QR Codes and Google Appointment Slots for Office Hours

On our campus at Seton Hill U, all students are provided with a free iPad2.  They already started getting tablets last year, but what is new is that all students will now have a camera in addition to the gesture-driven tablet device.  I’ve been hoping to make good use of this ability to record video.  But after listening to an engaging talk with futurist Maria Andersen this summer, I was inspired to try to use QR codes in creative ways this semester as one way to make use of the iPad2 camera and encouraging students to be creative with the device..

Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but I already have begun.  First up:  a way for students to make appointments during my office hours by taking a snapshot of the QR code I just posted on my door.

QR Code for Office Hours

If a student comes to my office door and snaps this QR code into a scan app — like the free Scan app from QRCodeCity.com — they will be automatically taken to a special web calendar I set up using Google Appointment Slots so they can schedule a time to visit with me.

Google Appointment Slots are pretty neat in and of themselves, but require both the users (you and your client) to be on a gmail system (our campus just moved to one) or to be users of google calendar (our campus just ported the Exchange server over to shift us from Outlook/Entourage to google apps).  [NOTE: If you DON’T have google calendar or don’t want to use it, I found a free service that might offer a workaround for you called http://scheduleonce.com ]

The idea, in a nutshell, is that appointment slots allow the teacher to set up blocks of time when they are available for other people to sign up for appointments.  After you set up a block of empty time (with slots within that time block of 15 min or 30 min or 1 hour intervals), google gives you a link you can share with the public that only includes those time slots, which visitors can use to choose their favorite time to visit.  Then those blocks are reserved so others can’t take them.

I noticed right away that the “sharable link” that google appointment slots gives you to distribute and share with others is really ugly and super long.  So I headed over to my favorite URL shortening service — bit.ly — and was able to carve that long URL down to a nice little address that will be handy for including on syllabi, as well as on the door posting itself for those who don’t use a camera QR code scanning app.  Bit.ly even allowed me to customize the link so that it says something I can remember.

After I set up Google Appointment Slots, I realized just how powerful this could be for organizing class activities outside of the usual class period.  This could be particularly useful for mandatory office consultations in my writing classes, for instance, which — in order to accommodate so many visits — usually happen outside the normal spectrum of my office hours and are spread out across an entire week.  I like these slots, too, because it solves my lifelong hang up on never knowing whether its more fair to my students to block them off in my calendar as tentative or busy [I’ve always said tentative, in case someone needs me during those times (and now that I’m serving as a division chair, faculty often do — making me “busy” and often unavailable to passers-by — ergo my conundrum!].

In any case, the QR code looks geeky on my office door.  It will be interesting to see if students actually use the thing.

In the mean time, I’m reading up on various strategies for USING QR CODES IN EDUCATION (thanx for the inspiration, effectiveteacher).  I already have ideas for using them in syllabi and perhaps to provide “answer keys” for students to check their work — and as marginalia for students to “learn more” in handouts — and for on-screen projections during lectures for lecture notes– but what I’m really brainstorming about right now is not just how I can use them for me to deliver information in cheeky ways, but for students to use them to exchange and deliver their own creative work in handy and fun and clever ways.