Guest Post: How a Calendar Service Saved and an App Nearly Destroyed My Sanity

Our guest blogger is Gretchen McLaine, Associate Professor of Dance. Gretchen was a participant in the 2014 Summer FTI, and this post is a review of Gretchen’s experience integrating two new tools into her courses.


 

If you are like most faculty here at the college, you embrace any opportunity to make more efficient use of your time and simplify your work life. Being the lone full-time faculty member and director of a vibrant, new program, I appreciate any chance to make my job a bit more manageable. However, with so many options from which to choose, I turned to our Faculty Technology Institute last summer for finding ways to make my life easier.

One of my favorite time savers is YouCanBookMe. If you do not currently use this website, you should. YouCanBookMe is a free service where anyone with your URL can schedule an appointment with you. Not only does the site sync with your Google calendar, it only shows your availability, not any personal information about your appointments. You can also decide specific times of each day to make yourself available/unavailable. My URL is included on my syllabi as well as on my office door. All of my advising appointments are scheduled through this amazing, free service, which has stopped the endless hours of emailing back and forth with students as we try to coordinate schedules.

My experiences with the Grader application has almost cost me my sanity, and has certainly cost me a lot of wasted time. Available for iPad, this app is supposed to integrate with the College’s learning management system, otherwise known as OAKS. One of the advantages of its use is the ability to grade files submitted to OAKS dropbox folders without requiring Internet access. However, before you can grade offline, you must go through the app while online and download the contents of these folders, remembering to hit the download buttons on each folder and then hitting the sync icon. If you are unable to do this, then the app isn’t useful. And even if you grade while off-line, you must sync again whenever you regain Internet connectivity for those files to be returned to the students. For some reason and on multiple occasions, I have graded papers only to have lost them when I synced the folders. And while there have been some improvements in the stability of this app over the past year, I have also experienced this app freezing while grading (losing graded papers in the process) on multiple occasions. Maybe it is user error, but my experiences with this app have proven more frustrating than fruitful.