Slack Faculty Guidebook

Slack Workspace Setup for Instructors

An introductory guide to setting up and administering your Slack course workspace at Dartmouth

This guide covers:

  1. Introduction to Slack at Dartmouth
    1. What is Slack?
    2. Why would I use Slack in my course?
    3. Slack Terminology
    4. A Note About Transparency
  2. Workspace Setup Checklist
    1. Checklist
    2. Additional Channel Ideas
    3. Set up and Manage Apps on your Workspace
    4. Define and Share your course Policies and Guidelines for using Slack
    5. Define your Policy for Responding to Direct Messages (DMs)
    6. Sending Direct Messages (DMs) in Slack
    7. Invite Members to your Workspace by Uploading their email address to Slack
  3. Slack Channels
    1. Public vs. Private Channels
    2. Channel Ideas to implement in your course
  4. Communication Etiquette in Slack
    1. Managing your Slack Messages
    2. FAQs
    3. Tips & Tricks

Introduction to Slack at Dartmouth

What is Slack?

  • Slack is a collaboration and communication platform in which you and your students can work together to share ideas, discuss readings, and engage with learning. Slack is also a searchable messaging platform that can be integrated with other teaching and learning tools, such as Zoom and Google Drive. 
  • Watch: What is Slack?

Why would I use Slack in my course?

  • Use Slack to:
    • Create a digital classroom community, with students supporting each others’ learning
    • Dramatically reduce email volume by communicating in open channels and building a shared searchable archive
    • Alert your class about assignments and schedule changes, and share helpful tips
    • Work with community partners and collaborators through shared channels or guest accounts

Slack Terminology

  • Workspaces: Workspaces are separate instances of Slack that are all centrally managed by Dartmouth. We recommend that each course have its own workspace, and that course workspaces are made inactive once the term is over. Instructors will be the administrators of their own course workspace. Taken altogether, our Dartmouth workspaces form our Dartmouth “Slack grid.”
  • Channels: Conversations in a workspace happen within channels. You can create channels based on course topics, group projects, announcements, and more. Workspace members can join and leave channels as needed, though you may determine that some channels are mandatory. Some channels can be read-only, for you to make announcements or distribute assignment details.
  • Users: Every active Dartmouth faculty member, student, and staff member gets a single Slack account which can then be used to become a member of multiple workspaces and channels. With your single Slack account, you can post messages and share files in channels, and send direct messages to anyone else on the Dartmouth Slack grid.

A Note about Transparency

  • Slack is built on the premise that transparency — that is, being able to see into different discussions — is essential to working together effectively. In Slack, conversations happen in channels that are typically open and searchable. As a result, these conversations create an open archive of knowledge for everyone. This knowledge bank becomes an important way for colleagues to learn, connect, and collaborate.

Workspace Setup Checklist


  1. Request your Slack Workspace by using the Slack integration tool in Canvas.
  2. Download the Slack desktop app for your computer. (If you are using a computer less than 10 years old, your chip is almost guaranteed to be 64-bit.)
  3. Download the Slack mobile app for iOS or Android.
  4. Update your profile information and upload a profile picture.
  5. Review your workspace settings & permissions, and adjust as necessary. Please keep your workspace access set to: “Invite Only” to keep your workspace private to students enrolled in your course.
  6. Other key decisions:
    1. Do you want to allow students to create private channels? 
    2. Do you want to allow students to edit or delete their messages after they’ve sent?
  7. Set a workspace icon so students can easily identify your class workspace in their sidebar (use a course number, identifiable image, etc.). 
  8. Rename your #general channel to #[coursename]-announcements. Post and pin important content to the channel such as course outline, policies, response time expectations, office hours etc.
  9. Tip: To reduce noise, you can limit posting permissions in this channel to just you (and your teaching assistants, if relevant).
  10. Create and set your default channels that all students should join.
  11.  At a minimum, you may want to create a #[coursename]-help channel in addition to #announcements.
  12. Add your students and teaching assistants or co-educators such as subject librarians or instructional designers to your workspace.

Additional Channel Ideas

  • Define each Channel Purpose and Channel Topic
  • #course-discussion: Slack is a great medium for sharing resources and articles with students as you came across them in your own professional reading. Most internet links will unfurl a helpful preview, and you can use threads to keep discussions about a specific topic organized. 
  • #office-hours: Your students want to communicate with you, and an “office hours” channel can facilitate quick communication with fewer barriers and more seamless mobile functionality.
  • #project-xyz: Does your course have a group project component? Create a private channel for each group and invite students. Each group can have its own channel to collaborate and share files with each other. Instructors can post resources for groups in their specific channels and periodically check in or offer assistance. 
  • #lecture: Set up a live classroom channel to use during lectures or tutorials. Students can post clarifying questions or comments during the lesson, you can poll the class, or you can ask students to share their thoughts during break. Periodic check-ins over Slack can also add much-needed pauses into the instructional flow.
  • Please note: Students will not automatically be added to new channels created after they’ve joined the workspace, so set any default course-wide channels before the course starts.

Set up and Manage Apps on your Workspace

Define and Share your course Policies and Guidelines for using Slack

  • If possible, add this to your course syllabus. Post your guidelines in your #announcements channel before the first day of class.
  • Example:
  • “For this course, important course announcements will be made via Slack announcement channel.”
  • “Post questions, queries, feedback and anything course-related via Slack”
  • “The Slack #course-discussion channel is the best place to ask a question related to an assignment or a concept in the readings.”
  • “Follow the channel-naming conventions if you create new channels”
  • “I encourage you to introduce yourself to me and your peers via Slack if you like, and also invite you to post a picture of yourself, so we can get to know each other.”

Define your Policy for Responding to Direct Messages (DMs)

  • If it is your policy not to respond to direct messages from students, please state this.
  • Your policy should be included on your syllabus and Slack profile along with your email policies.
  • A response policy makes it clear to students what to expect from you.
  • Example Policies:
    • “I am available for direct messages Monday and Wednesday 2pm to 3pm and will respond only to messages sent during that time,”
    • “I do not reply to direct messages from students, please use email instead.”
  • Optional and Recommended
    • Consider putting your policy for direct messages on your faculty profile page.
  • Optional:
    • If you decide to use Slack rather than Canvas for course discussions, disable Canvas discussion boards to reduce confusion for students regarding where course discussion happens. If you are using Canvas, do not use class conversations on assignments and content. Clearly indicate which communication tool you are using per topic (e.g. grading questions and other official/formal messages vs. general questions vs. assignment submission). If you are using Slack for announcements, disable announcements in Canvas. 

Sending Direct Messages (DMs) in Slack

  • A key benefit of using Slack @ Dartmouth is transparency. Best practices for Slack use promote the idea of first searching and/or asking questions in channels, as opposed to private messages. This approach allows other members to see your question and any knowledge shared in response. It is likely that others may have had a similar question and were not as comfortable to ask, or they may gain from hearing the question and associated answers or discussion. The more perspectives at the table, the better the discussion.
  • When you need to send a message to one person instead of a group, Slack provides traditional instant messaging functionality for you to do so. To send a direct message, navigate down to the Direct Messages section of the main sidebar. If the person is not already on your list, click the + icon, search for the person you would like to message, click on their name, and click GO. Then, type something in the chat box, and press the Enter. Unlike public channels, your direct messages are private between you and the recipient(s). 
  • Note: While DMs are private conversations, sensitive or confidential information should not be discussed, and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) should not be uploaded to or shared on Slack. PII includes birthdates, birthplaces, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information regarding one’s identity.

Invite Members to your Workspace by Uploading their email addresses to Slack

Slack Channels

Public vs. Private Channels

  • Public channels: Can be browsed and joined by anyone in the workspace. Public channels are denoted with a # in Slack. Searching a workspace will return results from all public channels on your workspace (even if you’re not a member of that channel). Workspace members can join and leave public channels at will. 
  • Private channels: Can only be viewed and joined if you’re invited by an existing member of the channel. Private channels are denoted with a lock icon (🔒). Search will only return results from private channels of which you are a member – even if you’re an administrator. Private channels should be reserved for group projects and other topics that are not for the entire class’ eyes. 

Channel Ideas to implement in your course

  • Example Course: ENG 100
    • #eng100-announcements - Course information, class-wide announcements. Can be restricted so that only workspace administrators can post. 
    • #eng100-help - General question and answer channel where students can ask for assistance from faculty and peers.
    • #eng100-assignment-1 - Channel for communication on course assignments 1, 2, 3, etc.
    • #eng100-office-hours - Office hour locations, guidelines, scheduling.
    • #eng100-discuss - General discussion on course material – great for sharing articles or posing questions to the class.
  • Please note: Students will not automatically be added to new channels created after they’ve joined the workspace, so set any default course-wide channels before you invite members to join.
    • You can also download a list of student emails from Banner -> Student Roster to copy and paste into the "Add to channel" function.

Communication Etiquette in Slack

  • Encourage channel use. Create and share your key channels and channel naming guidelines at the beginning of the course – this will help students understand where to post, how to connect with the right people, and feel empowered to work efficiently in Slack. 
  • Encourage use of message threads. Threads create a “mini sidebar” conversation within a channel, and help to keep the main channel discussions neat and tidy. 
  • Pin important information to a channel. Pinning messages or files to a channel creates a quick and easy way to access important information. Pinned items are the same for everyone in the channel.
  • Define how you’re using emoji. Emoji are more than fun! Emoji reactions provide a lightweight way to communicate, and often eliminate the need for follow-up messages. Here are our favorites:

  • Post your Slack etiquette guidelines. Here’s an example you can copy and paste into your workspace: 

*Behavioral etiquette*

  • *:mag_right: Search before posting*
  • Slack is intended to be our knowledge bank. Try to search Slack first before asking someone to find answers.
  • *:raising_hand:  Respond with your input, answer, or decision in a timely manner*
  • Within working hours, answer when fellow students mention you. If you are busy and cannot provide a full answer, that’s ok! Simply acknowledge the question or ask with :eyes: to indicate you’ve seen it and come back later. I will do the same.
  • *:hourglass_flowing_sand: Socialize your availability*
  • Use Do Not Disturb mode and turn on snooze notifications if you’re asleep or unavailable. Your classmates will receive a notification that you are busy. Edit your profile status to indicate if you’re away and for how long (e.g. Joe Smith :palm_tree: > 12/01). *_I will be updating my Status to reflect my availability as well. Please respect my dedicated research/lecture times._*
  • *:red_circle: Customize your notifications across Slack’s mobile app, desktop app, and web browser*
  • The recommended setting is to enable push notifications for mentions and direct messages across mobile and desktop.
  • :bulb:Pro tip: you can customize your notification down to channel by channel level - great for team work!

*Channel etiquette*

  • *:+1: Do use public channels, almost always*
  • As much communication as possible should take place in the public channels - to make it searchable, open, and accessible to others. Help each other find answers!
  • *:exclamation: Make sure there’s a reason to create private channels*
  • Rarely necessary, private channels are for select members to see confidential information. Your team channel may or may not be private! Discuss among your teams during Week 1 on how you want to use private channels in Slack!

If you follow the steps in the setup checklist, this is what your channel might look like:

Managing your Slack Messages

Here are some suggestions for managing your day-to-day work and notifications (and so as to not get overwhelmed!):

  • Leave channels you no longer need to be in. If they're public, you can always re-join them later or find the content via search.
  • Mute channels you'd like to stay in, but are lower priority. You'll still get a notification if someone mentions you specifically.
  • Tailor your sidebar via your personal settings. We recommend viewing only channels that you frequently visit or those that have regular activity.
  • Star channels that are high-priority for you. This creates a separate section in your sidebar for your most important channels.
  • Star messages or files to make a Slack version of your to-do list.
  • Encourage your team to post in channels instead of sending DMs. Tag teammates with an @-mention when you need to get their direct attention. Other channel members can catch up when they have a chance to.
  • You can always search your conversations in Slack. The search function provides peace of mind that your messages will be there, waiting for you if you need them.


  • How should we use threads?
    • General rule: the larger and busier the channel, the more people should be encouraged to use threads to keep conversations organized.
    • Always use threads to respond to announcement posts in read-only channels
    • Always use threads to respond to questions in help/discussion channels
  • How do I encourage students to collaborate and ask questions in channels, as opposed to direct messaging/emailing me?
    • Strongly encourage students to ask questions in channels so that everyone can learn
    • Address instances of poor etiquette; take the opportunity to quickly and empathetically educate
    • Make clear when you are available to respond to direct messages and when you are not 
  • Where can I go for further support with Slack?
  • How can my course use Slack to collaborate with guest speakers?

Tips & Tricks


Article ID: 104482
Mon 4/6/20 3:28 PM
Mon 11/22/21 3:39 PM

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Instructors can create a Slack workspace for each course through Canvas, after which students can join.