Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: communication

Is your team ‘slack’ing when it comes to communication?

Alana Aldred

So we all know that good communication is a pretty important element of any productive team – why, then, is it so hard to get it right?

One of the most frustrating points about communication at work can either be the lack of it … or, possibly, too much of it in the form of hundreds of back-and-forth emails with threads as long as your arm, all talking about the same topic!

Well, the TEL team were definitely feeling this pain! So we came up with a plan to investigate a new method of communication. As a team it was very important that whatever form this took it wouldn’t be invasive to our workflow – it had to fit in with us as a team and as an individual.

So, after a little window shopping we found the Slack app!

So what is it? In very simple terms Slack is a messaging app for teams. It is available to view on iOS and Android mobile devices, and from your Mac & Windows Desktop. The platform allows you to create Channels (groups) which you and other team members can join and contribute to.

Slack interface

Slack, as with most packages, offers a free service. However, it is limited compared to the paid fee package. The TEL team is a fairly small team and we find that the free service is enough for us. The free package is also unlimited unlike so many others where you only get to trial for a short period of time and then have to buy in!

So how do we use Slack? Just to give you an example, we have a news and announcement channel which is used by the whole team; it’s here that we can all view and share information that is important across the team. Then we have project channels which are used by those working on a specific projects – the really useful thing about this is that if you come in late to work on a project you can view all previous dialogue and associated documentation from when the channel was created – Instantly (pretty much) in the loop! It’s also worth mentioning that if you are working on something confidential than it is possible to set up a private channel. My advice would to avoid using private channels unless really necessary as it can create barriers to collaboration and the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

However, Slack isn’t just about messaging! You can upload and share files and it also has some fantastic integrations both practical and fun!

Add media options

Lastly, no one wants to be distracted at work. There are a couple of ways to overcome this issue. First, get your notifications set up! There are loads of options on how and when to get notified! Second, set up a social channel for general chit-chat (and the overuse of /giphy!) … this should prevent work-related channels drifting off topic!

I’m not afraid to say I’m a big fan of Slack. In fact I love it, as it’s so easy and simple to setup and use! Personally I think it’s enhanced our ability to collaborate more freely and its facilitated us in being able to support team members because we are now much more aware of what is happening within the team.

If this sounds like something your team could benefit from using then why not check it out – See https://slack.com/

 

Why Blog? Good question, why blog indeed?

Marie Kendall-Waters

As you can see the TEL Team have a brand new, shiny blog! We’re hoping to share all our news and exciting discoveries with you all and we would like you to contribute too by leaving comments and feedback to our blog posts that interest you. With this in mind, I’ve started thinking about blogs and blogging.

Blogs are a great platform for communicating to a wider audience, sharing good practice and building up a community amongst others who have similar interests to your own. Blogging is a great way of learning, it challenges you to sit down and write and reflect on your experiences on a regular basis, which can often be scary putting your thoughts out there for all to read! However, by embracing this, you learn and grow as an individual, perhaps even become an expert in a certain field and in turn you are helping others to learn too! For some people having an opinion and voicing that opinion online comes as a natural process for others it can be a terrifying prospect, and by overcoming that it can become empowering – so perhaps it’s worth thinking about, even if it is a little scary!

So what makes a successful blog?

Okay, so here are a few things that I think are important to remember when blogging…

  • Purpose: so why blog? What are you trying to say to your audience? By giving a blog a purpose, a reason for its existence, you are giving your readers something memorable to grab onto. They have something to engage with, comment on, and share.
  • Audience: who are your lovely readers? Are you talking to a specific group of people? If so, do you need to tailor your posts to their needs? Also, do you need to think of the wider audience?
  • Tone: conversational tone – blog posts tend to be more informal and chatty.
  • Structure of blog posts: as with any writing, structure is very important. Writing a blog post is no different! Organise your thoughts and ideas before embarking on the task. Use headings to signpost your readers. Include a clear introduction so that the reader knows what is going to be discussed. Break down your post into well structured paragraphs and always finish by adding a conclusion.
  • Length of posts: It shouldn’t really matter – keep the content to the length that it is required to discuss your chosen topic. However, keeping content clear and to the point will help to keep the word count down and keep your content focused and your reader engrossed.
  • Unique content: write something with a different spin/take on it, rather than writing something that someone else has already written. Include punchy headlines and humor to grab the reader’s attention – doesn’t always have to be serious!
  • Media: include videos and images in posts – why?  It makes it more interesting and engaging for our readers rather than reams of text.
  • Frequency of posts: by blogging on a regular basis you will keep your readers’ interest!
  • Internal linking: linking related posts within a blog by #hashtags is a great way of enhancing the learning experience for readers. It not only provides themes throughout but also searchable keywords which are useful for when reflecting and also for the reader when searching.
  • Documenting and reflecting: a way for you and your readers to have a learning experience through blogging.
  • Spelling and grammar: there is nothing worse than reading a blog full of mistakes and typos. Have a process in place. Write the post, go back and edit and then get someone else to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes and only then publish!

Sounds good, right?

Yes it does, however, blogging has never come naturally to the TEL Team and to be honest this isn’t the first TEL Team attempt at having a blog – we’ve tried and failed in the past – we’ve just never seemed to get it quite right – why? Well, how can I put it, we are pretty good at setting up a blog but we’re not so great at blogging, which is pretty crucial when owning a blog, I think you’d agree!

So as a team we have decided to give blogging another go – yippee I hear you cry – and this time it’s going to be different! Please wish us all the best with our little blogging adventure and I’ll reflect on how we are doing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any experience of blogs or are a keen blogger yourself and have any useful tips then please share them with us 🙂

Image credits: Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com