In the past we have been asked by a number of our tutors whether or not it was possible to use Moodle to set up appointments with students. When we upgraded to Moodle 2.4 it seemed like a good opportunity to get the plugin for the Moodle Scheduler installed, having heard good things about this activity, e.g. Gavin Henrick gave it 4/5 in his review of the Scheduler for Moodle 2. (Our Moodle site is hosted by ULCC, who installed this for us, but Henrick’s review is a good place to start if you are thinking about installing this on a Moodle instance yourself).
You can use the Scheduler to set up one-to-one appointments with your students, but it is also possible to set up group appointments if you have created groups on your course. You can decide whether to allow students to book one appointment in total, or one appointment at a time, which would allow for multiple appointments over a period of time (useful maybe if you want students to book before attending general office hours). You can also award a grade for an appointment, but if you’d prefer not to, can still leave feedback in the form of a comment, after the appointment has taken place.
Once the tutor has added the Scheduler activity to a course they can then add appointment slots. You can, for example, specify the days of the week and the times when you will be available between particular dates, and ask Moodle to divide these into slots for you. You can include a location, and ask Moodle to generate reminder emails to students before the appointment. Another useful feature is that if there are multiple tutors teaching a course you can set up appointments for the different tutors, and these can overlap if need be. As well as adding multiple slots, you can add single slots.
Once the appointment slots have been generated, then you can allow students to book themselves on to a slot of their choice. When they click on to the activity, they see a list of available slots, click into the appropriate radio button to make their choice and then save it. They can also change this appointment time later if there are still slots available.
When an appointment has been applied for, the teacher receives an email to tell them this, and they would also see the appointment appear on the Upcoming events block on the front page of the course (as would the student). The tutor can view a list of their own appointments by clicking on the My appointments tab on the Scheduler activity, or can export the list from the Exports tab:
You could also schedule students on to appointment slots yourself if you’d prefer to, or if some students have not bothered to sign themselves up. To do this, scroll down to the Schedule by student area, and click on Schedule next to the student’s name. You could, however, also send an Invitation or Reminder email asking them to choose their own slot first.
Once you have met with the student(s), you need to record their attendance at the appointment if you want to then leave a grade (if you have set this up in the Scheduler settings) and/or a comment. To do this, you would click on the Save seen option underneath the student name.
Next, to leave feedback, click on the student name. To leave a comment, click on the Comments tab. If you are grading the appointment, you can do this on the Appointments tab (you can only leave a grade after the appointment has taken place).
One niggle with the Scheduler if you are using the grading option is if you are using a scale to grade your appointments; as a tutor you can select the appropriate level of scale (e.g. refer, pass, merit etc. on our pass/refer scale) for each student from the dropdown list. However, when the student views the grade within the Scheduler activity, they would actually see a numeric value (e.g. between 1 and 5 if there are five levels in your scale). They can go to the gradebook to view the actual word/phrase from the scale, but it’s a bit annoying that it doesn’t display as this in the activity itself.
Apart from that, it looks like the Scheduler is going to work very well for us, and a number of tutors have already started setting up appointments for giving feedback to their students on end-of-term assessments.
There is documentation available on the Scheduler on Moodle.org. However, we have created a number of screencasts to help staff familiarise themselves with using it, and put them together in a YouTube playlist: