While obtaining my Master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Design, I am currently taking an enlightening course of Online Teaching and Learning with Dr. James Hatten. Our current module is focused on analyzing a Learning Management System (LMS) which could be used to facilitate an online course; I am going to focus my information on Slack.
Slack is currently being used as a collaboration space for small to medium businesses or groups to manage a group’s productivity. Created in 2014, Slack is quickly taking hold with over “9 million weekly active users, 43 companies from the Fortune 100 list have paid Slack workspaces, and companies in over 100 countries” using this platform.
What is Slack? https://youtu.be/W8_tGC8pNvI
I professionally use this platform for a Solutions Lab group I am collaborating with to implement CS Standards into our district.
There are three main payment options. A free version, which is the plan I currently use with my SL group, a Standard plan, and a Plus plan. The interesting fact to notate is that the paid for version are per active user per month. There is also a Slack Enterprise Grid which connects several company slack groups together into one “Grid”. The pricing for this option is not readily available online.
Having used the free version myself, I find there are MANY features that would benefit a small collaborative group of educators and/or students. Within our SL group, we have the To-Do app and Google-Hangout integrated within our group for easy management of tasks needing to be completed, as well as scheduling if virtual calls. With the free version, however, the virtual calls are needing to be made within another browser tab, or app because Slack Free only support 1 to 1 video calls.
Viability for Teaching:
This could work as a viable desktop app, or website platform for facilitating discussions, uploading assignments and information about modules, and providing feedback to students. We current have nine active members and the thread of conversations are easy to follow and the channels help to manage the information being input into the group.
Important functions/Lacking functions:
If I were to use this platform for an online course the “Channels” (indicated as arrow #2 in the picture above) would be organized by the Modules, or weeks, the students will be receiving information regarding their learning tasks. Slack does have the capabilities for one-on-one direct messaging, or small to large group direct messages; this is beneficial for flexible groupings when working collaboratively to accomplish learning tasks. As indicated by arrow #1, the thread space is simplistic and organized by the most current posts being at the bottom, however, this is the location that the platform directs you to first. If you would like to see older posts you need to scroll up (this is opposite of most social media platforms, but has not appeared to interfere with the retrieving or sharing of information).
Within the threads of each channel the messages being posted have several options to which allows the reader to interact (as indicated by arrow #3). The first icon, an emoji with a plus sign, allows the reader to add an emoticon reaction. The second icon represented as a narration bubble, allows the reader to add a comment, or thread, based on the original post. To share a post to a specific person, another thread, or a copy of the link to the original post, the reader would click on the third right arrow icon. To prioritize a specific post, the reader could click the fourth icon, a star, to add the post to a “starred items” category for quick review.
As seen above, the “To-do” post has been starred and when the user clicks on the star icon next to the search bar, a side bar appears listing all of the “Starred Items”.
When posting in a channel’s thread the user is able to add “Text, or Code Snippet”, a “Post”, or a file from “Your Computer”, as well as several tagging options to specific group members, channels, or all channels, and various emoticon options.
As I have used the platform with the SL group, one feature I wished were available was to view the thread by only specific group members posts. There could be a drop down menu from the Channels side bar which indicated to show only (insert name here); for example, in the General thread if I wanted to view only Alicia’s posts and/or responses.
Another feature I think would be helpful for online course purposes would be some sort of graphic organizer capabilities to track student success on assignments (essentially an online grade-book). This could be easily adjusted by allowing an online grade-book app to be intergrated.
Ease of use:
I would give the ease of use an over all 3.5 out of 5 stars. Once the platform is explored/explained through a live or online demo, I find the capabilities easy to manage and the integration features extremely beneficial. One of the greatest capabilties is how compatible the Slack is with iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. All learners want to stay connected from anywhere at anytime, so this the app is a must have when using this platform.
Students of varying ages could use this platform, however, I could see some privacy issues occurring within students under the age of 13, as per district DSA and FERPA regulations. The administrator does have access to thread posts and the abilities to delete comments, if deemed irrelevant or inappropriate. However, the administrator does not have access to direct messages or the ability to turn direct messages off (to my knowledge). Students within our district do not have an “email” therefore without creating a DSA with Slack and linking this platform to Clever, our single sing-on (SSO) platform, there would not be an easy way to “Invite” the students to join our class on Slack, however, if the students were registered with a higher education facility, using the school-created email would be a viable option.
Slack has previous been compared with Microsoft Teams. Here is an infographic with the compared capabilities (from Valuewalk.com)