Slack Channels of a College Professor

How I separate communication with my students and keep myself sane in the process.

Introduction

It’s been a little more than six months since I penned a post about how I use Slack in the classroom. Thanks to some link love from The Chronicle, that post received a good deal of traffic.

I wrote then that I would revisit Slack in future posts. I was still noodling with the tool and hadn’t quite nailed it yet. Beyond that, Slack adds features and new apps sprout up all of the time.

Against that backdrop, I decided to break down how I use (never utilize) different channels in Slack for my courses. Note that, unless specified, all channels here are public to students enrolled, not the world at large.

#announcements

This one is pretty obvious. When I want to do the following, I post a quick note here:

  • Update students on grading
  • Remind students that an assignment is due
  • Pass along general advice

#ask_the_professor

Students largely drive the content in this channel. Think of it as an analogue to Reddit’s AMA. Sometimes I’ll move students’ individual queries to this channel as long as they are not personal in nature.

#capstone_projects

I’ll post information related to my capstone projects here. I spend a great deal of time networking and discussing different endeavors for my students. Keeping these in one place keeps me sane. This semester alone, I’m indirectly supervising 32 teams and 25 different projects. A consolidated approach here just makes sense.

#data_in_the_news (or #tech_in_the_news)

A large part of my teaching philosophy hinges upon staying current.

This one varies based upon my analytics and system capstone classes. As a sponge, I’ll often read interesting articles online. These pieces typically touch upon subjects that we’ve already covered. News breaks so fast today and a large part of my teaching philosophy hinges upon staying current.

#find_a_team

Slack should not be a one-to-many application. Rather, students should engage with each other about topics important to them. At least early on, this typically involves finding a three- to seven-person teams for their capstone projects.

#general

If it doesn’t fit into one of the channels above and below, then I’ll toss it here.

#grading (private)

I invite my grading assistants to the Slack workspace early in the semester. Inasmuch they have taken my class(es) before, they are already familiar with Slack. Still, I won’t go back and forth with them via e-mail.

#honors (private)

Each semester, I work with a select number of students on individual and group honors projects. To this end, I’ll set up an honors channel specifically for them.

#jobs_and_internships

I’ll often hear about different professional opportunities. Why not pass them along? I’ll also post articles, videos, and tweets that contain valuable post-college advice.

Note that I encourage students to unsubscribe from this channel if they have already secured their next gigs. I remind them, though, that they’ll miss out on some of my other goodies.

#polls

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a fan of Slack polls—both real-time and asynchronous. They represent a great way to get students’ pulse on a specific issue.

#quick_links

I post my class schedules, group choices, and syllabi online. (Here is my colorful syllabi for my analytics capstone class.) Why not post them in a way that allows for quick, easy access?

#section_x

Sometimes I need to post information specific to one section. (I teach two sections of each capstone course.) For instance, if I have to mention something to my students in the 3:00 pm class, why burden those in the 4:30 pm one?

#tips_x

I’ll frequently post tips related to dataviz, technology, coding, website development, data cleansing, and other topics of interest to the students.

Simon Says: Embrace multiple Slack channels.

Perhaps you think that this is overkill. I don’t. Targeted communication is one of Slack’s greatest strengths.

I love Slack ability to separate messages based on topic. Students can read the material they want and ignore the rest. In other words, it’s the antithesis of e-mail.

Feedback

What say you?

philanimated

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