Supplement your office hours with in-person or virtual appointments that students can book straight through Canvas using Appointment Groups.

Have you ever bemoaned the fact that students don’t come to your office hours? In this post, you’ll learn about a Canvas feature that can help you increase the amount of one-on-one time you get with your students. 

There are many reasons that students don’t attend office hours, such as not knowing what they are, not knowing how to make effective use of them, or being afraid of judgment or reprisal. One of the easiest to fix, though, is not knowing what will happen. 

For students, office hours can be a bit like going to the doctor without having an appointment. Maybe the doctor can see you, but maybe they’ll be with other patients or busy with other tasks. Students may wonder: Will the teacher be available? Will there be other students present? Will they be headed to the bathroom or down the hall chatting with a colleague? Will they be surprised by my presence? Will I need to knock on their door, or will they have it open? 

These may sound like minor concerns, but minor concerns are often critical to decision-making. For students with anxiety, these unknowns are stressful and can be enough to push them to not attend office hours. For first-generation students, international students, and non-traditional students who have less experience with office hours, these unknowns just serve to make the entire experience more baffling. 

Further, help-seeking is often stigmatized and can be associated with feelings of shame or inadequacy. Anything you can do to encourage help-seeking is likely to lead to more of those desired behaviors.

A Solution: Booking an Appointment with You 

As the doctor’s office example above illustrates, a lot of the reservations students have about office hours can be solved with the clarity of appointments (in-person or virtual). Appointments are a known quantity: you know when to show up, where to show up, and that you will get what you need during the appointment. 

While there are many third-party tools to help facilitate appointment booking, you can keep students in your Canvas course ecosystem by using Appointment Groups in the Calendar feature. 

Appointment Groups are blocks of available appointments that students can book. To schedule one or more Appointment Group, do the following: 

  • Open Calendar from the Canvas global navigation 
  • Click the + button in the top-right to create a new event 
  • In the box that pops up, select the Appointment Group tab 
Edit Event - Appointment Group. Includes fields for Name, Location, Claendar, Date, Time Range, Options, and Details

Give your Appointment Group a name and location. For Zoom appointments, I recommend providing the Zoom link both in the Location box and in the Details box at the bottom. Select your course from the Calendar area. If you wish, you can check the box to have students sign up in groups. 

On the right side, you will configure the available appointments, including dates and times. The “Divide into equal slots” area allows you to input time blocks, then click “Go” to automatically divide those blocks into actual appointment slots. 

The “Options” area lets you adjust availability of appointments. Personally, I prefer to limit each time slot to 1 student and leave the “Limit participants to attend” box unchecked. I do this with 15-minute appointments so that if a student feels they could use 30 or 45 minutes, they can book back-to-back slots. 

You are welcome to set up Appointment Groups across multiple days – I do this at the beginning of the semester to populate the entire semester. Once you have configured your Appointment Group, click Publish. It will show on your Calendar as gray blocks. If you don’t see these slots, make sure you have the right calendar selected from the right side. 

Calendar with time blocks for Student Appointments every 15 minutes

For students, booking an appointment is easy. You can direct them to Canvas guide, “How do I sign up for a Scheduler appointment in the Calendar?” They simply open the Calendar, click “Find Appointment,” select the course, click a desired time slot, and click “Reserve.”

Calendar with date picker, Find Appointment button
Student Appointment - Calendar name, Location, Details, Slots available, Comments, Reserve button

If you use this feature, make sure you encourage students to adjust their Canvas notification settings. Setting all “Scheduling” notifications to “Notify immediately” will ensure that you and your students don’t miss any important messages about an upcoming appointment. 

Scheduling - Student Appointment Signups, Appointment Signups, Appointment Cancellations, Appointment Availability, Calendar


The Appointment Groups feature in the Canvas Calendar can help you supplement your office hours and get more one-on-one time with your students. Configure Appointment Groups at the beginning of the semester, tell your students about them, and be on the lookout for notifications. 

If you decide to try this feature out, let us know how it goes! 

How do you encourage students to attend office hours or book appointments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Eva Grouling Snider

    Eva joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in 2021. Previously, she taught professional writing courses in the English Department, including graphic design and web development. She launched Jacket Copy Creative (now known as Compass Creative), an immersive learning course in which students helped market the English Department (and now the entire College of Sciences and Humanities). She also served as a director of advertising at a social media advertising agency in Muncie. Her interests include UDL, digital accessibility, and design. She’s often busy “hacking” Canvas to do cool things.