Nov 012011
 

[Update 12/15/2012 : Given the issues with Google Calendar Sync, I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was being sunsetted.  Use gSyncIt instead.]

To users of Google Calendar Sync (synching Google Calendar with Outlook)
[Everyone else can safely ignore.]

Warning: Appointments added to Google Calendar may show up in Outlook one hour off for the next week.

Possible solutions:

  1. Free option: Double check your calendars to make sure the times are correct.
  2. $19.99 option: Switch from the free Google Calendar Sync to the $19.99 gysncit for synchronizing Google Calendar and Outlook.  (http://www.fieldstonsoftware.com/software/gsyncit3/)

     

Why the federal government is to blame:

It all started when they changed the dates for daylight savings time.  Apparently Google Calendar Sync is coded in such a way that it recognizes the old dates for daylight savings time.  Between the last Sunday in October and the first Sunday in November, it will sync appointments one hour off.  You’ll have the same experience in spring when we do this again.

Why Google is to blame:

You’d think it would be simple to do a little recoding in Google Calendar Sync to recognize the new dates that have been in effect since 2007.  But apparently not.

 

 

Sep 052011
 

Of all the tech tools I’ve written about, there’s one that garners the most praise from my readers: YouCanBook.Me. There are three faculty members on my campus that, whenever I see them, mention how much they love it. Last month I was at the American Psychological Association Convention, and one of the attendees was a reader of this blog. She told me how great she though this tool was, and that several faculty on her campus concurred. What makes it so great? It automates a task that otherwise requires several emails and a lot of time.

Without YouCanBook.Me:

Student: I’d like to make an appointment with you. When are you free?

Instructor: <looks at calendar> I’m free at these times. What time would you like?

Student: <looks at calendar> I’m not available at any of those times. How about one of these times?

Instructor: <looks at calendar> I can do X time. See you then.

Student: Great!

X time arrives, student doesn’t show.

With YouCanBook.Me

Instructor posts URL for making appointments. Student visits URL and selects a time. Appointment is added to instructor’s calendar. Student gets a reminder email a few hours before the appointment. Student gets a cancellation link to use in case of the need to cancel.

It was almost a year ago that I first wrote about the free service YouCanBook.Me, and I did a quick follow-up a month later. Since then YouCanBook.Me has been redesigned with a lot of new features. It’s time for an update.

Recap: YouCanBook.Me allows others to schedule an appointment in my calendar. It accesses my Google Calendar, and then shows my free times to those who need to make an appointment. The visitor clicks on a time, fills out the form, and that appointment is automatically added to my Google Calendar. I get an email letting me know of the appointment and the appointment-maker gets an email. The appointment-maker also gets a reminder email a few hours before the appointment. Both of those emails contain a cancellation link. To cancel, the appointment-maker clicks the URL to go to a website where they then just click the cancel button. When canceled, the appointment is automatically removed from my Google Calendar.

To see what it’s like, you’re welcome to schedule an appointment with me using my fall quarter calendar. When you get the confirmation email, follow the cancellation link to cancel it.

YouCanBook.Me is fully customizable with an easy-to-use user interface. As you read through this post, it may feel like a lot to do. It really isn’t. YouCanBook.Me uses a lot of default settings that will work just fine. Make any changes you’d like to customize your YouCanBook.Me calendar. Below I show you the settings I use and explain why.

Before you get started, you’ll need a Google calendar account. I sync my Google calendar with Outlook; any changes I make to one are changed in the other.

After creating a YouCanBook.Me account, you’ll be prompted to create a new calendar. You can create as many calendars as you’d like. I have five: fall quarter, winter quarter, spring quarter, meet-and-greet, and a general calendar with no fixed start or end dates. My main calendars are my quarter calendars, so I’ll show you what the dashboard to my fall quarter calendar looks like.

Basic Tab

Once you create your new calendar, you’ll be taken to the basic tab on the dashboard. This tab lets you customize the look of the main calendar page, what’s picture in the image above.

[Note: Below each dashboard area YouCanBook.Me will display what this area will look like to the users of your calendar. I didn’t include them in this post to reduce clutter.]

[Another note: Any time you’re unsure what a particular area does, in YouCanBook.Me click the little red question mark next to it. A new window will pop up with more information.]

Next to calendar you can see that my Google Calendar named “Sue Frantz” is being used. My free and busy times will be pulled from that calendar, and any appointments YouCanBook.Me makes on my behalf will be added to that calendar.

For subdomain, you can change that to anything you’d like. It will default to the first half of the email address that you used when you created your YouCanBook.Me account. Here I’ve changed mine to sfrantz-fall since it’s my fall quarter calendar. That is the URL I give my students: http://sfrantz-fall.youcanbook.me.

Enter the title you’d like to give your calendar. This will appear at the top of your calendar page.

Enter the text you’d like to appear above your calendar times.

Any changes you make are automatically saved. No need to worry about losing your settings.

Times Tab

Select your start and end times for each day. While my personal calendar shows that I’m free at 6am, my YouCanBook.Me calendar doesn’t start looking at my Google calendar until 9:30am.

Times are available every 15 minutes (9:30, 9:45, 10:00, 10:15, etc.). The minimum amount of time available for making an appointment is 15 minutes and the maximum is 60 minutes. This means that a student could select a 9:45am appointment time and then reserve 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes.

My calendar is set to display one week per page starting today (today plus the next 6 days). You can choose to display as many weeks or as many days as you’d like. And you can choose to start the calendar on any day of the week. For example, if you chose Sunday, then Sunday through this Saturday would be displayed, even if today were Wednesday.

If you have a set lunch time, you can block that time out here. Or you can leave these times blank, as I have done, and block out time in your Google calendar.

Advanced Tab

Minimum notice is how soon from now an appointment can be made. Mine is set at 12 hours. If a student is looking at my YouCanBook.Me calendar at 11pm, the earliest appointment the student can make is at 11am the next day. The 9:30am – 10:45am slots will be unavailable.

While I have the time zone set to my own time zone, YouCanBook.Me will use the time zone set on the appointment-maker’s computer. YouCanBook.Me knows that my calendar starts at 9:30am PT. If someone who is on central time accesses the calendar, the times will change so that the earliest time would be 11:30 CT. I also let users change the time zone from their default. Let’s say that I have a student visiting family in Chicago. When the student calls up the calendar, the times will all show as central time. The student can change the time zone to pacific as he or she considers an appointment time upon returning to the pacific time zone.

The ‘jump to date’ button allows users to jump to a future date instead of using the arrow to click through weeks.

Since this is my fall quarter calendar, I have set the fixed start and end dates to correspond to the quarter.

Minutes clear before new and minutes clear after new are useful if you need time to get from one place to another. Since most appointments will be in my office, I don’t need time before or after an appointment. If I were a clinical psychologist seeing clients, for example, I would give myself 10 minutes ‘after new’ to write up my client notes.

‘Units per slot’ allows you to let more than one person schedule in a time slot. Let’s say that you had a computer lab with 5 computers and students could reserve time at those computers in advance. Set ‘units per slot’ to 5. Any given time will show as being free until 5 appointments have been made for that time.

Add a password if you’d like. Only those who have the password can make an appointment on your calendar.

Earlier I mentioned that I have a meet-and-greet calendar. This calendar has a fixed start date at the beginning of the quarter and a fixed end date three weeks later. The appointment slots are 5 minutes each. I haven’t done this yet, but I plan to invite students to visit me in my office for a quick chat. I’m thinking of offering 2 points extra credit (out of 400+ points available in the course) to those who accept the invitation. If a student uses this calendar to schedule an appointment from 9:30 to 9:35, slots 9:35 and 9:40 will remain open. On my fall quarter calendar where the minimum appointment time is 15 minutes, the 9:30 to 9:45 time slot will show as unavailable.

Booking Form

After students have selected an appointment time, say 9:30am on September 26th, they get this page.

The fields on this page are customizable using the booking form tab.

The appointment time will be set to the ‘start time’, that’s the time the student clicked to get to the booking form. In this case, 9:30am on September 26.

‘Your Name’, ‘Your Email’, and ‘Reason for Meeting’ are all required fields as denoted by the asterisk.

As you can see in the image above, this is the ‘Your Name’ field. It’s a ‘simple question’ where the text is just ‘Your Name’, and I’ve checked the box next to ‘this is a required field.’

For the ‘Your Email’ field, the question type is ’email address’. By using ’email address’ as the question type, YouCanBook.Me will use what the student enters here to email the confirmation and reminder emails.

For ‘Reason for Meeting’, the question type is ‘multi-line question’. That just gives the student a bigger box in which to write.

For ‘How long would you like to meet’, the question type is ‘booking duration.’ This question type refers back to the times tab where you entered information about the minimum booking (I said 15 minutes) and maximum booking (I said 60 minutes). When the question type is ‘booking duration’, the student will see a dropdown menu that gives four options: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes.

To add a new question, click ‘add a question’, choose the question type, and add the text you’d like the student to see.

Afterwards Tab

This is what the student sees after making the appointment.

The screen that appears simply says “Your meeting has been scheduled.” As you can see below, the messages tab is where that text goes.

The Google tab controls what is entered in your Google calendar.

I created an appointment using YouCanBook.Me for a half hour appointment on September 26th.

These settings…

… generated this entry in my Google calendar:

{CREATED} enters the time the appointment was made. {REF} is the unique reference number YouCanBook.Me assigned to this particular appointment. {IP} is the IP address of the computer that made the appointment. {FORMFIELDS} are the fields you asked the appointment-maker to complete when they made the appointment. In this case, I asked the student to enter their name, their email address, and the reason for meeting. Those get entered in the order in which they are listed on the booking form.

‘Add to Google’ is what gets entered in the main calendar line. When I look at my Google calendar, this is what I see.

YouCanBook.Me defaults to entering the email address here: ‘booked: {EMAIL}’. Having the person’s name here is more valuable to me than their email address. I replaced {EMAIL} with {2}. Why {2}? Let’s look at the booking form again.

The first field is the appointment time. The second field is name. I’m telling YouCanBook.Me to enter that second field next to ‘booked:’ for my Google calendar entry.

On the ’email to you’ tab, I checked the box to say that I want an email when a new appointment is made, and I include the email address I want the message sent to. If you want it sent to multiple email addresses, add as many as you’d like, separated by commas.

Use the ‘sms to you’ tab if you want a text message sent to your phone when a new appointment is made. I don’t use this since my minimum advanced notice is 12 hours and I’m getting messages via email.

The ’email to user’ tab is for sending a confirmation email to the appointment-maker.

 

Enter the subject line for the email, your name, the ‘from’ address (if the appointment-maker hits ‘reply’ in their email program, the email will go to this address), a logo URL (totally optional — I use my college’s logo), and then whatever text you’d like. {WHEN}, {FORMFIELDS} (what the student entered on the booking form when the appointment was made), and {CANCEL} option are all automatically entered here. I would advise not changing them. Feel free to add any text you’d like though. For example, I included ‘Where’ so students know where they are going.

The ‘sms to user’ tab allows YouCanBook.Me to send a confirmation text to the appointment-maker. To use this feature you need to ask students for their cell phone number on the booking form. You also need to have sms credits in your account. Each credit is 16 cents. Email is fine for me.

Cancellation Tab

In the confirmation and reminder emails appointment-makers get a URL to follow if they need to cancel. The URL takes them to a page that displays the following.

The content of this page is controlled by the cancellation tab. Add your own text to the box if you’d like. {START} enters the date and time of the appointment that’s to be canceled.

Reminders Tab

Before the appointment, the appointment-maker will receive a reminder email if you activate this option.

Check the box next to ’email reminder (for others)’. Set the time you want the email sent. Enter the subject line, your name, your email address, a logo URL if you’d like, and the text. {WHEN} and {CANCEL} are automatically included just like in the confirmation email.

Appearance Tab

Use this tab to customize the look of your YouCanBook.Me calendar.

Choose from one of the standard designs. Choose ‘format as’ ‘a stand-alone page’ if you intend to just point students to your YouCanBook.Me calendar. If you want to embed it in an existing page, say, inside your course management system, select ‘a component to embed on a bigger page’. Select the colours and fonts tabs to change the colors and fonts. Use the css tab if you want to create your own css template.

Conclusion

The YouCanBook.Me developers frequently add features. For example, at this writing, the teams and services tabs are new.

Let’s say that your department has four tutors for one of your courses. Each tutor could create a Google calendar for tutoring, each one sharing that calendar with you. Each tutor blocks off the times they are unavailable in their tutoring calendar. In YouCanBook.Me, under the team tab, enter the information for each tutor. You will have one YouCanBook.Me URL to give to students who are looking for a tutor. Each tutor’s name will appear. The student looking for tutoring can click on the name of the person they want, and then make an appointment on their calendar.

For services, if you had specific services that required specific times, this tab is a nice addition. Let’s say I added ‘advising’ and ‘test review’. I could designate advising as a 30 minute appointment and test review as a 15 minute appointment. The YouCanBook.Me URL would take students to a page where they’d choose from the services offered, in this case advising or test review. Instead of choosing the length of the appointment themselves, YouCanBook.Me would automatically do it.

If you try out YouCanBook.Me, let me know how it works for you!

Jul 082011
 

[Update 12/15/2012 : Effective January 2013, appointment slots will no longer be an option.  Try YouCanBook.Me instead.]

Google Calendar now lets you let others schedule appointments in your calendar. With YouCanBook.Me, any open time can be scheduled. With Google Calendar’s new feature, you decide which times are open to scheduling.

In Google Calendar, click on an open time slot like you normally do to add a new event. Click on “Appointment slots”.

Call it what you’d like, say, “Office Hours”, then I selected “Offer as slots of 30 minutes.” Change the time to another amount if you’d like, such as 15 minutes. That’s it. Edit the details if you’d like. Add a location, say. This is where you get the URL to the appointment page that you will give to your students. Expand the amount of time you want to make open for appointments. After adding three time slots, this is what my calendar looks like.

Here’s the URL to my appointment calendar where you can only see the times when I’ve blocked off.

https://www.google.com/calendar/selfsched?sstoken=UUpoRTdRcUdUMlNqfGRlZmF1bHR8Y2NmZDA4ZjBlOTYxZTEzZDlhOWRhZjg3OGYyNmVhOTE

Note that those who wish to make an appointment this way will need to have a Google Calendar account.

Once the appointment is made, it’s added to both my calendar and the appointment-maker’s calendar. If they delete it from their calendar, it will also be deleted from my calendar, and the time slot will once again be available to future visitors.

May 092011
 

Here’s some news for the Google calendar users. You can now change the color of an individual event. Click the top of an existing event, then select the down arrow next to the event title. Choose the color you’d like. The top bar where the time is will remain the same color as your calendar, but the section that includes the name of the event will change color.

When you create a new event or click on ‘edit event details,’ you can change the event color there.

You can now mark those especially important meetings in red and the less important in grey. What you do with that information is up to you.

May 032011
 

My readers know that I’m a big fan of YouCanBook.Me (see this post). In fact YouCanBook.Me has some new functionality since I last wrote about it, which means I owe you another post on that tool. In short, YouCanBook.Me gives others the power to schedule themselves into your calendar. Some of you let me know that you don’t want to give students that kind of power. For you, Doodle has a new tool.

You may already be familiar with Doodle (see this post) because you’ve used it to get a bunch of people to agree on a time to meet or to vote on some decisions that need to be made.

Doodle just launched a new tool called MeetMe. Other people can see when you’re busy, and they can request a few times as possible meeting times. The key word here is “request.” With YouCanBook.Me, the person chooses the time, and that time is booked in your calendar. With MeetMe, the person requests one or more possible times, and you make the final decision on whether or not you will meet, and, if so, when.

I have a Doodle account that is linked to my Google calendar, so when you visit my Doodle MeetMe page, you see my busy times.

If you were logged into your Doodle account, you would be able to select your calendar, and it would appear next to mine so you could easily see when we were both free. Doodle appears happy to use most web-based calendars such as Google or Yahoo. It looks like you can also use Microsoft Exchange. (If your institution uses Outlook, you’re probably using Exchange.)

Click on the times you’d like to propose. Those appear in blue. Change the length of time by grabbing the small double bars at the bottom of the meeting time and moving them up or down. When you’re satisfied with your choices, click ‘create meeting request.’

If the person who is making the request is logged in to Doodle, it will ask the person if they’d like to have those times blocked off in their own calendar. Handy if you’d like to keep those times blocked off while you wait for the person you’re inviting, in this case, me, to decide.

After the request is made, the person making the request gets an email with a link to follow if they decide they’d like to make changes to the requested times.

As the invited person I get an email asking me to respond to the meeting request by following the link in the email. When I follow the link, I log into Doodle and see the options on my calendar.

When I mouse over one of the requested times, I get this pop-up.

When I click ‘OK,’ the date turns green, and the other requested times go grey. I can also request new dates, ignore the request (harsh!), or reject the proposed times altogether. If I pick a time, as I’ve done here, I can select which calendar, if I’m using more than one, I’d like the appointment added to. If I choose nothing, it’s added to my default calendar. Finally, I click ‘Confirm date’.

But I’m not done yet. On the next page I can type a personal message to be added to the Doodle-generated email if I’d like. In either case, I have to hit ‘send’ on this page to lock in the time and send the person who requested the time an email letting them know which time I chose.

That’s it. The accepted time has been added to my calendar. And the person making the request has been sent an email with the appointment information. If they were logged into their own Doodle account when they made the appointment, the chosen appointment has also been added to their calendar. If they don’t have a Doodle account or a digital calendar, they still have the email with the time and date so they can write it in their Day Planner.

If you decide to give this one a whirl, let me know how it works for you!

Feb 262011
 

I’ve been a big proponent of Google calendar as a personal calendar clearinghouse, and I’m also a fan of Doodle for finding a time when everyone can get together for a meeting. While you can enter all of your free times in by hand when creating your Doodle poll, you can also let Doodle pull in your Google calendar and identify the free times for you.

Go to Doodle.com. At the bottom of the page, click “Google Calendar.”

On the next page, click “Connect with Google.”

Doodle will ask you to log in. If you don’t already have a Doodle.com account (free), you’ll need to register for one.

Your Doodle.com settings page will appear. Click “Connect new Google account.”

Google will let you know that Doodle is asking for permission to access your calendar. Give it permission. Doodle will confirm that your Doodle account is connected to your Google account. That means that when you’re logged into Doodle and are scheduling a new event, Doodle will automatically access your Google calendar.

Go back to the main Doodle page and select “Schedule an Event” as you normally do. In step 1, you title your event and provide a description. In step 2, your Google calendar will load. Make sure the time zone is correct. Check which calendars you want to see. Here I’ve only checked my primary “Sue Frantz” calendar.

Now that you can easily see when you’re free, click on the times you want. Everything in blue is a time I’ve designated as a possibility for my meeting. You can see them in list view on the far left.

Navigate through the remaining steps as you normally would. That’s it.

Doodle does NOT change your Google calendar. All it is doing is bringing up Google calendar so you can see when you’re free and lets you choose times.

Share calendars

One more tip while I have you thinking about Doodle. If there are people with whom you frequently schedule meetings, you can all share your free/busy times with each other through Doodle.

Next to your email address in the top right corner of any Doodle page, click “Manage Account.” Then click “Share calendars.”

Put in the email address of the person you want to see your free/busy times and check the box(es) for the calendar(s) you wish to share. Important: The people you are sharing with must have a Doodle account; check with them to see which email address they use to log in to Doodle.

Of course is you are at an institution that uses Outlook, you already have built-in access to everyone’s free/busy times. If you’re working with people at different institutions on a long-term project, this kind of access could be a real time saver.

Happy Doodling with Google!

Dec 292010
 

There are two things on my computer I have open at all times: My email and my calendar. While I use the Outlook calendar, I sync it with Google Calendar so that any changes I make in one appear in the other. (How to sync Outlook and Google Calendar.)

There are a few advantages to using Google Calendar, such as.

  • It syncs easily with my Android phone.
  • I can use YouCanBook.Me so my students can create appointments with me on their own. (See this blog post.)
  • I can see all of my scheduled FollowUp.cc reminders. (See this blog post.)
  • I can share a calendar with my partner. All of our social engagements and travel go there.

Here’s another advantage. I can create a calendar for my class schedule that way I don’t have to dig out my syllabus to see what’s coming up. I can just look at my calendar. By creating it as a separate calendar, I can turn it off when I’m not using it so it doesn’t clutter up my day-to-day calendar. I can also create is as a publicly-accessible calendar so my students can also access it in their own calendars without having to dig out their syllabus.

And that’s what I did for my class. After creating the calendar, I put all of my course dates into a CSV file which I created in Excel, and uploaded to the calendar.

On the left you can see my calendars.

“Sue Frantz” is my personal calendar that I sync with Outlook. To the right you can see my “Sue Frantz” calendar items are displayed in blue.

“Psych 100” is the public calendar I created for my course. The “Psych 100” calendar items are in blue-green. (The colors are customizable.)

The “Tasks” calendar is shut off.

“Verla & Sue” is the calendar I share with my partner.

Other calendars:

“FollowUp.cc” displays my FollowUp.cc reminders.

“Weather” gives me the weather forecast for the next few days.

Create a Google Calendar

Click the “Add” link to generate this page. Put in your calendar name (I called mine Psych 100). Include a description and location if you’d like.

Crucially important: Select your time zone. When we import all of your calendar data from the CSV file, if you haven’t selected a time zone, all of your times will be off by 5 hours or so.

Check the box next to “Make this calendar public.” Or, if you’d rather just share it with the students in your class, set the permissions to “See all event details” then copy and paste all of your students’ email addresses at once. (It doesn’t much matter to me if the greater internet public knows on what date I’m covering chapter 7. Besides, my syllabus is on my website.)

When you click “Create Calendar” at the top of the page, the page will disappear, and you’ll be returned to your main calendar page. If your new calendar isn’t there, count to five, and reload the page.

Now, just because you have a calendar doesn’t mean that anyone knows about it. Even the people you’ve given permission. Let’s do some tweaking and then get the URL to give to our students.

Click the down arrow next to your calendar. Select the color you’d like. Appearance is important.


Now select “Calendar settings.” On that page, scroll to the bottom to see this.

If you want to embed your calendar on a webpage, copy the html code, edit your webpage in html view, and paste the code where you want it the calendar to appear. A word of warning: Some browsers don’t allow iframes, so any visitor with such a restriction won’t see your calendar.

Alternatively, provide a link to your calendar. In the “Calendar Address” section, click “HTML” to get the URL.

This is what the public calendar looks like.

Clicking any of the events calls up more information about the event.

At the very bottom right of the calendar is this icon. For your students who have Google Calendar, clicking will add your class calendar to their calendars.

Create the CSV file

While you could click on each date and time to enter your calendar events, it would be tedious. Instead, we’re going to create a CSV file to upload to the calendar. It’s still a little work, but less tedious.

Open Excel (or any other spreadsheet program). Save the file as CSV file so the file has a .csv extension. For example, I opened Excel, went to “Save As,” typed in Psych100 and selected CSV from the dropdown menu.

Google Calendar allows no room for error. The calendar headings have to be written like this. The only two that you absolutely need though are Subject and Start Date. (To use as a template, download this CSV file here.)

Uploading the CSV file

When your file is ready, go to Google Calendar, and click the “Add” link under “Other Calendars.” Select “Import Calendar.”

Before you do anything else, change the calendar to the one you want to import to, in this case I was importing to the Psych 100 calendar. You do not want to accidentally upload to the wrong calendar. If you do, there is no way to reverse the import. You will have to delete each entry manually.

Browse to the location of the CSV file you’d like to import. Then click “Import.”


Tips

Make sure the time and date cells in the CSV file are formatted as time and date. (Right click on the cell, select “Format Cells,” then click on time or date and choose the appropriate formatting. In the template, the time is set to a ‘custom’ setting. That’s okay.)

If you upload the file and the events don’t display as you’d like, you have to remove them from Google calendar manually, one at a time. You may want to only put a couple events in your CSV file to start. If they show up okay, go ahead and enter the rest.

I chose to keep my Subject entries short. Those are what will appear on the calendar when you’re looking at the week or day view. If they’re long, they’ll be truncated.

If you delete events and then try to upload them again without making any changes to the entry, you’ll get an error saying that Google Calendar wasn’t able to upload a certain number of events. The easiest solution is to make a small change to each event in the Subject column. On the subsequent upload, Google Reader will interpret it as a brand new event and upload it.

If your course pretty much stays the same from term to term, for the next term all you need to do is change the dates.

Google Calendar bonus tip

You can add icons to your events. Here are how the icons appear with my calendar. Yellow icons for dates when assignments are due; red icons for exams.

And here’s how they appear when you follow the public link to the calendar.

To get the icons, from your Google Calendar page, look in the top right corner. Click on the green beaker to go to Google Labs.

Enable the one called “event flair.” Go back to your calendar. When you click on an event, the icon palette appears on the right. Select the appropriate icon. Remember, in public calendars, everyone who accesses the calendar can see the icon.

While you’re poking around in Google Labs for calendar gadgets, check out “year view,” “dim future repeating events,” “jump to date,” and “world clock.”

Conclusion

If you’ve read this entire post and don’t use Google Calendar yet. Consider it. It provides some nice flexibility. It certainly makes it easy to change the schedule at the term progresses. Of course you still need to let students know what the changes are, but you’ll know that everyone has the same information on their calendars.

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!

Oct 202010
 

UPDATE 9/5/2011 : Be sure to read an even more recent post on this tool.

UPDATE  12/2/2010: Be sure to read my more recent post on this tool.

It’s surprising how much of my email has to do with scheduling. Students or off-campus colleagues ask when they can meet with me in person or via a phone call. I ask when they’re available; they ask when I’m available. Five or six emails later we have a time. For my colleagues at my institution, they can just look at my Outlook calendar and suggest a time. Anyone else is stuck in the email spiral.

If you use Google Calendar, YouCanBook.Me solves this back and forth email exchange. (Since my work life exists inside of Outlook, I sync my Outlook calendar with my Google calendar so any changes made to one are reflected in the other. Click here to learn how to sync Outlook with Google Calendar.)

I have granted YouCanBook.Me access to my Google Calendar. They generated a fully-customizable webpage (http://sfrantz.youcanbook.me/) for me that looks like this.

Everything in green is an available time slot. Everything greyed out is already a booked time in Google Calendar (and, by extension, Outlook). When I add an appointment to my Outlook calendar, Outlook syncs with Google Calendar, and Google Calendar syncs with YouCanBook.Me. YouCanBook.Me then greys out the time covered by that new appointment.

Clicking on Monday, October 25th, 9:00am brings up this page. The person requesting an appointment just fills in their email address, name, the reason for the meeting, and the code that appears.

Clicking ‘confirm appointment’ seals the deal. YouCanBook.Me makes the change on my Google Calendar which syncs with my Outlook calendar, and I’m sent an email informing me of the appointment. The person requesting the appointment also gets a confirmation email with a link to use in case of the need to cancel. Clicking the link causes the appointment to disappear from my calendar. The requester also gets an appointment reminder 4 hours before the appointment complete with that same cancellation link.

The Dashboard

Let’s take a look at the dashboard for YouCanBook.Me. This is where you can customize YouCanBook.Me to look and act like you want it to look and act. Directly below the dashboard is a preview of what the page will look like. Any saved change to the settings generates a new preview. To save space in this blog, I’m not including the preview image in my screen captures.

On the ‘basic’ tab, I can change which of my Google Calendars are accessed, the title that appears at the top of the page, what URL I want to use (‘sfrantz.youcanbook.me’), a URL for a logo (notice my college’s logo in the top right corner of the schedule page), instructions for visitors, and how many people I want to be able to sign up for a given time slot (one is fine for me). On the right I can set the first time available, the last time available, the time slot length, days per page, and which days I’m available. Of course if I’m traveling or doing something else that makes me unavailable for an entire day, I would block out that day using Google Calendar or Outlook, and that day would show as unavailable in YouCanBook.Me.

See the little blue question marks in each of the dashboard screen shots? At YouCanBook.Me, click those to learn more about each area of the dashboard.


On the ‘advanced’ tab, I’ve set the minimum notice to 12 hours. That means that the earliest available appointment is 12 hours from now. (A visitor at 8am cannot schedule an appointment at 9am.) I set the time zone to Pacific Time since I’m on the west coast, but visitors can change the time zone to their location. For instance, if an east coast colleague would like to schedule a time to call me, s/he could change the time zone to Eastern Time and avoid doing the math.


The ‘booking form’ tab contains one of the most powerful features of YouCanBook.Me. Each line is a separate field on the booking form. Want more fields? Just add a line. Want the field to be required? Put an asterisk in front of it. You can even add checkboxes if you’d like. (In the dashboard, click the little blue question mark at the bottom right of the field to learn how.)


The ‘afterwards’ tab lets you determine what is displayed on the screen after someone has made their appointment, the email address where you want to be notified of new appointments, whether you want to send a confirmation email, and what it should say.

The ‘reminders’ tab lets me set an appointment reminder for me (none), and lets me send an appointment reminder for those who set appointments and determine when I’d like it sent (4 hours before the appointment time).

Finally, on the ‘appearance’ tab, customize the colors of your calendar. If you want to use your own cascading style sheets, you’re welcome to do so using the ‘css’ field.

Try it out, then leave a comment on how it works for you!

[UPDATE 11/24/2010 : Check out a newer post that offers some ways to customize YouCanBook.Me.]

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