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Slack Workspace Guide for Instructors

An introductory guide to your role as a Slack workspace instructor admin at Lehigh University

This guide covers:

  1. Introduction to Slack and Lehigh Slack Enterprise
    1. What is Slack?
    2. Why would I want to use Slack in my course?
    3. Slack terminology
  2. Workspace Setup Checklist
  3. Slack Channels
    1. Public vs. private channels
    2. Channel ideas to implement in your course
  4. Communication Etiquette in Slack
  5. Learn More
    1. Managing your workday in Slack
    2. Slack Use-Case Ideas
    3. FAQs
    4. Product Tips & Tricks


Introduction to Slack and Lehigh Slack Enterprise

What is Slack?

Slack is a collaboration hub, where you and your students can work together to share, discuss, and engage with learning on a deeper level. Slack is a searchable platform for messaging, content sharing, and integrations with other software tools. 

Watch: What is Slack?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RJZMSsH7-g

Why would I want to use Slack in my course?

  • Interact with your students & build a more human connection online
  • Improve faculty-student engagement and interaction
  • Create a digital classroom community
  • Dramatically reduce email volume by communicating in open channels & building a shared searchable archive
  • Use a tool that is broadly adopted across public & private sector industries.
  • Easy to alert the class about assignments, schedule changes, or helpful tips
  • Work with community partners & industry collaborators – through shared channels or guest accounts



Slack terminology

Workspaces: Separate instances of Slack that are all centrally managed by Lehigh. Instructors will be the administrators of their own course workspaces. Taken altogether, our workspaces form our “Lehigh Slack Enterprise”.

Channels: Conversations in Slack happen in channels. You can create channels based on course topics, group projects, announcements, and more. Workspace members can join and leave channels as needed, though some may be mandatory.

Users: Every instructor, student, and staff member gets a single Slack account which can be used to join multiple workspaces and channels. With your single Slack account, you can post messages in channels, share files, and send direct messages to anyone else on Slack.


Workspace Setup Checklist

Request your Slack Workspace  For course workspaces, please use the course short name, including the term code, eg.  CHM095-060-FL20, or ACCT151-010-SP21

You can request a Workspace by logging into https://lehigh.enterprise.slack.com/ and submitting a request, or by contacting the help desk at https://www.lehigh.edu/help


Download the Slack desktop app for your computer.

Download the Slack mobile app for iOS or Android.


Update your profile information and upload a profile picture.


Review your workspace settings & permissions, and adjust as necessary. Please keep your workspace access set to: “Invite Only” or “Hidden” to keep your workspace private to students enrolled in your course.

Other key decisions:

  • Do you want to allow students to create private channels? 
  • Do you want to allow students to edit or delete their messages after they’ve sent?

Rename your #general channel to #[coursename]-announcements. Post and pin important content to the channel such as course outline, policies, response time expectations, office hours etc. 

Tip: To reduce noise, you can limit posting permissions in this channel to just you and your TAs.


Create and set your default channels that all students should join.

 At a minimum, create a #[coursename]-help channel in addition to #announcements.

Here are some additional channel ideas:

  • #course-discussion. Slack is a great medium for sharing resources & articles with students as you came across them in your own professional reading. Most internet links will unfurl a helpful preview, and you can use threads to keep discussions about a specific topic organized. A simple #discussion channel is a great place to get students engaged. Share your favorite books, your latest publication, or ask a question.
  • #office-hours: Your students want to communicate with you, but traditional office hours often don’t meet their needs. Email can create a barrier that prevents students from reaching out. Slack facilitates quick communication with fewer barriers, easy learning curve, and great mobile functionality.
  • #project-xyz: Does your course have a PBL or group project component? Create a private channel for each group and invite students. Each group can have its own channel to collaborate and share files with each other. Instructors can post resources for groups in their specific channels and periodically check in / offer assistance if needed. 
  • #lecture: Set up a live classroom channel to use during lectures or tutorials. Students can post clarifying questions or comments during the lesson, you can poll the class, or you can ask students to share their thoughts during break. Periodic check-ins over Slack can also add much-needed pauses into the instructional flow. Give it a try! Managing a live channel during class takes practice, but it can pay off in a more valuable and inclusive lesson for shy students.

    Please note: Students will not automatically be added to new channels created after they’ve joined the workspace, so set any default course-wide channels before the course starts.

Define each Channel Purpose and Channel Topic


Set up and manage apps on your workspace. Pre-approve integrations with other software tools you’ll be using in your course. 


Define and share your course policies and guidelines for using Slack. If possible, add this to your course syllabus. Post your guidelines in your #announcements channel before day 1 so everyone sees them. 


Example:

  • “For this course, important course announcements will be made via Slack announcement channel.”
  • “Post your questions, queries, feedback and anything course related via Slack but be aware that you are not supposed to provide solutions”
  • “Slack discussion forum is the best place to ask a question related to an assignment or a concept in the learning materials. Sometimes students are shy about posting questions, but please don't be; you will find many of your peers have the same questions.”
  • “Follow the channel naming conventions if you create new channels”
  • “I encourage you to introduce yourself to me and your peers via Slack if you like, and also invite you to post a picture of you on Slack, so everyone has a face to whom we are working with.”

Define your policy for responding to Direct Messages. If it is your policy not to respond to direct messages from students, please state this. Your policy should be included on your syllabus and Slack profile along with your email policies. We are not mandating that you respond to messages. We do ask that you have a policy that makes it clear to students what to expect from you. 

Example Policies:

  • “I am available for direct messages MW 2:00PM - 3:00PM and will respond only to messages sent during that time,”
  • “I will any direct messages sent to me at any time between 1:00PM and 2:00PM on Thursdays.”
  • “I do not reply to direct messages from students, please use email instead.”

Optional and Recommended

  • Consider putting your policy for direct messages on your faculty profile page.



Add your students & TAs/ graders to your workspace

Invite your students to your workspace by uploading their email addresses to Slack. Once students are invited, the workspace for your class should appear when they log on to the lehigh enterprise grid.  Students can log onto the grid at https://lehigh.enterprise.slack.com

Students should be provisioned into your workspace before the term begins. If any student cannot log into your workspace, please double check your workspace membership from this link.



Slack Channels

Public channels: Can be browsed and joined by anyone on the workspace. Public channels are denoted with a # in Slack. Slack is about open communication and collaboration, so public channels are preferred. To make it easy to find information, search will return results from all public channels on your workspace (even if you’re not a member of that channel). Workspace members can join and leave public channels at will. 

Private channels: Can only be viewed and joined if you’re invited by an existing member of the channel. Private channels are denoted with a lock icon 🔒in Slack. Search only return results from private channels you’re a member of – even if you’re an administrator. Private channels should be reserved for group projects and other topics that aren’t for the entire class’ eyes. 

Channel ideas:

Example Course: ENG 100

Suggested Purpose

#eng100-announcements

Course information, class-wide announcements (previously #general, renamed to #hsc100-announcements). You can lock this channel down so only administrators can post. 

#eng100-help

General question and answer channel where students can crowdsource assistance on course concepts.

#eng100-assignment-1

Channel for communication on course assignments 1, 2, 3, etc.

#eng100-office-hours

Office hour locations, guidelines, scheduling.

#eng100-discuss

General discussion on course material – great for sharing articles or posing questions to the class during lecture or tutorial.


Please note: Students will not automatically be added to new channels created after they’ve joined the workspace, so set any default course-wide channels before the course starts.

Communication etiquette in Slack


  • Encourage channel use. Create & share your key channels & channel naming guidelines at the beginning of the course – this will help students understand where to post, connect with the right people, and feel empowered to work efficiently in Slack. 


  • Post your Slack etiquette guidelines. Here’s an example you can use: 


*Behavioral etiquette*

*:mag_right: Search before posting*

Slack is intended to be our knowledge bank. Try to search Slack first before asking someone to find answers.

*:raising_hand:  Respond with your input, answer, or decision in a timely manner*

Within working hours, answer when fellow students mention you. If you are busy and cannot provide a full answer, that’s ok! Simply acknowledge the question or ask with :eyes: to indicate you’ve seen it and come back later. I will do the same.

*:hourglass_flowing_sand: Socialize your availability*

Use Do Not Disturb mode and turn on snooze notifications if you’re asleep or unavailable. Your classmates will receive a notification that you are busy. Edit your profile status to indicate if you’re away and for how long (e.g. Joe Smith :palm_tree: > 12/01). *_I will be updating my Status to reflect my availability as well. Please respect my dedicated research/lecture times._*

*:red_circle: Customize your notifications across Slack’s mobile app, desktop app, and web browser*

The recommended setting is to enable push notifications for mentions and direct messages across mobile and desktop.

:bulb:Pro tip: you can customize your notification down to channel by channel level - great for team work!

*Channel etiquette*

*:+1: Do use public channels, almost always*

As much as possible should take place in the public channels - to make it searchable, open, and accessible to others. Help each other find answers!

*:exclamation: Make sure there’s a reason to create private channels*

Rarely necessary, the only reason for making a private channel is if only select members should see confidential information. Your team channel may/ may not be private! Discuss among your teams during Week 1 on how you want to leverage Slack!



  • Encourage use of message threads. Threads create a “mini sidebar” conversation within a channel, and help to keep channels neat and tidy. 
  • Pin important information to channel. Pinning messages or files to a channel creates a quick and easy way to access important information. Pinned items are the same for everyone in the channel.
  • Define how you’re using emoji. Emoji are more than fun! Emoji reactions provide a lightweight way to communicate, and often eliminate the need for follow-up messages. Here are our favorites:





If you follow the steps in the setup checklist, this is what your channel should look like!




Learn More

Managing your Slack Messages

Here are the top tips for managing your day-to-day work & notifications (and not get overwhelmed):

  • Leave channels you no longer need to be in. If they're public, you can always re-join them later or find the content via search.
  • Mute channels you'd like to stay in, but are lower-priority. You'll still get a notification if someone mentions you specifically.
  • Tailor your sidebar via your personal settings. We recommend viewing only channels that you frequently visit or those that have regular activity.
  • Star channels that are high-priority for you. This creates a separate section in your sidebar for your most important channels.
  • Mark channels or DMs as unread if you're not able to action them right away. You can also use the "remind me about this later" function.
  • Star messages or files to make a Slack version of your to-do list.
  • Encourage your team to post in channels instead of sending DMs. @mention teammates when you need to get their direct attention. Other channel members can catch up when they have a chance to.
  • Keep in mind that you can always search your conversations in Slack. Let go of the urge to file and sort your messages into folders like you would with email. Slack's search provides piece of mind that your messages will be there, waiting for you if you need them.
  • Retain your usual ways of staying organized with your overall work, such as keeping an agenda or to-do list. 


Slack Use-Case Ideas

  • https://www.philsimon.com/blog/higher-education/use-slack-inside-classroom/
  • https://asuonline.wistia.com/medias/1zi6g7ejqk
  • Faculty collaboration from 2 separate institutions are working on a shared research project with the same grant budget. They onboard new assistants and research hourly workers every semester, if not more often. Shared channels would help them scale.
  • Alternative Spring Break / Service Learning: partnering with different organizations or building relationships with nonprofits/individuals in their communities
  • Orientation programs: Orientation leaders could have a shared channel with the group of incoming students
  • Financial Aid: #help-financial-aid channel
  • Greek Life - Channels for each fraternity or sorority. Shared channel with national org to share status updates, pictures of fundraisers, volunteerism reports, GPA reports, etc.
  • Career Planning / Post-graduate prep: schools might have partnerships with external groups to help with these, students could reach out directly
  • Study Abroad: ways to prep together before your trip when your school partners with other schools, during the program, and afterwards


Frequently Asked Questions:


  • How should we use threads?


      • General rule: the larger & busier the channel, the more people should use threads to keep conversations organized.
      • Always: responding to announcement posts in read-only channels
      • Always: responding to questions in help/discussion channels


  • How do I encourage students to collaborate & ask questions in channels, as opposed to direct messaging/emailing me?


      • Set proper expectations & etiquette at the start of the course that students should default all questions to channel so that everyone can learn. 
      • Address instances of poor etiquette; take the opportunity to quickly and empathetically educate
      • Socialize your availability (Slack can even auto-update your status with the Google Calendar integration).


  • Where can I go for further support with Slack?
  • Post questions in #help-slack channel within the Lehigh University Home workspace that is open to all members of the Lehigh University Community
  • How can we do external collaboration with Slack?



Tips & Tricks

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