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Using Google Calendar as the primary "events calendar" for a university...any pointers?

We're currently evaluating various options for event calendaring, and the result we keep arriving at is that we should look into using Google Calendar for such a purpose. It's available as part of our Google Apps for Higher Education package, and from what we've found so far, it appears like it is probably the most user-friendly both on the end-user side of things and on the back-end implementation/configuration side of things.

The question being...has anyone run into (or created) any "best practices" type documentation for how best to undertake such a project?

I did some rudimentary searching online, but didn't turn up anything all that meaningful. And, there are a few calendar threads in the forum here on UWebD that mention Google Calendar in one way or another, but they're mostly "in passing" comments rather than details about the hows/whys of implementation.

If anyone can provide me with more info about this sort of thing, that would be great.

Thanks,

Doug Thompson
dethomps@owu.edu
Manager of Web and Electronic Communications
Ohio Wesleyan University

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Hi Doug,

We just started using google calendar last month when we relaunched our site. I don't have any best practices to share, but I can say it's been really easy for our small office to manage. I couldn't find a good open source calendar system that had any better features. While I didn't want to get into bed with google, this seemed like a good move for us. Since it's free and we didn't have to invest a lot of time at start-up, I don't feel like there is anything lost if some day there was an integrated solution that our campus wanted to use. It would be easy to move on from google with not much lost. Make sense?

Also, our department assistant keeps the calendar up to date and likes the interface much better than updating HTML pages.

Here's a link to our calendar page.
http://www4.wittenberg.edu/calendar/

Bob Rafferty
rrafferty@wittenberg.edu
Director of New Media
Wittenberg University
Hi Bob, do you know if there is a way to add a link for more information (i.e. news release, buy tickets, web page) under the event details?
Hi Khristine, From what I know, there is not a way to do that, but I've not tried. I know that there is not a wysiwyg editor in the program.
The most coveted tool in Google Calendar is a WYSIWYG editor. The event description section does take HTML so yes you can add links - you just have to manually code the < a href >.

NOTE: if you EDIT or COPY an event event from one calendar to another the HTML you added to the original does NOT copy. This means you should copy the HTML in a txt file & store it, then save the event. If you have to go back later to edit the event you will have to re-code the all the details so its better to have the HTML stashed somewhere.

Work around: Google added Event options to GMail, so you could create the event in GMail to use the GMail editor. However, the note above applies - you will lose editing if you go in to edit that event from Calendar.
Doug,
I have been using Google Calendar since 2007 for my department calendars. I did the poster session at HEWEB08 on it (see showcase info here). I have drafted a few documents for users on my campus that I would be happy to share. Shoot me an email at carrie.saarinen@umassmed.edu and I will FWD them to you.

I use Google Calendar to manage events pouring in from 14 divisions within my dept - some divisions add/edit their own events (shared cal, with editor access) but most send in their info to me. Using separated calendars for each divisions makes it easy to manage all the info. Each Monday morning I turn on 'Agenda view' and pull a 'this week in Medicine' event list, choose the highlights, and shoot out a dept email blast with the must-attend lectures and seminars. It works. My dept chairs love it.

With the embed calendar feature, I use Google Calendar for dept website: http://umassmed.edu/medicine/grandrounds/events/index.aspx, http://www.umassmed.edu/medicine/residency/events.aspx, and include 'feeds' from selected calendars into Blackboard courses.
Carrie's presentation is the reason I took a good look at Google Calendar for our campus and ended up with a successful implementation that spans 15 calendars over several departments with about 10 calendar managers splitting duties across multiple calendars. I use a lot of iCal feeds to pull automatically updating events lists into department sites and the homepage. If we ever migrate to an enterprise calendaring system I'll use those same iCal feeds to automatically import events.
Aw, shucks, Shelley! That's awesome!

I did 4th quarter student orientation today and showed them their course Google Cal. Their eyes just light up and the heads start nodding when I ask if they have Google accounts and inform them that they can sync the course cal to their regular calendar. Quite a shift from the 'oh, no! not Blackboard!' shock and horror when I first walk into the training room. : )
Hi Carrie - great to hear.

We have set up Google Calendar and are interested in the approach you took to promote use of it by students. Stick, carrot or just be patient and hope / expect that students will just find it so useful that they embrace it?

You mentioned orientation presentations - what other tactics and resources do you use? Thanks
Tom-
I use the cal for my department - it's not the university's primary calendar, so bear that in mind. Students who use it do so because they have an interest in our events and/or are currently rotating through our program. Faculty and medical residents use it, too.

The university uses an old ColdFusion calendar for course schedules. Students can download their course calendar to .csv and import it into their calendar tool - or they can select individual events and receive individual invites (Outlook Meeting Requests). Not very good for 2010, but it was great in 1999!

I think that buy-in isn't really the right word; I think it sells itself. The real time updates is a beautiful thing - with the ColdFusion calendar they are supposed to check it every day to see if there has been a room change or something. With Google Cal they can set up alerts - an email or SMS message 10, 15 or 30 minutes before a lecture. If the calendar is up to date, the alert will be accurate. Their schedule comes to them, they don't have to go to it. As I said, I think it sells itself.

A downside is I have no way of knowing how many people are linked to my calendar. Adding event editors is one thing, but having a public calendar is another.

Oh, which is another point: the fact that it is a public calendar if shared at this level and embedded in a web page. Practice good FERPA adherence and do not publish any student specific info in the events, such as full names, birthdays, dorm room locations, etc.

Hope that helps.
We use Google Calendar for a college level site here: http://engineering.missouri.edu

It's fantastic because it outputs an RSS feed, which you can manipulate with simple php functions, or just embed as is. In our case, I output it as a unordered list and call it a day. If a department feels like they want the added functions of the views, I embed it.
Hold the phone! Charlie- how did you add the RSS feed to your web page? Do tell - in detail. That is awesome. I would love to do that. We use Ektron CMS and I don't have access to anything above the < body > tag so please tell me I can manage without adding script to to the < head > or the CSS.
See attached text file for the PHP. It just makes an unordered list.

I've seen AJAX solutions as well.

By manipulating what you call from the RSS feed by start time, max results, etc you now have everything in the correct order.

Using SimpleXMLElement it becomes really easy to pull variables out of an XML file, like an RSS feed.

Be sure to set the time zone — that's really important.

The other thing to consider is that if the script hangs (Google Calendar is unavailable for some reason) it's going to hold up the render of your page, so always use this near the bottom of your page, after the main content. I've rarely had that occur, but just a tip.

A real PHP rockstar could probably make a more interesting layout and hierarchy, but this has served us well, as simple as it is.
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