Slack offers many IRC-style features, including persistent chat rooms (channels) organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. Content, including files, conversations, and people, is all searchable within Slack. Users can add emoji buttons to their messages, on which other users can then click to express their reactions to messages. [Wikipedia]
These comments about Slack are from Dr. Meeko Oishi:
I have been really pleased w/ Slack; I've been using it for a year or two now. My students suggested it for lab group communications, and I'm now using it for my NSF CPS team, as well. Am planning to use it for my summer REU-like program, as well. It's sort of in between text and email communication. It's cheap (my subscription is less than $10/month, dependent on the number of people in the group), and has many good features. The interface is pretty straightforward. (Getting the educational discount set up was a bit of pain -- I believe required documentation about UNM's status, etc.)
My lab group's setup (comment continued):
- I have a #general channel for everyone, and 4 other channels for research topics, labeled by the topic (#human-cps, #stochastic reachability, #biomed, etc).
- We "pin" text documents that we refer to a lot -- in #general, a lab group reading list, a list of recommended classes; in individual person-to-person messages, a to-do list that I've given an individual student. These files are easy to find, and editing properties are easy to set.
- We use it to send files, often instead of Dropbox, b/c there are no file size restrictions, and the file formatting (.mat files, .pdf, .docx files) doesn't matter. It's also pretty easy to search for files, b/c Slack keeps a list of downloads.
- Students message each other (singly or in ad-hoc groups, as needed) and me. I can expect small queries (missing an upcoming meeting) or big ones (coronavirus stuff, unusual personal circumstances) -- students seem to be much more willing to communicate b/c it's a more informal channel than email.
- I can forward emails to slack, and then send out to the appropriate channel.
Other features I like:
- We can make phone / video calls through Slack to others in the group. So no need to trade skype IDs, zoom meeting #s, cell phone #s, etc.
- You can download it as an app on your phone. Students like this.
- Extensive integration w/ other tools, if you want.
- Like a text message, I can respond to messages immediately, or sit on it until I'm ready to respond.
- Students seem to like using the emojis for quick assessments -- thumbs up / etc, which is great for getting consensus or just confirmation that messages are understood, etc.
- Easy to add people to just a channel as guests
Potential issues for adoption in courses:
- Need buy-in from students. If students don't use it, it's moot.
- Not sure how you'd prevent abuse of the system. I don't monitor my students' person-to-person communication. I've not looked to see if you could, but unlike say, Discussion Forums in Learn, it's not readily evident to me how you could 'eavesdrop' if you wanted.