A Faculty / Staff Online Calendar Divide?

Do you run your professional life through a shared online calendar?

July 23, 2014

3 questions for you:

1. Do you put all your meetings and obligations in an online calendar? (Such as Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar).

2. Do you make your calendar available to other people at your institution, either full details or free / busy?

3. Are you a member of the faculty or a member of the staff?

In my role as full-time educational technology person (staff) and part-time academic sociologists I’ve noticed an interesting divide.

From what I have observed, staff tend to organize their professional lives and daily schedule through an online calendar, and they tend to share that calendar. Faculty seem to be less likely to do either.

Does this observation hold for you and your institution?

My hypothesis is that faculty and staff both work differently, and have different expectations around time and autonomy.

As a staff member, I’ll I seem to do is have meetings. You?  

It's amazing how many meetings we seem to juggle during the week.  

Between meetings and e-mails I’m not sure how we get anything else done. (Actually, I do know - most staff people that I know work on projects early in the morning, at night, and on weekends).

Staff will use a shared online calendar because that is an enabling technology. We need to schedule meetings with colleagues, and they with us, so a shared online calendar is the only way to go.

Faculty have no shortage of meetings. Committee work is stupendously time consuming. Add in teaching, advising, meeting with teaching and research assistants, and meetings with colleagues and whole faculty days can also be spent in meetings.

So why does it seem that faculty are less likely to use a shared online calendar?

I think that part of the answer may come down to professional norms.  

Faculty have the benefit of owning their own time.  This autonomy is necessary, I believe, in order to meet the teaching, research, and service responsibilities that faculty juggle.  

I’m not saying that this level of autonomy is true for every faculty member, as this description may sound like an idealized version of the work life of a dwindling pool of tenured and tenure track full-time professors.  

What I would say is that every faculty member should have this level of autonomy, should be free to control her or his own time, and I hope that we all work towards that goal.

So again, my hypothesis is that faculty autonomy inhibits the adoption of online shared calendars.  

A further inhibitor may be that faculty necessarily accomplish so much of their work during non-regular hours.  Nights, weekends, early mornings, and week or month long stretches of focused work on research, course preparation or grading is when much of the work a faculty member is completed.  

The hours that faculty work each week may be prodigious (from my observations faculty work all the time), but these hours may not always correspond to a regular 8-to-5 weekly schedule.

The challenge when faculty and staff are not both utilizing and sharing an online calendar comes when meetings need to be scheduled.  

How often do you go back and forth on e-mail, trying to find a good time to meet, when these scheduling logistics would be made infinitely easier if everyone (faculty and staff alike) were on a shared online calendar?

How many times do you end up using a tool like doodle to find a day and time to get people together?

What do you think?  

How do professional norms, attitudes and responsibilities shape the academic use of shared online calendars?

Do we have a faculty / staff divide calendar divide?


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