ScreenCap of our "Introduction to the Visual Arts" Slack team

Slack the Messaging App

I used Slack as our course platform for a 12-week, 100% online, Introduction to the Visual Arts class this summer. During the academic year I typically teach F2F classes of 130-150 students. I thought that only having 25 students, and being 100% online, made this an interesting opportunity to see how Slack could facilitate our learning experience.

Slack the LMS?

We didn’t use “BeachBoard,” the CSULB branded installation of Desire2Learn (D2L) at all. Desire2Learn was completely replaced by Slack. To be sure, Slack is not an LMS (Learning Management System) and I don’t think I’d use it with 140 F2F students. But I thought it could work for our smaller online course, and that it’s clean and powerful design might make for an engaged student experience.

Other Tools

To compliment Slack we also used:

Student Feedback

At the end of summer, about half the class gave me their thoughts on using Slack. Their comments are below. This is 100% of the students who commented, and the comments are not edited for length or typos. This is all of their feedback on Slack:

At first, I was annoyed with Slack just because it took time to get used to, but once you do, it makes the dynamic of our class super easy and it was very helpful to keep organized. The two discussion posts had their own sections and you did not get confused. Also, the AOTW and Art Talk had their own sections too, so once you figured out the website, it was really helpful in keeping your work organized each week.

— DG

I think Slack is much better than Beachboard, I think it’s a lot more straightforward and organized, plus it’s easier to use. Although Slack was kind of hard to figure out how to use in the beginning, I figured it out quickly and I think it was good to use.

— GC

Overall I thought slack was OK 1-10 i give it a 6. Hard to understand in the beginning. didn’t know where to find things. once settled in was pretty simple to use. Although i might add these functions can be done on beachboard and would be easy because of other classes that already use it, dont have to be jumping platforms.

— IP

I loved Slack. This platform was honestly so much better than beachboard. It was simple and easy to figure out. It is easily accessible and is almost like an instant connection to the other students. I know that beachboard has an app and I had it for a while but it kept crashing and it was just a pain to log into constantly and navigate. I’ve been in a few online classes/hybrid classes that required online discussion and I can say that having slack would have been a much more easy experience.

— KT

I love Slack! It is a great platform for online classes in my opinion. More modern, easier access and reliable. I feel BB can be hard to discuss on, on your phone. On Slack I had no problem at all. Of course it was a bit hard to navigate in the beginning, but I learned quickly. The notifications made it easy to keep the discussions going, compare to BB where I think I don’t receive any notifications on my phone in the same way. My professors quick responses and involvement made it so much easier to learn, greatly appreciated. And even though this was an online class, my professor made me feel more connected to the rest of the class and him as a teacher, than many of my “in class” courses.

— TW

Now when it comes to slack. As a person that hasn’t had to use beachboard I wouldn’t really know how bad it is. My roommate sure complains about it alot. Slack however is easy to use and kinda just works. I like it because it’s simple. There are some problems, if I type lack into my address bar it asks me to sign up instead of just bringing me to my slack groups. I’m logged in already just take me where I want to go. If i type in ‘slack bea’ it takes me to slack beacharts. so i feel like it just needs a few bug fixes.

— KS

Slack is a great platform, and I’m glad we used it. Couldn’t imagine doing our class discussions in any other platform, so slack is a great idea for this online class.

— LM

I think Slack was great because i can use my phone wherever i go and can write any comment. it was more easy than Blackboard.

— NT

Again, software is not my strong suit, but once I figured it out, I really enjoyed slack. everything was in one clean place and it was easier to search for certain messages or instructions. It made it easy to share ideas or pictures found of the certain subject and made it all more simple having more of an instant chat option rather than a email option.

— BV

Slack was definitely a lot more useful than BeachBoard. The thing I really like about Slack is that it allows for direct messaging. I also love the fact that Slack has a mobile app. I am able to receive notifications for anything new going on in any of the rooms. The thing about BeachBoard I hate is that you’re never informed when anything new is posted. It’s like you’re expected to be refreshing it every 5 minutes waiting for new content. Also, Slack is extremely easy to use. I liked the fact that our grades and progress in the class were sent every week via direct messages. This really helped me track my progress. I like seeing how my grade fluctuates throughout the semester, which I can’t do via BeachBoard. BeachBoard only allows you to see your most recent grade.

— RC

It’s a bit difficult for me to compare Slack and Beachboard because I think they have completely different purposes. I mostly use Beachboard to download documents, but we did not need to print any documents for this class. However, I do think it’s a worthy learning platform if you have classes that have online discussions. I’ve only taken one class that needed to use the discussion feature in Beachboard but I find slack much easier to navigate and the fact that they have an free app helps for when I don’t have access to a computer but still want to participate in discussions. The Beachboard is also pretty annoying/not phone friendly.

— SB

I’ve taken a lot of online courses over the years but this is the first one in which I’m so actively involved with others. You’ve done a great job setting that up. Makes the class enjoyable. Slack has definitely helped as the app gives me notifications whenever I’m mentioned so it’s easy to access and easy to respond. Slack is a sloppy initiation but once the first week goes by, it’s very easy to use. Better than beach board for sure.

— ZD

ScreenCap of featuring an image of a Mars Rover.

Written by Glenn Zucman

BA, Psychology, University of Hawaii, MFA, Intermedia Art, Long Beach State. Host of American Public Media's "Border Patrol." Host of KBeach Radio's "Strange Angels." Interested in Identity Art that explores our Oracle-at-Delphi-like straddling of corporeal and virtual realms in our new media century. Civil rights in online space. 10 years...
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