Home > audience-is-IT-staff, documentation, e-infrastructure, service-is-library > LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: Project summary

LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: Project summary

When I came to the LRC, we had bookable resources

·         Some old, and ever increasing, bookable by teachers

·         A large set of new, bookable by film studies

·         Some used by staff and students, to build assistant and tutor schedules, or rather services that which other users can book also

We had lost track of some of the old resources (they are still missing). I did not want the same to happen with the new resources

The room scheduling was done manually by clerical labor also. There were conflicts, and lack of agility. It resulted in the LRC being booked for multiple classes meeting there for every class session, which actually never even showed up for a single meeting. It is unclear how many actual class uses of the LRC were prevented by this.

The service schedules (student workers not showing up for work for a variety of reasons) were much more unstable than our tools (email, printouts of calendars posted in the LRC, a manually edited Joomla calendar) needed to keep up with. Often students came to not find who they expected.   

When the library discontinued their service of film studies equipment circulation, they only gave us the  items to manage, but not their infrastructure, in terms of librarians and circulation software.

Language resource centers tend to be short of resources. They are often Pseudo-libraries for foreign language learning materials, with no professional infrastructure and staff. They can not afford commercial professional library software. Instead of getting standard library software (and staff), the LRC had a custom film collection online library database created. I have seen many language center software project done by a grad students in my 15 years in the field fail. This one, among other things, does not support foreign language characters, rather unfortunate for a foreign language film database. As it goes with these projects, the programmer student seems to now have left the university. The application, after investing a lot of time and resources initially creating and populating it, had fallen into disuse when I arrived. It has not been updated. Local staff on the ground had resorted to spreadsheets, on our best file server which is unfortunately not accessible to LRC student staff. Updates went out of synch, paper notes were passed around instead, items went missing, and still are.

I tried to improve a number of such processes with a new form of online spreadsheet which can be updated without locking by many users simultaneously, including the film library – which has a very limited circulation outside of the walls of the LRC – , and this is so hard that I am still working on it.

Back to solving our non-film-resources circulation problems: What could the LRC, given the formidable task to handle about a 100 bookable resources for 2 departments at a 25k university possibly achieve with local means, given the budget is spent of getting ever more resource gadgets, not on managing it, no clerical staff and possibly one student programmer? When I saw that the university is upgrading to MS-Exchange 2010 and live@edu, I remembered (most of my IT experience is from HE institutions, but I read a lot to remain able to to think outside the box) that not only an increasingly large number of small to large businesses (millions?) run this as their email server for about 15 years, but that MS-Exchange, rather than limiting itself to email,  is a real time communication and collaboration platform which has been (for over 10 years?) extended by pseudo-email-accounts, so called (equipment and room) resource mailboxes, which are very typically used by (100000s of?) businesses that can not afford a specialized circulation software for managing room and (portable) equipment bookings. There are over 6 million hits when you google for “Exchange resource mailboxes”. “I can haz…?!”-meme etc.

And: Microsoft is the commoditizer of computer technology. Commoditized technology = lower cost than other technology. No technology = highest cost overall. I found out that other departments at UNCC already have resource mailboxes in the global address list (in Outlook, when accessing the address book, look for the icon is a projection screen, I believe, a resource typically lugged around to meetings): equipment accounts

And the live@edu,  cloud extension of MS-Exchange for students, also supports meeting requests with resource mailboxes. So MS-Exchange resource mailboxes seemed like the best avenue to pursue for our needs, given that

          Microsoft has invested likely millions of programmer hours into this software and

          is bound to be around long enough to provide the necessary stability for users who do not constantly want to have to relearn,

          that the software is deeply integrated not only into the campus IT  infrastructure vi the active directory account system (which I have seen implemented at a prior university to reflect even the current course enrolment of a student) and the email everybody uses.

As far as the more detailed requirements for sharing, checkout, and circulation of resources are, I tried to gather these observing practices and discussing with staff and users and researched the Microsoft documentation how these could be supported:

          Users can update their appointments directly, viewing the live resource availability calendar, without the need to go through the bottleneck of a coordinating clerk reading out times of availability to them over the phone, or worse, email. E.G. Teachers can make 30 appointments for the all class meetings in a term as one (recurring). Teachers can cancel or adjust duration of their individual appointment from the NINERMAIL calendar and release valuable LRC space to other teachers, departments, tutor groups,  self access students, and IT staff (Being in close contact with my departments’ practices, this seems a better solution also to what my IT director asked me to introduce as policy: “do not allow teachers to book the LRC with less than a week notice so that IT can move in more liberally”. Book it when you are ready, release it when an IT emergency prevents you from working in the LRC ).

          The affected users can view appointments directly, without the need to go through the bottleneck of an HTML-posting or phone-answering clerk. Users that frequently need a resource would be best advised to subscribe to its calendar in NINERMAIL, like the tutor you will likely see during your terms of taking your language. NINERMAIL-challenged users can bookmark the link.

          Groups with specific privileges can be created (AD implementation)

o   (only) Teachers in LCS checkout equipment for classes and class preparation, with unlimited duration and no to small contention

o   (only) Fi                lm studies students check out varying arrays of  equipment for filming projects during class, with a time limit

o   etc

          Users can book resources in advance, from home or the classroom over the web – an optimum sharing of resources can be achieved when classes schedule filming projects

          Users that have checked something out can be tracked/verified  by their NINERMAIL account

          Limited resources with contenting users can be optimally scheduled and utilized with the scheduling assistant and the shared (bookmarkable in NINERMAIL) and public web calendars

          Resource mailbox automation (automatic responses to requests) prevent scheduling conflicts and (not implemented, waiting for groups in active directory) scheduling of resources by unauthorized users

          Users can view calendars of resources on the web, and, even easier to monitor for changes, subscribe to/bookmark their most useful calendars in NINERMAIL (e.g. the tutor for their language).

          There have been pile-ups of students seeking tutoring in the LRC because the status of the tutor cannot be seen other than by walking into the center. We could hack a tutor booking system by allowing a set number (as low as 1) of students to sign up for the tutor time slots on the resource calendar which is visible for students that come after them and have to choose a different timeslot.

-     there is less of a learning curve for end users and less of a training challenge for permanent staff managing temp staff since all members of the university community already have to use NINERMAIL (and are familiar with the email metaphor)

-     Administrators can generate reports to  assess resource utilization and strategize purr-chasing (to get back to the cheezburger meme…).

        

etc.

These requirements are in more detail are reflected in here, in the scripting syntax to create and configure these mailboxes to facilitate communicating with the IT staff:

lrc-calendars-powershell

Our preparation of the first term was complicated by the fact that NINERMAIL was indefinitely delayed since end of June, but then rolled out with a few days notice at term start when the old email servers could not handle the traffic.

·         We numbered equipment and set up new shelves for it so that student assistants would have enough overview to manage checkout/checkin independently.

·         I set up autoresponse messages that reflect policies which cannot be enforced for lack of group support in our active directory implementation

·         I set up the reception desk counter so that users and LRC assistants can collaborate searching and filling out the online forms on a dual screen computer

·         I wrote a program that can issue a checkin/checkout code which is entered by the LRC assistant on the dual screen computers at the lrc reception desk into the meeting request opened by the user that picks up an item. this code contains, encrypted, the user, computer, and time by whom/where/when the item was handed over physically.

·         I wrote documentation (see feed list below) and provided workshop and one-on-one training for  lrc assistant student staff, so that they can provide assistance and implicit training to teachers, students and tutors that come to the LRC.

·         I wrote an online spreadsheet that can aid in discovering resources, that can be checked out, their related policies (booking duration, authorized users), their specs (capacity of rooms, where applicable , links to manuals and components overview pages off equipment, for the completeness during checkout, checkin), and is linked to each resource’s calendar, as a stop gap, to give an overview and common entry point. Other access to the resources, when booking in the Scheduling Assistant or subscribed to a calendar in NINERMAIL, are much superior.

lrc-calendars-catalogue

During the last term we

·         Tried to cope with delegate messages to administrators not working by checking the calendars manually for bookings

·         Waited for the cloud users (students) to be enabled

·         Tried to manually update student workers and clients that had been put into wrong time zones

·         Refined the requirements with the users: some equipment had no calendars since it had been assumed it would be checked out either infrequently or in bundles. This turned out to be not at all correct.

·         Debugged errors in the configuration. For unknown reasons, first thought to be rooted in the cloud accounts being set up differently (not reflected in AD), then in the fact that film studies mailboxes where not set to autoaccept, users did not receive autoresponses (which were not configured right anyway), so thought they had booked a camera which was scheduled by somebody else. The attempts of the lrc assistants at the counter to rectify were limited to handing out different cameras than booked, without updating the camera number in the meeting request which made things even worse.

Created dashboards (“rooms+staffing”, “tutors”, and equipment sets like HD cameras), for LRC permanent staff based on the on-click Outlook Calendar grouping features (OWA mirrors these Outlook-created calendar groups, but does not allow creating them, does not support overlay calendars, only side-by-side, and can not display more than 5 calendars simultaneously):

 

·         Refined the training and documentation based on issues users encountered

·         Trained and documented. Documented and trained. Documented some more. And trained much more:

meeting-request-short-window-arrows 

During the next term, we would like to

·         The room scheduling can help with the reduction of rooms (coed436) and increased demand on the remaining room most suitable for group working (teachers using the new software; tutors, especially Hybrid Spanish). In the future, we want to carve out small group work spaces, and provide them with bookable mailboxes. We also want tutor staff to check the main classroom calendar so that they free up the room when an event is scheduled with which their group work would interfere. This could also benefit self-access students that would get distracted by classes. Since the NINERMAIL overlay mode is limiting, we hacked the display of an overlay calendar of most important public LRC calendars , based on a social network account uncc-LRC on windows live@edu (also in relation to the live@edu SkyDrive file storage) and the displays at the reception desk (main classroom projection screens under investigation)

·         Create extra calendars

·         Refine the checkin code: LRC assistants think they have to copy paste it and do it wrong; they just have to paste it, this is less error prone. The program has been rewritten to tell them every time LRC assistants generate a code they are told what to do with it.

ETC.

The changes requested are online in this spreadsheet. This does not yet reflect the reduction of requested new calendars.

lrc-calendars-reonfig-term2 

You can read more on my blog:  Thomas’ Work Space » ms-exchange

Today, ‎January ‎12, ‎2012, ‏‎27 minutes ago

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‎Thursday, ‎December ‎22, ‎2011, ‏‎6:22:02 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

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A traditional issue around the LRC is getting busy teachers to agree on a common workshop time. Ideally, the scheduling assistant would automate this by allowing you to see the common free time slot in their busy timelines. However, this requires that the university calendaring system has already been widely adopted. In the meantime, meeting […]clip_image002

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‎Tuesday, ‎October ‎18, ‎2011, ‏‎11:10:42 AM | plagwitzclip_image001

Appointments and Meeting requests default to “Show time as busy”. Before you change this, like so: . Note this “Gotcha”: “If you have already specified that this is an all day event, Save As is set automatically to Free “. consider this: a scheduling conflict can easily result, if people coming after you cannot see […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: How LRC staff can group calendars in Outlook 2010

‎Wednesday, ‎September ‎28, ‎2011, ‏‎4:01:04 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

You can save the currently loaded calendars as a preset or “group” from the ribbon in the calendar view of outlook 2010, like so: The group and its members will be added to your calendar tree, and you can load all members with one click, like so: Then you can create multiple presets which correspond […]clip_image002

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‎Wednesday, ‎September ‎28, ‎2011, ‏‎3:53:08 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

The LRC needs an overview aggregate calendar of its many rooms and services for clients in the entrance area. This should be always on display on the higher one of the reception area dual screen computers when screens are in extended mode From the calendar mailbox in OWA , these calendars can and have been […]clip_image002

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‎Friday, ‎September ‎23, ‎2011, ‏‎6:31:05 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

Do not send a meeting request to an item for a time when the item has a prior meeting request. The tab: scheduling assistant within the meeting request you edit is there to tell you when items have prior meeting requests. A “blocked” timeline denotes a prior meeting request: The item has already been booked […]clip_image002

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Calendar sharing with students that have only cloud accounts in live@edu requires them to be mail-enabled users in on-premise AD and only works if a users privileged to share shares with individuals through the GUI (in our circumstances: no groups, no PowerShell access). Workaround to share resource calendar information is: publish calendars to the internet. […]clip_image002

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Want a shorter version? Students, unless specifically TBA:invited, will encounter a permission problem when trying to view calendars like staff. Instead, students can use the scheduling assistant to view a basic version of the resource’s calendar. This works “out of the box”. Students can also view an advanced version of the resource’s calendars (one-time, or […]clip_image002

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Do the clouds change with the time zones you are in, or can the cloud also change your time zone? We are seeing strange inconsistencies of time zones in meeting requests with on-premise resource mailboxes from hosted student accounts… When students say they see the “correct” time in *their* calendar, they should verify their time […]clip_image002

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Our users can view the free/busy information of our Resource mailboxes in the Scheduling Assistant of their Meeting request – and also, though even less convenient and more limiting, in the GAL. This includes student accounts (hosted) being able to view resource mailboxes (on premise) free/busy – which seems the default, different from the solution […]clip_image002

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In Ninermail, in the tutor calendar for your language/LRCassistant calendar (you can filter the complete list here) do this: https://plagwitz.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/lrc-outlookexchange-2010-resource-calendaring-how-to-book-an-lrc-resource-by-making-a-meeting-request-in-owa/, for all your tutoring hours, in 30-minute increments (so that later you can flexibly cancel part or all of your time (for details see how to cancel a meeting request), if you have to, and students […]clip_image002

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‎Thursday, ‎September ‎01, ‎2011, ‏‎6:05:54 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

After booking an LRC resource, if the resource is a piece of physical equipment (versus a room or tutor hours), the teacher/student needs to check it out from the LRC student assistant in COED433. We are testing the following procedure: Check-out procedure when picking up On the secondary screen of the PC at the reception […]clip_image002

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‎Thursday, ‎September ‎01, ‎2011, ‏‎2:42:11 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

With the upgrade to Outlook 2011, MS-Exchange 2010, and live@edu, unfortunately, we had to revise our booking system over the summer. Please note: Teachers cannot not use calendars in the public folders of Outlook desktop anymore since ”Public folders are going away”. The earlier instruction has been updated accordingly and links now to here. Fortunately, […]clip_image002

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The new way of booking LRC rooms and equipment from Fall 2011: How?

‎Wednesday, ‎August ‎31, ‎2011, ‏‎11:23:22 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

Read here why. You can book LRC resources like rooms, equipment, even tutor hours: as faculty & staff: from [MS-Outlook“(pretty much) whatever version”]: on the desktop Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2011 (preferred option for faculty & staff) – if you are familiar with Outlook Desktop, it is the recommended tool or at http://mail.uncc.edu, […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: How to use the Scheduling Assistant in OWA

‎Wednesday, ‎August ‎31, ‎2011, ‏‎11:13:00 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

The scheduling assistant lets you find a common free time for all the (resource and human) participants of your meeting request. The scheduling assistant shows you start/end meeting time and free/busy information. The default shows only work hours: You can show more than work hours (useful for some resources): You may also be able to […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Calendaring: How to use the Global Address list/Address Book for LRC Resources in OWA

‎Wednesday, ‎August ‎31, ‎2011, ‏‎11:00:10 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

Open the GAL for Resources by clicking on “Resources”, like here : Use (1) default filtering, (2) “LRC” (3) search, to see all resources, including (4) equipment: use (1) room filtering, (2) “LRC” (3) search, to see only (4) resources that resemble “Rooms” (including “Offices” held): after (1) searching “LRC”, (2) pick the desired resource, […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: How to book an LRC resource by making a Meeting Request in OWA

‎Wednesday, ‎August ‎31, ‎2011, ‏‎10:42:09 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

A meeting request is – as you can see from its icon: – an email with calendar information. In OWA, start writing a (2) meeting request, like an email, from the (1) menu: ”new” (click not on “new” directly, but on the arrow next to “new” to unfold the menu: By default, the meeting will […]clip_image002

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Room and Equipment handling using MS-Exchange Resource Mailboxes: To train in Outlook Desktop or in OWA ?

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎8:46:38 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

While Outlook desktop is a more powerful calendaring tool than OWA (cf. viewing calendars in overlay mode), we decided to first focus on getting everybody to be functional with meeting requests in OWA, since faculty will want to use this system from their home computers where the outlook desktop configuration, if it exists at all […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Calendaring: What happens after the meeting request? Automated or manual responses and reminders

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎8:38:27 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

If you have been invited to a meeting, e.g. a co-taught class in the LRC, you will see in your inbox an email-like meeting request with pre-set answer options: Wait, there is more: Proposing: If you followed the instructions in TBA:request meeting, you should immediately get an acceptance response from the resource: If something went […]clip_image002

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Room and Equipment handling using MS-Exchange Resource Mailboxes: Configuration with OWA instead of PowerShell

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎6:17:17 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

As once can easily find documented for MS-Exchange 2007, if you are the owner of the mailbox, you can use the OWA-feature “open other mailbox”. As impersonated user for this mailbox , you can access the “Options / Settings”: for the “resource” scheduling for its “calendar” This is maybe not as much fun as PowerShell’s […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: LRC resources in the Global Address List (GAL)

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎5:55:16 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

Open the GAL for resources by clicking on “Resources” in a meeting request, like here: You will find an equivalent of the LRC bookable resources list in Outlook’s/O’WA’s Global Address List. In the GAL,you can filter by recipient type: the result, in outlook: for LRC resources, especially other than rooms, it is easier to filter […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: How to cancel meetings in OWA

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎5:53:19 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

You start out with a meeting request conversation like this, showing: a request send from account LRC help (example) an accepted meeting response from the resource (e.g. the room) account to cancel that meeting, you can go to your (!) calendar in OWA, select (click on) the meeting and choose “delete” either from the context […]clip_image002

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LRC Outlook/Exchange 2010 Resource Calendaring: How staff view resource “Calendars from your organization” in OWA

‎Tuesday, ‎August ‎30, ‎2011, ‏‎4:22:05 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

Note: Students that have not been specifically invited to share a calendar, must use (staff may also) this approach to view calendars, to avoid a permission problem . Staff can load resource calendars, but as somebody who books the resource (except where you still cannot book/schedule/sign up: Tutors), you normally neither need nor want to […]clip_image002

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Room and Equipment handling using MS-Exchange Resource Mailboxes: What the parameter AddNewRequestsTentatively means

‎Monday, ‎August ‎22, ‎2011, ‏‎9:27:06 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

It is an instruction to the calendarattendant, that seems to be conjured up by automateprocessing: autoupdate, but also, now together with, but still separate from, the resource booking assistant, by automateprocessing: autoaccept It is an instruction relating only to meeting requests, not to meetings. But it is not the calendarattendant, but rather the resource booking […]clip_image002

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Room and Equipment handling using MS-Exchange Resource Mailboxes: What the parameter AllowConflict means

‎Monday, ‎August ‎22, ‎2011, ‏‎9:15:52 PM | plagwitzclip_image001

 

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