that works for you.

      If it were entirely up to me, I’d just use Google Calendar. The only reason I use Outlook is because my colleagues at my institution use it for scheduling meetings. I don’t ever look at it, though. I just look at Google Calendar.

      I’m glad you found something useful in my blog!
      Sue

  4. I have been using different web schedulers – each one more expensive than the next. I am giving this a shot because it is syncing immediately with google calendar. I would love to set an appt with someone in google calendar and have this program send the reminder. I love g-calendarbut it does not do automatic reminders for clients. Is this program able to take a google appt and send a reminder to the client?

    • Hi Wendy,

      YouCanBook.Me will send the reminder to the client only if the client created the appointment using YouCanBook.Me. If you don’t want to give your clients that much power, you could create the appointment for them using YouCanBook.Me.

      For example, let’s say that I want to schedule a client at 1pm tomorrow. I can go into my YouCanBook.Me calendar, and enter all of the information as if I were the client making the appointment. YCBM would immediately send the client a confirmation email and then another email before the appointment.

      Let me know if that’s something that would work for you.

      Sue

  5. I love this app but!!!! I don’t have a consistent week to week schedule and clients want to schedule sometimes weeks or months inin advance. Creating tens of calendars seems ridiculous. Why can’t one have at the very least a month long calendar, rather than a week long? I even wrote in my notes fir the calendar: please note the calendar is for current week only, do not click Next button.
    Please let me know what u think. What would be a solution to my problem?

    • On the YouCanBook.Me advanced tab is the option to have a fixed end date. Would changing that every week work for you? For example, if you just wanted your calendar to show for this week, change the fixed end date to this Friday. When your personal appointments were fixed for the following week, go back into YouCanBook.Me and change the fixed end date to the following Friday. Would that work for you?

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