Brown DLD Faculty Guides

Chat Tools

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Chat tools can be effective devices that allow students to exchange information, get real-time feedback from peers and the instructor/TA, build community, and discuss their perspectives on course content. They also allow students to share files, links, audio, and video clips, all of which may be important while collaborating on group work.

Chat Tool Options

Slack: Slack is a communication platform that students and instructors can use to collaborate and share information. In Slack, there are spaces called channels that are organized by topic. Students can ask and answer questions, share files, links, audio, video clips and more. Find out more about Slack Course Workspaces and how to create one on Brown's OIT Knowledgebase site.

Google Chat: Another communication tool option is Google Chat. It's visible when you are logged into your Brown email on the left-hand side menu. You can create a group chat by adding emails of students once you initiate a chat or create a space in Google Chat where you can keep all conversation threads in one space. Google Chat also allows you to share files, links, and initiate video calls.

Advantages of Using Chats

  • Promote help-seeking by empowering students to ask and answer questions outside of class
  • Support student-to-student connection and community-building
  • Increase interaction and touch points with students to foster inclusion and connectedness
  • Provide a way for students to pool knowledge and problem-solve
  • Allow an alternative participation tool for students who may be more reluctant to share verbally or in other modes of communication

Ways to Use Chats

  1. Engage students in icebreakers and other community-building activities. Pose an icebreaker at the beginning of the course or at various points throughout it to foster connection between students.
  2. Virtual office hours with the instructor. Let students know you will be online using Slack or Google Chat during set time periods where they can log in and ask you questions. 
  3. Set up student-led discussion groups to reflect on course material. Have students create channels in Slack or a group chat in Google Chat where they discuss a lecture, video, text, question, or other content. Students can chat asynchronously during a defined period of time, or chat synchronously while watching a video or lecture. Students can also utilize chat to collaborate while working on a group assignment.
  4. Motivate students through periodic chat messages. Send quick notes of encouragement, reminders, or recaps of critical information through the chat to engage students and extend their learning.
  5. Use among instructors and TAs to discuss course matters and logistics. If you have a teaching team, chat tools can be used for quick updates, questions, and discussions around course matters between meetings or when scheduling a meeting is challenging.

Looking to discuss nuances around choosing the right tool? Contact [email protected] for a consultation.

Considerations of Using Chat Tools

  • Set ground rules. Before deploying a chat tool, discuss with students what kind of content is and is not acceptable to discuss. For instance, are students allowed to chat about non-academic topics? What level of formality is expected? You may wish to co-create these ground rules with students.
  • Outline instructor involvement. Let students know how much you will monitor their chats, if at all. Some instructors might opt to integrate chat into the course as an unmediated space where students can engage in informal discussions, while others might want to monitor the chat to see students' questions and misconceptions.
  • Consider learner preferences. Some students may find chat overwhelming or distracting while others view it as a way to extend their learning outside of formal class time. Clarify your expectations for students' use of it, and use more traditional channels for important class announcements or clarifications.
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