Teaching Tech: Calendly

I’m going to start writing an occasional post here about a tool I’m using for my online teaching on the off-chance that someone might find it useful. This weekend I’m putting the finishing touches on the semester’s syllabi1. Most of my teaching for the foreseeable future2 will be online, and I’m still planning to hold student hours (the artist formerly known as “office hours”) in some form.

Last spring, after being exiled from campus, I actually ended up having more one-on-one interactions with my students than the rest of the year combined. One of the tools that helped me do that was Calendly, a service that allows anyone to offer bookable timeslots for sign-up.

In Calendly, I say when I’m available, how long the individual timeslots are, and it generates a link that I can send to my students to sign up for one-on-one meetings. This allows me to offer a lot more times than I ordinarily would be able to offer with in-person office hours, since I’m probably at my computer whether I’m at home or on campus during the day. Students with busy schedules have more options, and because they can also meet from home, there’s less friction in them getting the help they need.

A few other useful features: when offering your availability, you can also say how far in advance students need to sign up. I set this as narrowly as I can without allowing it to become a burden to always be at my computer. For me, that’s 2 hours ahead of time that I ask them to book. Second, you can put in an extra question that students have to answer when signing up, such as “What course are you enrolled in?” or “What would you like to discuss?”. I find that this is as much a benefit to them as it is to me; crafting a specific question might require reviewing materials, which might lead to independent discovery and learning.

The last feature I’ll discuss here is calendar integration. By connecting a Google or Exchange calendar (we use Exchange at WSU), Calendly can automatically put new events on your calendar, so they’ll show up in a place I’m probably already looking at regularly.

Calendly is, like seemingly everything else useful, free to start with paid upgrades for more features. I have considered the $72/yr.3upgrade to Premium—the middle tier—for Zoom integration, cancelation policies, text message reminders, etc.—but the free tier has worked well so far. And if I’m going to spend $72 on a calendar service, I would seriously consider Doodle Pro, the upgraded version of the calendar polling service, which I already use. Doodle Pro includes a “Bookable Calendar” feature which is very similar to Calendly.

  1. To be fair, it’s also the first touches in some instances.
  2. “Foreseeable future” meaning about seven or eight minutes from now.
  3. $72 includes the 25% education discount.