Best Practice

Using Slack to Engage Learners

Slack is a commercial product that seamlessly organises communications and encourages informal discussions beyond the use of email or more rigid discussion forums.

Themed discussion channels support informal groups and subjects by content and encourage free interaction. Our deployment of Slack responds to the challenge we face in classroom engagement when real engagement amongst students (and increasingly involving lecturers) happens across a variety of social media. We deployed Slack to extend seminar discussions, encourage easy sharing of ideas and announcements and to capture the broader course discussion being carried on throughout social media.

The feedback from this implementation as part of DH6019 Humanities and New Technologies has been overwhelmingly positive. Users choose their own forms of engagement with discussions and learning material in a familiar interface resembling Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, SnapChat amongst others.

Slack’s interface is modern and minimal making it very approachable and intuitive.

The key components in a Slack instance are:

  • Channels that allow for discussion round specific areas or within a particular module component. I have implemented channels for weekly themed discussion and other channels to more broadly support module wide administrative tasks.
  • User Management including registration, authentication and attachment to individual channels.
  • Inline Rich Media support so that conversations remain linear but enhanced with embedded media files. (see screenshot)

 

Slack Screenshot

Slack allows me as a lecturer to extend my seminar conversations to an online space allowing the conversation to continue beyond the lecture hall or classroom. As the interface is intuitive, it provides an informal and easy to use chat-like experience leveraging channels with a light level of organisation that doesn’t get in the way of the discussions themselves.

Slack provided a means to allow student/participants to interact directly and on their own terms and to spark, carry on and develop their own paths of discovery. As a result and after 4 months of use in DH6019 Humanities and New Technologies participants report a reinvigorated sense of engagement with their lecturer, the material and their learning community.

If you’d like to learn more about the use of Slack in DH6019 Humanities and New Technologies this semester please visit http://wp.me/p23F6C-zU for a fuller exploration. 

Related 

More detailed blog post by Shawn Day: Using Slack for Learner Engagement

Ideas Post: Get Chatting with Slack

Resources: Tips for Facilitating Online Discussions

Best Practice Post: Promote Active Learning 

Best Practice Post: Integrating Digital Literacies

Video Guides: How to Use Slack

Slack help page