Slack for Online Programs
Recommended Practices for Instructors
There are many ways to make use of Slack in an online course or program, and students may encounter several different uses of this tool throughout their time in your program. Some popular uses of Slack at Penn include:
- Informal communication to build community among student cohorts
- Preferred method of contact to ask (non-confidential) course-related questions
- Group collaboration platform
- Method for instructors to communicate announcements to students
At the start of the term, we encourage you to communicate how you plan to use Slack in your course and what you will expect from students. For example:
- Is the use of Slack recommended, or required?
- Will students need to rely on Slack to receive important course-related information?
- How frequently should students be prepared to log on to or check Slack?
- Are there certain times or days when students should not expect a response from the instructor via Slack?
- What (if any) community guidelines are in place, in addition to Penn’s Code of Student Conduct?
Once a student has joined the course workspace, they will be able to subscribe to any public channels or private channels to which they have been individually invited. However, some channels, such as one in which you post course announcements, may be essential for all students to follow. We strongly recommend that you use the Coursebot tool to create default channels for any conversations that you want to ensure are available to all students.
Setting up default channels through Coursebot means that all users who join the workspace will be automatically subscribed to these channels, regardless of whether they join the workspace before or after the channel was created. This is the best way to ensure that the course-related information you post to Slack will reach all students. For a guide to creating default channels through Coursebot, please refer to the Getting Started page.
Whether you are using Slack for required or optional communication, we recommend the following practices to ensure that students receive responses to their messages in a timely manner:
- Make a plan at the start of the semester for who will monitor the workspace, and how frequently. This may be the instructor of record, a TA, or some combination. Remind all instructors and TAs to check Slack regularly for any direct messages they may have received.
- Set your notification preferences to alert you to direct messages, mentions, and other communications that require your involvement. Refer to the Slack FAQ page for instructions on how to customize your notifications and set Do Not Disturb hours.
- Maintain an active presence. Post announcements, course-related content, professional networking information, or other material that may benefit students in your program.
Be prepared for students to encounter technical questions as they adapt to using Slack in connection with Canvas. There are several ways you can connect students with the help they need:
- Create a default channel called #slack-help and direct students to post technical questions there. Make a plan for a member of your instructional or program team to subscribe to this channel and address any questions that arise.
- Setup questions? Direct students to the resources in their Online Program Orientation Canvas site. This site contains detailed instructions for students on how to set up their Penn Slack account and connect to their course workspace(s).
- Other questions? Direct students to our Slack FAQ guide. The answer may be there already; if it’s not, let us know and we can add it!
- Encourage students to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if their question cannot be answered by the resources above.
Have a question that’s not addressed there? Let us know so that we can answer your question and add it to this guide!
If you encounter a problem while using your Penn Slack account or course workspace, please contact email@example.com to receive technical support. If possible, consider attaching a screen shot of the issue so it can be addressed more efficiently.