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The digital communication platform gives students more ways to interact with instructors and one another and can breathe life into the online classroom, Kathleen Kole de Peralta and Sarah Robey write. Whatever type of classroom you find yourself in this fall, digital tools are increasingly important to our teaching repertoire. For those of us looking to break through the limitations of learning management systems such as Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas without reinventing the wheel, Slack is an intuitive, flexible platform that allowed us to create more effective learning spaces.

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Slack is still fairly new to us. While our appreciation for Slack did not develop overnight, after experimenting in our in-person, distance-learning and online classrooms, we found a lot to love. What is Slack? Within your team hub, members can participate in channels like chat rooms dedicated to specific conversationsthre sidebars to main discussion and direct messages. Slack has app platforms for mobile and computer devices and offers a variety of notification settings to control how often you hear from your team.

It also integrates well into our existing digital toolbox, with plug-ins for file-sharing sites and video conferencing. First, embrace informality!

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They have questions, but the formality of creates a barrier, deterring students from reaching out. And whether students know it or not, faculty members often judge students for violating unwritten rules about correspondence, including salutations, deference and grammar. Slack cuts through the red tape and opens a judgment-free line of communication.

Slack also eliminates redundant s on classwide issues such as broken links, confusing directions or clarification. There is also room to share your personality and embrace the sillier side of the internet such as GIFs, emoji and even musical clips. We live in an age where digital communication goes beyond the written word by embracing visual and audio cues, so why not employ these in the classroom? For us, the Slack app functions better on wireless devices than that of our LMS. Increasingly, students use tablets and smartphones to complete course work, and although the apps for Moodle, Blackboard and Canvas have come a long way in recent years, they cannot yet fully replicate their browser-based platforms.

As instructors, we appreciate its flexibility and user-friendliness. Second, Slack enhances your traditional teaching style. Setting up a live classroom channel for lectures, discussions and other activities is a valuable resource.

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Managing a live channel during class takes practice on the part of the instructor, but incorporating periodic check-ins allows us to be more responsive to students while adding needed pauses into our instructional flow. A classroom channel overcomes other hurdles, too. Voiced participation can be difficult for students for a variety of reasons, ranging from different learning styles to language barriers to anxiety. By providing another outlet for class participation, we can create a more inclusive classroom.

We have also used Slack for synchronous note taking. Using a notes channel, students can crowdsource class notes. This activity takes a variety of forms, but in our history classrooms it works for noting key terms, ideas and discussion questions. Here, too, is another opportunity for students to bolster their participation grade without speaking up.

4 reasons slack will change how you teach

Instructors can offer participation points for organizing or moderating weekly note sets. No matter how it is used, a notes channel pushes students to rely on their learning community for support, rather than depending on the instructor.

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In a live class with group projects, Slack is a natural workspace. We used a Slack hub as the primary communication medium for a graduate-level digital humanities project.

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Slack created student agency; students made channels as needed to plan interviews, share audio files, set up meetings and preview content. In other words, almost every production stage went through Slack. Third, Slack breathes life back into the online classroom discussion. Our current tools for online communication are inherently limited.

In the online classroom, Slack provides a space for dialogue without assessment, objectives or expectations. Students can also tag you directly with a question using your ID or channel to address the entire group. Unlike Moodle, the moment a student posts a question or comment, you can receive a notification. Instructors are able to communicate observations and concerns in a way that more closely mimics a live classroom setting. Fourth, Slack allows for efficient communication between co-workers.

Annoyed by the slew of reply-all responses about lunch preferences at the August faculty meeting?

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Move the conversation to Slack and free your inbox from the inundation of irrelevant information. We were surprised to see our department eagerly adopt Slack as a co-worker space. With full-time faculty on the ground at two campuses, we need efficient modes of communication among one another as much as we need it between instructors and students. Junior faculty can pose questions and receive feedback quickly. Such use streamlines the informal mentoring of new hires and goes a long way toward building a department culture of open communication and support. Like most digital tools, Slack has privacy and user limitations.

Importantly, although Slack has plenty of great academic uses, it was deed for business communications, not FERPA compliance. As always, communication about sensitive student information, including grades and personal information, should take place on a FERPA-friendly platform.

You should also consider how well students will adapt to managing Slack in addition to the other communication platforms used at your institution. At this point, Slack is not available as an integrated widget in most learning management systems. Your students will need to monitor their Slack space in addition toLMS messages and any other means your institution uses to communicate with students.

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We recommend clarifying Slack expectations with students; Slack may be ideal for quick questions, in-class activities or collaborative projects, but coach your students about times when an or face-to-face meeting is more appropriate. Finally, in all likelihood, your campus IT specialists will not be able to support Slack if a student runs into technical difficulties. Be aware that you, as the instructor, will have to be the help desk in these situations. Instructors should be prepared to help students navigate the platform from time to time and may want to curate a collection of explanatory videos to familiarize students with the platform.

They thank Jessica Winston for feedback on an earlier draft. They were not compensated by Slack for this article.

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Kathleen Kole de Peralta and Sarah Robey. September 19, So, how will Slack change the way you teach? Slack Is the New First, embrace informality! Communication With Colleagues Fourth, Slack allows for efficient communication between co-workers. Other Things to Consider Like most digital tools, Slack has privacy and user limitations. Founding Director Alan Lightman is pictured on the center right.

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