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This page includes suggestions for helping Slack run smoothly in your online course.

If you have questions about setup or troubleshooting, please visit our Getting Started and Slack FAQ pages or get in touch with us.

Slack for Online Programs

Recommended Practices for Instructors

There are many uses for Slack in an online course or program, and students may encounter multiple ways of engaging with this tool. Popular uses of Slack at Penn include:

  • Informal community-building among student cohorts
  • Preferred instructor contact method for (non-confidential) course-related questions
  • Group collaboration platform
  • Communicating announcements from instructors to students

At the start of the term, we encourage you to communicate your plan for 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 for important course-related information?
  • How frequently should students prepare 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?

After a student has joined the course workspace, they may choose to subscribe to any public channels or to private channels to which they have been individually invited. However, some channels may be essential for all students to follow, such as those used for course announcements. We strongly recommend that you use the Coursebot tool to create default channels for important course information.

Creating default channels through Coursebot means that all workspace users will be automatically subscribed to these channels, regardless of whether they join before or after the channel was created. This is the best way to ensure that course-related information posted in Slack will reach all students. For a guide to creating default channels through Coursebot, please refer to the Getting Started page.

Whether you use Slack for required or optional communication, the following practices can ensure that students receive responses in a timely manner:

  1. Plan with your instructional team around 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.
  2. Set notification preferences to alert you to direct messages, mentions, and other relevant communications. Refer to the Slack FAQ page for instructions on customizing your notifications and setting Do Not Disturb hours.
  3. Maintain an active presence. Post announcements, course-related content, professional networking information, or other material that may benefit students in your program.

Students may 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 for technical questions. Plan for a member of your instructional or program team to subscribe to this channel and address any questions.
  • Direct students with setup questions to the resources in their Online Program Orientation Canvas site. This site contains detailed instructions for students on setting up their Penn Slack account and connecting to course workspaces.
  • Be aware of international availability restrictions. Slack is banned or restricted by some foreign governments, including mainland China. Online students located in China may be able to continue using the mobile or desktop Slack app if it was downloaded before restrictions went into place on March 28, 2024, but the web browser version is blocked and the app versions can no longer be downloaded or updated.
  • Other questions? Direct students to our Slack FAQ guide. The answer may be there already; if not, let us know and we can add it.
  • Encourage students to reach out to if their question cannot be answered by the resources above.


Have a question that’s not addressed here? 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 for technical support. If possible, attach a screen shot of the issue so it can be addressed more efficiently.