By Ian Linkletter — Posted on: March 17, 2017
It has been one year since “Slack: a new tool for education?” was published here on the ETS blog, and a lot has happened. After a thorough evaluation, the Faculty of Education selected Mattermost for a learning technology pilot. It has now been implemented in six credit courses, two graduate cohorts, and a student-led learning community. 204 users have created 6,848 posts in public channels, private groups, and direct messages. Something special is afoot, and ETS is doggedly on the case.
One of the core values of UBC’s Faculty of Education is to understand, promote, develop, and research the use of technologies in pursuit of the enhancement of teaching and learning. Research shows how timely interactions with instructors, collaboration with classmates, and a sense of community can enhance teaching and learning. With over 100 fully online courses offered on a rotating basis and many others using blended models, we are always looking to create and improve these opportunities for flexible learners. So, how can team chat help?
Unlike the generation of chat tools that came before them, Mattermost and Slack implement chat in a way that is neither ephemeral or interruptive. Functionality like user-created channels, file sharing, persistent history, mobile apps, and threaded replies make for a tool well-suited for synchronous or asynchronous communication.
Students in courses with chat gain a direct communication channel to their classmates and instructor. Learning spaces can be created for students to work through problems, ask questions, seek clarification, collaborate with peers, and build learning communities. Our belief is that this can improve student learning experiences, and the informal feedback we have received supports this. The only way to be sure is to perform research. This is an important step ahead.
While we take steps toward discovery, others are sprinting toward market share. One year ago Slack had 2.3 million daily active users – that number is now 5 million. Competition in the team collaboration space is fire emoji hot (🔥🔥🔥), with Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Chat, and Workplace by Facebook all jostling to be the collaboration OS of the future. There are more choices than ever before.
However, in Canadian higher education we do not benefit from all these options. BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires student information be hosted in Canada, so many cloud solutions are unsuitable for us. While Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have all announced support for the Canadian Cloud, it remains to be seen whether their chat products (and those that rely on their cloud hosting) will offer FIPPA-compliant options. FIPPA has never stopped us from innovating. Mattermost is hosted here at UBC, and the lessons we learn now will be applicable for the chat-filled future.
We will continue to share our findings. If you are interested in learning more about the pilot or getting involved, please get in touch with me.