Slacking Off in Class: Cloud-Based Team Collaboration in Online Higher Education Programs

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn best practices for implementing, on-boarding, and maintaining a Slack team for your class or program. This lab covers everything from nitty-gritty security settings to best practices in student management to automating content delivery.


Dr. Ryan Straight is currently Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at the University of Arizona where he is also a Faculty Fellow and Honors Professor. He holds a PhD in Instructional Technology from Ohio University, where he also earned his MEd in Cultural Studies in Education and a BS.Ed in Integrated Language Arts. He teaches fully online at the undergraduate and graduate levels in topics like game design and development, human-computer interaction, designing online learning environments, and statistics and data visualization. Dr. Straight also serves as a Social Media Advisor for ISTE and writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education on mobile learning technologies, augmented reality, and social presence in online education. He lives in Tucson with his wife and three dogs.

Extended Abstract

Every classroom is different. Every instructor has his or her own unique way of facilitating that classroom. Still, whether that class focuses on political science, Shakespearean folios, or modern architecture, dialog is often at the center of that learning experience. Unfortunately, with the constant and inexorable march toward fully online education, some of that frenetic in-person discussion magic can be lost when our students are relegated to traditional threaded discussion formats. One potential method of mitigating this is by implementing a more organic, natural interface to support class discussions, one that more closely replicates the traditional back-and-forth of in-person dialog while blurring the line between synchronous and asynchronous environments. In this case, the tool in question is Slack.

In this lab, participants will be given the opportunity to be walked through the process of setting up just such an interface and to brainstorm with one another about the potential pros and cons. Dr. Straight acts as a guide by answering questions but also as a facilitator, helping participants discover their own unique flavor of learning environment. Participants will be provided a collection of best practices and novel ways to keep the content of their Slack teams fresh and relevant. The plan, however, is to build upon that list of best practices collectively. It's a group effort!

Participants will be working hands-on in an actual Slack sandbox team that Dr. Straight has set up specifically for that lab, as well as having an in-person discussion. After the consortium is over, participants will continue to have access to that team, able to use it both as a template for their own teams they build later and as a continual source of discussion, feedback, and support with their peers. The team used during the lab comes pre-loaded with materials, from a semester-start checklist to the presentation materials used and even the content of the discussion had during the lab. While the consortium will end on April 7, Slacking Off in Class will live on.