Over the last while, we have been looking at best practices when using Microsoft Apps and have looked at:
This week, we turn our attention to MS Bookings and some of the benefits this App can provide. Let’s get started!
What is MS Bookings?
MS Bookings is a tool for scheduling meetings. It’s integrated with the Outlook Calendar. Initially it was for small businesses and companies to create and book appointments, i.e., client meetings or hairdresser appointments. However, it’s a really handy tool that integrates with all things Microsoft.
In education, it can be used for creating appointments both for individual or groups for:
- pastoral care / well being
- 1-2-1 supervisor meetings
- conference registration
- information sessions
- booking time slots for lab / clinical sessions
Can I set up appointments for 1-2-1 sessions?
How you set up your booking site is your choice. For example, sometimes PhD students need advisory sessions with their Supervisors. Bookings can be used to set up 15 – 30 minute slots at an appointed time. Students can book the slot which suits them best within time parameters. Bookings only shows available appointments. When a time slot is chosen, it links up to MS Teams and creates a meetings link and also adds the meeting to the Outlook Calendar.
When setting up MS Bookings for 1-2-1 appointments, you might consider some buffer time before and after a 1-2-1. This allows you to brief yourself on what the student wants to discuss and to make notes afterwards. This can be important if there are several 1-2-1 sessions. If there’s no buffer time (by buffer time, we mean 5-10 minutes between meetings), it doesn’t give you time to prepare.
Can I set up appointments for group sessions?
If you are delivering information sessions, training, workshops, etc., MS Bookings can be used to offer attendees the opportunity to sign up for a particular training / information session or workshop. This can be at a cost or free.
Anyone that uses the service will get a confirmation email of ‘signing up’ to whatever the session is and attendees have the power to cancel or reschedule appointments should a time not suit. This is automatically dealt with in the system and you didn’t need to manually add/amend or cancel anything.
Can I cap the number of attendees in group sessions?
Should you decide to keep workshops or information sessions small in number, you can limit the number of attendees which can book onto available sessions. This helps with planning. Numbers may be kept small for reasons of:
- participation and engagement
- room sizes and room bookings
- to explore and discuss themes more richly (workshop / small group teaching, etc.)
- more personalized feedback to attendees
Can I set date ranges of when students can make appointments?
In education, appointments may be limited to office hours and Monday to Friday during term. Along with this, as academics, you have a teaching schedule. It might be you only have two hours per week to meet with students. MS Bookings allows you to set these parameters to make the most of your time and available appointments.
This can be changed as the year progresses. Teaching hours may differ per week and/or semester, or working patterns may change to allow for more/less time for appointments to be made.
Can Bookings be online appointments?
Meetings can be online via MS Teams. Each booked appointment creates a unique meeting link which is sent to your Outlook Calendar and to the attendee(s). Attendees can join online meetings via a web browser or the MS Teams app.
MS Bookings is also available in MS Teams as an app. This allows Bookings calendars to be created, staff to be assigned and the scheduling/management of new/existing appointments all within MS Teams. This will be more personal to the cohort of staff/students within that team.
Where can I put MS Bookings links?
Once you have your MS Bookings set up, copy the MS Bookings link. This can appear in a number of places but do consider that not all links are applicable to all courses:
- PhD 1-2-1 session links can be added to Canvas for the relevant module
- Training links can be added to websites, emails, etc.
- Information sessions / conference registration links can be emailed to relevant audiences
- Booking presentation slots
- The booking of lab / clinic / practical sessions
When supervising PhD students, you may be allocated 3 hours per week ‘contact time’. This doesn’t mean you’ll be teaching or guiding your students on a weekly basis as PhD projects are individual learning projects. No two PhD students may need the same guidance, hence the need for 1-2-1 supervisory sessions.
Those ‘3 hours weekly contacts’ might be 2.00pm-5.00pm every Monday. This is the perfect time to set up 1-2-1 meetings for that cohort of students. So the MS Bookings link in this instance will only appear in that PhD Canvas module. It’s very niche.
Whereas, training session availability and bookings links may appear on an external website. People who are interested in the training subject can book onto sessions / courses automatically. Attendees can be internal or external to the organisation.
When it comes to information sessions for students, this may be a half-way house between open links (to the outside world) and closed links (to only several cohorts of students). MS Bookings links may appear on one or two Canvas modules to the relevant students, or by other communications means (group email / Yammer / MS Team for specific purposes, etc.)
MS Bookings can be used in Canvas courses for students to book presentation slots for assessment purposes. This gives students more control on the sequence of presentations and their learning. Again, this link would only appear in the relevant Canvas module for those students doing presentations.
Similar to booking presentation time slots, links in MS Bookings for lab / clinical and practical sessions can be set up for a Canvas module and students within that program of study can book into the relevant sessions.
What happens if a student books an appointment?
Firstly, the student gets an available time slot to meet with you or attend the appointment / training, etc. This time slot will be within the parameters you set up in MS Bookings. An email is automatically sent to the student confirming meeting details. You get an email as well and the meeting is scheduled in your and their Outlook calendars. If the meeting is online, an MS Teams link is also created within the system.
These processes are all done behind the scenes and you didn’t have to check your calendar for an available time slot. MS Bookings only offers up available time slots around the parameters you set.
What happens if a student needs to cancel or reschedule an appointment?
The student can access the MS Bookings confirmation email with the original appointment details. There will be an option to reschedule or cancel the appointment. No matter which option is chosen, both you and the student will get an email to confirm the appointment is cancelled or rescheduled.
If appointments are rescheduled, new MS Team meeting links get created and shared with both you and the student for online meetings.
Benefits of using MS Bookings
There are a number of advantages for using MS Bookings:
- MS Bookings can be set to allow students to book 1-2-1 or group sessions within particular time parameters you (the academic) have defined
- It’s an automated booking process where attendees decide on available time slots to suit them
- Students don’t need to consult you or admin staff to find available time slots during office hours. MS Bookings allows for appointments to be selected 24/7 without human intervention
- Both you and the student get confirmation emails and calendar notifications
- Meeting links are generated for online meetings
- Time slots can be cancelled or rescheduled by you and/or the student with automatic notification
- MS Bookings save time and calendar negotiations
- For 1-2-1 sessions, MS Bookings can be set up to allow students to add information, i.e., why they would like to meet and what they would like to discuss
- Bookings set ups can be turned on/off. For example, if you offer 30 minute 1-2-1 sessions every Monday between 2.00pm and 4.00pm, this set up can be turned off over the summer months
- MS Bookings calendars can have ‘time off’ which can be set against particular set ups
- Appointments in your Outlook calendar are considered by MS Bookings, it won’t allow for calendar clashes
- MS Bookings can consult multiple calendars if you’re connected to more than one
Or course, there are some disadvantages also:
- It’s not 100% intuitive to set up
- Initial set up can be a bit time-consuming
- There’s lots of set up options which can be overwhelming
However, the only way to become familiar with a new interface is to interact with it. Set it up. Test it out. Refine parameters. Retest and give it a whirl! Below, you will find a link to a YouTube video to assist you setting up your MS Booking service.
In our next blog post, we will be looking at the benefits of Sway when it comes to creating online resources / presentations.
Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.
Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.