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Telling your students how to use Slack for your class

Recommendations for supporting students using Slack (Part 3 of 3)

After determining the best way to use Slack for teaching and setting up the workspace, it’s important to share your expectations and tips for getting started with your students. Here are some recommendations to get you started.

This three-part series of articles will guide you through the process of integrating Slack into your teaching practice. 

  1. Best ways to use Slack for teaching
  2. Setting up a Slack workspace for your students
  3. Telling your students how to use your Slack workspace

Add a statement about Slack in the syllabus

Just as you would for any technology requirement, you should clearly state in the syllabus that you plan to use Slack and that it requires access to a laptop or personal mobile device.

Example syllabus statement: 

“We will be using Slack, a communication platform freely provided by Stanford. You will, however, need access to a laptop with a browser or mobile device with the Slack app from”

Send instructions to students at the start of the term

To ensure students get off to a good start, we recommend you share an announcement in Canvas about Slack that covers the following five main areas:  

  • How to launch Slack for the first time.
  • How to join the workspace (this will differ depending on whether you created the workspace via your course in Canvas or directly in Slack).
  • Where to download the Slack app for mobile or desktop.
  • How you plan to use channels.
  • Slack etiquette and other behavioral expectations and suggestions.

Example announcement and instructions

Here is an example of an announcement you can use in Canvas. Modify it as you see fit, but the text in brackets should be customized for your situation. In particular, you should choose between the two bulleted options for joining a workspace and only create the channels that make sense for your class. 

"Welcome class!

I have set up a Slack workspace for our use this quarter to [foster discussion, help you get and give support, get feedback on projects from the entire class, share resources, and create your own channels for project groups.] 

Please activate your Slack account, then join our unlisted workspace by: 

  • [clicking the Slack tool in our Canvas course and clicking Join Workspace.] or
  • [clicking the link in the invite I’ve just sent to your email to join our workspace.]

You can access Slack using a browser, but downloading the Slack app to your desktop or mobile device gives you the option to receive notifications on those devices. You can modify your notification triggers globally or per channel to everything, nothing, or just @ mentions, and have a different setting for your mobile devices. 

I recommend that you adopt these Slack etiquette tips, particularly the part about replying rather than creating a new post and asking questions in channel, rather than through direct message to me. These tips will help keep notifications to a manageable level. If you reduce your notification level, it is still your responsibility to review these channels periodically and respond appropriately.

Here are a list of default channels you should see on joining our Slack workspace:

[#announcements: We will make ancillary announcements here (if the class agrees, we may make all announcements here once all are enrolled) so you may want to follow this channel.]

[#help: If you have questions please ask them here, rather than DM individual staff members unless it’s truly directed at one person. We may not respond instantly, but you are more likely to get some attention here, including from your peers.]

[#getfeedback: For this class you should post links to drafts to get feedback on a work in progress; you are also expected to provide brief feedback. Participation in this channel is expected as part of your coursework, while participation in other channels is currently voluntary.]

[#resources: We can informally share links related to the course or lecture topic (this is optional).]

[#____: Students are also free to create their own channels in this workspace for project groups; click the private toggle during creation or make it private after the fact.]"

Lead an in-class demo or assignment

It’s a good idea to assign students to introduce themselves in the #general channel, if only to ensure they have joined your workspace. This has the added benefit of giving them a chance to try basic etiquette, such as replying versus starting a new thread. 

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