Assigned vs. Flexible Appointment Hours
"Assigned" hours is our name for the traditional method of scheduling, where you will assign providers certain hours for the week/term, and they will work and be paid for those hours even if they aren't booked. In the "Assigned" case, a common flow is to ask providers to input their weekly availability into Penji at the start of a semester, viewing this in your admin panel (we recommend using the Provider Calendars export at Providers > Manage > Export Provider Calendars), selecting some subset of hours for each provider to create appropriate coverage, and then editing these hours directly. See Admins: Providers Setup (Tutors, Advisors, Coaches, etc.), under the header, "Collecting Provider Availability" for more information on this.
"Flexible" hours refers to giving providers autonomy in inputting their own schedules. Most centers combine this with our feature "Provider Maximum Hours Worked" setting in the admin panel. In this way, a provider can put in many hours of availability (say, 20+ hours) which creates widespread coverage for students, but once they hit their maximum of booked appointments for the week (say, 8 hours booked), they will be removed from the listing for future searched students. You can try flexible appointments, analyze the resulting schedule (as described above), and ask for small adjustments from certain providers to optimize coverage. This flexible model saves staff a lot of time, and you only pay providers for what they actually work, saving money. It is also popular with providers.
How providers set their hours is shown here: Providers: Setting Up & Editing Hours.
The vast majority of Penji programs stick with 1-on-1 appointments only and use Sections to manage groups; that said, in some cases using groups within the appointment mode makes more sense. Group appointments simply mean that more than one student can book the same time/course with a provider, and if they do they will all be lumped into a group. Once a course/time is reserved by the first student, only other students selecting the same course can book that slot and group up.
You can use "Create Session" to "force" a group together, even if you don't use group appointments as just described. See the "Admin-Scheduled Sessions" section within Admins: Appointments Flow.