(Updated 19 Oct 2015 for Office 365).
One of the benefits to going to a liberal arts college is going straight to professors for help or advice. But outside of office hours, which should be posted on their website or in front of their office, how do you know when they are in? Other than teaching class, as faculty we spend a good chunk of our time going to various meetings, working in laboratories or libraries, and sometimes eating lunch.
One way to find out when faculty are available for individual meetings is to search through their schedule; many universities and colleges (like Davidson) now require their faculty to keep their Outlook calendar (or whatever office suite is used) up to date. The following instructions are specific to Davidson, but this functionality in Outlook is available to many others.
You do not need Outlook set up on your computer; as Davidson students (as on many other campuses), you can access Outlook through your web browser. Here are step-by-step instructions for using Outlook to stalk your professors. (If you don’t feel like reading the instructions, you can skip to the video below).
- Go to your Outlook account, which at Davidson is
“http://webmail.davidson.edu”http://office365.davidson.edu and sign in.
- Once you are logged on, you will see the Office 365 web app. Click on Calendar.
- Once you’ve clicked on Calendar, you will see your own calendar (which is probably empty, unless you use Outlook calendar to organize yourself). You need to get to the scheduling assistant, so that you can see when people are busy and when they are free. To get there, click “new” and then click on “scheduling assistant” on the right side of the page.
- In the new window, you will be taken to the appointment tab. Click on the tab that says “scheduling assistant” and you will be taken to a screen that shows your own availability. In the attendees column on the left, type the userid of your faculty member (for example, erlozada for me) or type the surname (i.e., Lozada), and the directory should find the right person. Once they are added to the list, you can see when they are busy and when they are free. In the example below, the first set of blue boxes indicate when I am busy (it will not tell you what I am doing or where I will be because of privacy issues). The next set of boxes in the column are for when Prof. Bowles is free or busy. The blank white spaces indicate when we are both free (during business hours, 8am-5pm.
- Once you know when your faculty member is free, you can either request the time by Outlook by selecting the start and end time at the top of the window (the pull-down menus that say “start” and “end”) and sending a meeting request or just note the time and date that is free and email the professor about meeting at that time. Double-check that you are on Eastern Standard Time. I’ve noticed some students have requested times when they think I am free based on Pacific Standard Time (which I believe is the default setting for Office). You can check this by clicking on settings (the gear), options, General, and then checking “Region and time zone.”
This is the best way to pin down a time for an individual meeting with a professor. It’s much easier for your faculty member to schedule something like this, instead of sending two or three emails back and forth listing possible times to meet.
Office hours are also good times to meet, but that’s first-come, first-serve. With a scheduled appointment, you won’t have to wait.