It can be tiring sending emails back and forth with students or colleagues trying to find a mutually agreeable meeting time. When people ask me to let them know when I'm available for a meeting, the info I send them is often quickly out of date by the time they send the meeting invite. And though I have scheduled office hours for students, most student meetings occur outside of those set hours. I needed an easier way to plan meetings.
With the university's migration of all faculty and staff email to Exchange Online last spring, two tools are available now that solve my problems and allow me to more efficiently and effectively manage meetings: Microsoft Bookings and FindTime.
These tools are especially useful if you use Outlook at IU to manage your calendar (as I do), though they can be used even if you do not.
Create a self-service meeting sign up form using Microsoft Bookings
With Microsoft Bookings, you can create a self-service sign-up page where students or others can select time slots for meetings -- and when a meeting is made through Bookings, it is added automatically to your Outlook calendar. Unlike the Scheduler tool in Canvas, Bookings syncs with your Outlook calendar, so that times when you're busy won't be presented as options to those using the Bookings sign-up page.
In Bookings, you can specify certain times you want people to be able to book, and you can set the available durations of those meetings. You can also set it up with required lead time, preventing those using Bookings from setting up a last-minute appointment with you.
You might have used the Outlook Scheduling Assistant to see people's free/busy times when inviting other faculty and staff to meetings. But that only works for those who can use Exchange Online at IU (including faculty, staff and a few other groups). So, Bookings can be especially useful to provide a window into your availability for those who cannot use Exchange Online at IU, such as most students or those external to the university.
Bookings was made for businesses, so some of the settings might seem a little awkward in an academic environment when first setting up a booking calendar. Follow the instructions in this IU Knowledge Base article to learn more about Bookings and how it can be useful to faculty work at IU.
Send out meeting polls using Microsoft FindTime
We're all used to filling out meeting polls. Though some use third-party meeting polls, at IU, we now have an easy-to-use tool from Microsoft that integrates with our Outlook calendars—Microsoft FindTime.
It functions like other meeting poll services, but with some additional features because of its native integration with Outlook calendars: When you're choosing date/time options to present in the meeting poll, FindTime will suggest times when you and other IU Outlook calendar users are available.
To use FindTime, you will first need to install it as an Add-In. Follow these instructions from Microsoft on how to do so. You can add it to Outlook for the web or add it to Outlook on your desktop. If you do not see the ability to add Add-ins on the desktop apps on an IU-managed computer, it may be related to the way the system was set up. Contact your local IT Pro for more information.
You can create a new meeting poll from new email messages by clicking on the "New Meeting Poll" button when writing a message. You'll also see a "Reply with Meeting Poll" button when viewing messages, which will create a reply-all message with a link to a new meeting poll.
To access FindTime when using Outlook for the web, click on the three dots underneath the text formatting toolbar.
Setting up the poll is pretty intuitive, but referencing these instructions from Microsoft might help as you create your first meeting poll using FindTime. Once the poll is created, there will be a link in your email for recipients to click and vote for their preferred options.