F2-TEAM2-4 - Professional Communication Tools in Higher Education: A Case Study in Implementing Slack in the Curriculum

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Rachel Menzies1 , Mark Zarb1
1 University of Dundee

This Innovative Practice Full Paper presents a study which considers the implications of embedding professional communication tools within the curriculum.
The use of enterprise social networks, and associated communication tools (e.g. Slack, Jabber, Microsoft Teams), are gaining popularity in the workplace and can be beneficial for forming a professional community of practice. Whilst the majority of students are comfortable using similar solutions for their personal and social communication, there is little understanding on how they transition to using these tools as a professional means of communication, or how these tools can be used to form a community of practice that fosters learning and engagement within Higher Education.
We invited 243 students at two Scottish universities to actively use Slack as the primary communication method across four modules of study, using a case study methodology. We used a pre-use and post-use questionnaire to evaluate students' attitudes and experience of using such a tool. This data, as well as their engagement with Slack, is used to create an understanding of how these tools were used over time within this case study. We found that popular social media tools were most prevalent, with limited experience of more "professional" tools, such as Slack. Surveyed students and staff members raised many benefits of using such a tool, leading to a number of recommendations to support others in adopting such tools, specifically within computing education. 
Paper Contributions: We introduce three contributions: 1) Findings from an online questionnaire with 231 participants that reports on their use of online communication tools, which validate and extend anecdotal experiences of educators in relation to use of these tools both in education settings and more widely. 2) Teaching staff reflections on implementing a professional communication tool. 3) We collate our findings into recommendations for the inclusion of online messaging tools in Higher Education.