Course Discussions Using Slack

Slack is a powerful tool for conversations and community building, making it a great fit for teaching and learning purposes. It’s also broadly used, and GSB students are the student group with the highest adoption of Slack across the Stanford campus. This article gives suggestions for how Slack can be leveraged in your course for asynchronous discussions, best practices for discussions on Slack, suggestions for generating engagement through your Slack questions, and some tips for getting started with Slack.

Why Use Asynchronous Discussions?

  • Extend classroom conversations beyond limited in-class time, bringing more students into the discussion. For example:
    • Instructors can post articles, followed by specific questions to prompt conversation and reflection. Students can also share articles and links, highlighting examples or information related to course topics.
  • Create a space for students to ask questions.
    • Students can post questions before a lecture. You can check the questions before class and respond during the lecture.
    • Students can message faculty through Slack instead of email, so that responses to questions can be shared with other students who might have similar questions.
  • Provide additional opportunities for students to engage with you outside of class, in a less formal setting. 

Best Practices for Discussion Tools

  • Clarify how your course will use Slack alongside other communication channels and communicate this up front. For example, you might use Canvas announcements to share important course updates, while holding discussions about course content in Slack.
  • Let students know when they can expect a response. For example, provide a deadline for posting questions to Slack in order to have their questions answered in class, and/or let them know how often you will review or respond to posts in Slack.
  • Make it clear what communication channel to use when, and make it the same every week. This way students begin to anticipate how and when to interact with course content.
  • Participating in discussions by replying to student posts or even just responding with a 👍  (thumbs up emoji) can invite more student participation by signaling that you are present and engaged.

Question Formulation Tips

When formulating your online discussion prompts, we recommend asking questions that elicit deeper answers and relate to your teaching goals. Here are some question types for inspiration:

Analysis

“Why do you think [the protagonist] made the choice they did?”
“How would you explain…” 
“What is the importance of…” 

Compare and Contrast

“What is the difference between…” 
“What is the similarity between…”

Cause and Effect

“What are the causes/results of…” 
“What connection is there between…” 

Get Started

Ready to start using Slack for course discussions? Contact us to discuss the best setup for your course or to consult on using Slack in another way.