You'll need to add students into your Slack community. Here's a walkthrough.

1. Create a new Slack workspace:

You can start with a free version though it’s limited to 10,000 messages so you’ll likely need to upgrade. Consider whether your community exists only for the duration of your course or whether it lasts long after. During your course, you can use the free trial version of a paid plan giving your students some added benefits. For more, click here to learn about Slack plans. Again, just start with the free version as you get set up.

2. Create new channels and clearly state channel topics. Channels are like group discussion spaces and usually organized around a theme or topic.

#General is the 1 default Slack channel all your students will get added to so it’s a great place to share announcements and updates about the course. You can rename #General to something like #Home or #Announcements.

How many Slack channels should I have?

It depends on the size of your community and the length of your course but it’s best to start with fewer so that all the conversations happen in just a few channels. This makes your community feel more lively rather than having conversations split up across many different channels.

What are some good Slack channels to create for my community?

  • #intros or #introductions is a great place to get students sharing and a place for you to welcome them into the community with emojis and welcome messages.

  • #kudos #congrats #gratitude are all great options for prompting students to sharing things they’re grateful for, whether it’s learning something in a workshop or from another student.

  • #learnings #goodreads #watchthisnow are great for giving students a place to share their favorite books and articles on the course’s topic.

  • #whoops #fail create a space for students to be vulnerable and admit to silly mistakes or problems they’ve run into.

Can channels be private?

Yes. You can create private channels for you and your course team (if you’re working with others). A private channel is a great place to communicate and coordinate with coaches on a regular basis.

If you have coaches, use private channels to create coach-led groups. This offers students a more intimate space with fewer people to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. These smaller groups are often where a lot of students find value in cohort-based course communities.

3. Customize Slack settings. Click on the title of your Slack community in the top left corner to open up workspace settings. This will redirect you to Slack on the web.

a) Turn off notifications for when new users join

b) Create a workspace icon with a course logo or the instructor’s face

c) Change permissions so that only workspace admins and owners can use @channel commands (@channel sends a notification to everyone in your community. You don’t want every student using this).

d) Limit member analytics to Admin only

4. Prepare any example posts. Before you invite students in, model the behavior you want to see. For example, in your #intros channel or #general (if you want students to introduce themselves there), post your own introduction. That might include your name, position, why you’re interested in the course etc.

Course Manager’s first post in #intros:

Student’s follow up posts:

5. Invite students to your Slack community. You can type emails in or simply copy and paste your students’ email addresses into the invitation modal. Once you invite students in, they can immediately start engaging in the community.

If you upgrade to a paid version of Slack (even on free trial), your invitations are more customizable. Most notably, you can choose what channels every student gets added to. Otherwise, students have to actively search for different channels to join.

6. React to student posts. A critical element of Slack etiquette that intersects with community building is the use of emoji reactions. This is a light-weight option to engage with posts that doesn’t require a custom written response to every student. Posting an emoji reaction also gives other students the opportunity to click on the emoji and add to it.

As students join your community and share an introduction, getting that immediate feedback to their post is vital to creating a space where they’re willing to share and participate. When you first create your Slack community and invite students in, it’s good to make sure you’re available through the next few hours to like and react to posts, share the odd comment, and engage with students.

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