As I was digging through old posts, I would like to add my thoughts to the topic “setting up student discussions” 18 months ago. I am particularly going to recommend the website www.doodle.com for scheduling.
Scheduling an event and selecting a topic is very time consuming. In order to avoid going back and forth between people, IFers have come up with ideas such as to let students write down their available time slots and interested topics on pieces of papers, so that the organizer can combine them and make a decision. Many times, the organizer has to sacrifice a few people and make compromises. However, with doodle.com scheduling an event is much easier and more efficient. Participants’ demand can be maximized in this way. Here is how:
When you click into www.doodle.com you will see a blue button “schedule an event.” Once you click on that, you can put in the event title (such as “IF Boston August Discussion”) and tentative location for the discussion. You can also write a brief description about the discussions if you have not informed the participants yet. Entering your name and email address will be helpful here.
Once you click “next,” you will see a calendar, which allows you to put in potential days to organize this event. Usually including both weekdays and weekends will work the best. Too few options will end up with less mutually agreeable times and too many options will make people select less. With my past experience, 5-7 dates will be ideal.
Once you’ve select your dates, you can click “next.” You will be able to specify time slots for each date. Or you can simply enter time slots for the first date and click “copy and paste first row.” Make sure your time slots can potentially accommodate people who have to work during the day and also keep the meal time in mind. It is extremely important that the facilitator herself/himself can make it to all the time slots you’ve put in.
Once you are done, click “next” and select “basic” to “finish” and your event is now scheduled. All you need to do is copy and paste the link provided saying “Send this link to anyone you wish to invite” to the emails you will be sending out to the participants. It is always a good idea to fill out the survey first yourself to see if it works. I would recommend checking all the time slots (since you’ve only put time slots you are available on the list). This, in economics terms, is setting an “anchor.” Participants, therefore, will be more likely to enter more slots.
Here is an example what the participants will see: http://www.doodle.com/rgderxx7h45i6ni2 You can click on the same link to check participants’ responses or you will receive an email after each respondent has answered if you’ve entered your email previously.
I also provided a list of topics for the participants to choose using survey monkey (many of you are already using). Again, setting an anchor by selecting all works well based on my experience: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/X236V78
You will be surprised by how many people actually have access to the internet nowadays, especially the student body. The entire scheduling process probably will take you ten minutes and you will get the maximum out of it. Some phone communication is still needed before setting up the doodle as you will need to know around which days there might be people available for discussions.
I hope this can save some of your time and make your scheduling more efficient.