Slack






Categories: Messaging
Availability: Browser, iOS, Android
Uses: Communication, Collaboration, Teamwork



What is it?
Slack is an online collaborative platform, a closed messaging service, for communication and team collaboration. It allows users to create an online space for group discussions and project management. Conversation topics can be organised into channels to increase clarity and productivity, files can be added and team members can be contacted directly using @mentions in a similar way to Twitter. In addition, the messages and files are searchable. And all of this helps to reduce the time spent communicating through email.



How can I use it?
Slack can be used as a less formal synchronous and/or asynchronous communication tool for teams or classes. When you create an account in Slack you are creating a team. Within this team you can subdivide users or topics/projects into various channels to focus discussions. Depending on how you want to use it, you may just have one team or you may prefer a team for each class or project for a more granular use of the channels. Slack lets you easily jump from one team to the other using its desktop application and you can customise the notifications you wish to receive for the various teams or channels. 

Slack facilitates various types of communication:

  • “one to one” conversations using direct messages which can be useful when asking a user, e.g. a teacher, a question;
  • “one to few” conversations using small channels that might be used for discussions by small groups working on a particular project;
  • “one to many” conversations using the general discussion channels which is useful for posting announcements that can be seen by all users.
In addition, Slack has a built in video conferencing tool (and also supports the use of Google+ Hangouts through its integrations) making it easier to facilitate live, synchronous discussions. 

Some use cases include:

  • it can be used by lecturers to communicate with students in various courses by creating teams or channels  for each class.
  • it can be used as an organisation and communication tool for group projects by creating different channels for projects.
  • peer learning can be facilitated with students uploading presentations to a channel or to the entire group for discussion and feedback.
  • students can also create their own Slack teams for group projects or study groups to help keep track of ideas, decisions and files.
To get started using Slack:

  • Go to https://slack.com/
  • Add your email address and click to Create New Team
  • From here, the @slackbot guides you through a short tutorial of the platform to get familiar with the main features
  • Invite others to your team by clicking “invite” and adding their email address
  • Click on the #general channel and add a comment to the channel (this will be viewable by all users in your Slack team
  • Choose another team member (or @slackbot the Slack helper)  by clicking on their name in the left panel and send them a direct message



Why should I use it?
Slack offers a more informal space for communication without limiting the potential for organisation and productivity. Team members can use Slack’s powerful search feature to quickly find files and information and also to see if they can find the answer to their question before posting.

Many users point to Slack’s similarities with Twitter,  but it is often seen as a more appealing tool for work or class discussions due to its level of privacy (only team members can see the discussions) and particularly for those who wish to keep their Twitter account separate from work.

Slack lets you use #channels to categorise your communications and @mentions to direct comments to specific people. You can even send direct messages to yourself to create to do lists and reminders. You can archive channels when a specific project or task is complete, helping to increase efficiency and clarity.

From an educational perspective, lecturers can have all of of their students communicating in the same space while working on different projects and there can also be a space for general discussions. Students can attach files or add links directly from their Google Drive or Dropbox accounts and lecturers can pin files or posts to channels, an assignment brief for example, so it can be easily found by the students.

Top Tip
A free Slack account allows for up to 5 integrations with other Apps. Slack offers a large range of these, which are arranged by category and are worth  browse. One useful example is the integration with Google+ Hangouts for video calls and the integration with Dropbox for file sharing.

Where can I find it?
Disclaimer:
Unless otherwise stated, all reviews and recommendations are solely those of the Department of Technology Enhanced Learning team and do not reflect the views or opinions of any organisation, including Cork Institute of Technology. The Department is not responsible for any inappropriate, offensive or illegal content viewed or accessed through the tools and products reviewed.