How To Run A Successful Slack Channel For Your Online CourseOct 29, 2020
Want to give your online course students an awesome experience? Slack is one of the best tools to support them. In this guide, we'll share how to run a successful Slack channel for your online course.
Ever since I started my first online course three years ago, I’ve had an accompanying Slack channel. $150,000 in sales later, it’s still alive and thriving.
Why should you consider adding a Slack Channel to your online course?
Well, it adds a lot of value for one. It sweetens the deal for prospects, and it makes folks feel better that they can message you anytime with questions. Do they end up asking a lot of questions?
Not at all– at least, not in my experience.
What you end up getting is a nice community of people who, many times, end up answering each other’s questions. When you get 30 or 40 people into a Slack channel, things take on a life of their own. There’s legitimate comradery that’s formed among the members, and it can be very fulfilling to watch friendships form among strangers that you brought together.
The best part about this is, the Slack Channel is one of the most popular aspects of my course among students, and I hardly spend much time there.
Slack channels can be a win-win-win. They can add a lot of value, they won’t be a time-suck for you, and they’ll be helpful.
Wondering how to get started? Let’s talk about a few things you need to do.
1. How to Add Students to Your Slack Channel (the Easy Way)
I’ll skip the tutorial showing you how to setup a Slack channel. It’s easy enough, and you’ll ace that in no time. What we need to cover is how to add new students to your slack channel automatically.
Personally, I send a link to new students in their welcome email. To get a link that folks can use to join your channel, simply click on your channel name in the top left, then hit “Invite People to (Your Channel Name).”
Then a small window will pop up, where you can hit “Copy Invite Link.” That link will be the one you share in your welcome email.
From here, all I do is copy that into my welcome email. You can see what that looks like below.
Most students will join the Slack channel right away. If anybody doesn’t, they certainly do not need to if they choose. If they somehow miss the link, yet really want to join, they’ll email you and you can share it with them there.
2. Ask New Students to Introduce Themselves
One thing I personally want to do a better job of is telling students to introduce themselves once they join the Slack Channel.
That can be a big moment for a lot of students to feel part of a bigger community and make initial friends. In fact, I’ll say it’s a necessity, so make sure to include that in your welcome email as well!
3. Keep Your Slack Workspace Simple
My Slack Workspace has 4 channels. Just four. I have a #general channel, a #feedback channel, and two channels for students to share their latest articles.
Since my course is all about writing, I give students the opportunity to send their blog posts to me for feedback.
I find keeping my Slack Channel simple is a massive help. All student’s questions go right in the #general channel, and that’s where most of my work interacting with students is done.
Slack can already be quite overwhelming for new students, so keep things very simple once they get there. No more than 5 channels at most.
4. Include a Channel for Sharing Feedback
The most valuable part of my Slack channel is actually the #feedback channel. This is where students share their blog posts and ask the almighty one (me) for feedback.
I think that all course creators need to include something like this in their own Slack Channel.
Obviously it won’t always be as simple as mine, since blogging is a very specific course topic. Some of you may be teaching folks how to win freelancing gigs. In that case, you could make a #feedback channel for people to get critiques on their freelance pitches. Or you could give them feedback on their actual work!
For me, giving students feedback can be an incredibly rewarding and valuable experience for both you and them. For one, you get to understand what a lot of the common pitfalls are among your students. You can then use this knowledge to create better course lessons in the future.
For example, I find my students aren’t always the greatest at writing blog post headlines. I took that knowledge to create an entire Module in my course about headline writing a few years ago. Now that module is one of the most valuable ones I have.
Most students also need one-on-one attention. Spending thirty minutes of your time to go DEEP with someone on their work can be more valuable for them than an hour of course material. It will set them on a better path, too, which means more student success and possible “success story” testimonials later on.
It may seem like a time-suck to give out feedback like candy, but trust me, it’s just as valuable for you as it is for your students.
5. Hire a Slack Helper
I have someone do about 3 hours of work per week answering questions in my Slack Channel. If you have a profitable online course, having someone moderate your Channel shouldn’t be that big of a hit financially. Just make sure they have skin in the game.
My moderator, Stephen, has over 10,000 followers on Medium and he’s well-respected in the blogging community. Make sure you get someone like that as well.
Stephen is a gigantic reason my Slack Channel remains thriving. Without him, it would probably have 50% less activity since I only login twice per week to check messages.
Here’s a bonus tip: You can also hire a moderator to send out weekly newsletters with any recent industry news, advice, etc. I find sending out a weekly newsletter drastically increases engagement in my Slack channel as well as my online course.
It also increases the value of the course in general. You need to give students the opportunity to learn outside of your course material. Things change, and a weekly newsletter is a great way to keep students informed of the latest changes in your industry.
For example, Medium.com just changed their entire homepage design, logo, and setup for publications. We used our newsletter to let our students know of these changes.
Here’s another bonus tip: Use the newsletter content as future course material. Copy every newsletter and convert them into text lessons for your course.
I’ve converted about 50+ newsletters into course material, and trust me, they take up a lot of space.
6. Login Yourself at Least Twice per Week
I normally login twice per week and spend at most four hours in my Slack Channel every seven days. Stephen is a big reason for that, since he answers most of the questions anyway.
For me, I’ve found a happy medium logging in every Monday and Friday. You could stagger it any which way you like, but I’ve found those two days to be perfect for me.
The truth is, if I simply show my face a few times every now and then, students will be happy. I want them to know that I’m here--that I’m easily contactable.
For you and your Slack Channel, logging in twice per week for a few hours is all you need, too.
7. Share Lessons from Your Course Weekly
As online course creators, we know that getting people to finish your course can be a bit like climbing Mount Everest.
Slack Channels can actually be the perfect avenue for driving course completion rates higher. Every now and then, I shout out lessons from my online course and talk about why that lesson is so important.
When people read my post, they’re more inclined to go check the lesson out for themselves, especially if I “sell” the benefits of it well enough. Getting a conversation going around your course material is a great way to run a more successful slack channel and online course.
8. Create a Weekly Check-in Post
One thing I started doing recently is, I began creating “check in” posts in the #general channel every week. Sometimes I’d talk about important Medium news, and sometimes I’d talk about a good writing tip for folks to follow. The other day I announced that I’ll be updating my course in November.
Just try to be helpful. If there’s important industry news or if you’ve learned something useful, feel free to share it among your students. In a way, that’s free course material that they’ll be happy to read.
9. Comment on Everything
You are the star of your own online course. Sure, people love to meet other folks making the journey, but they’re really there to interact with YOU.
Don’t miss an opportunity to respond to a comment. I always respond to threads in my Slack Channel. Even if I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll tell my students “I actually don’t know the answer to this, but __.” Then I might share an article that might be useful or something.
The important thing is, don’t leave anybody hanging. Reward folks for starting discussions. Jump into everything all the time--your students are going to LOVE that, and it’s incentivizing them to continue to start discussions.
You want a bustling Slack Channel. You want to create a place that folks love to come back to, because that will drive engagement rates up, success rates up, and it will make you feel great, too.
Last but not least, you’ll learn something from your students. Whether that’s information about your industry or information about something totally random that they brought up in natural conversation.
Slack channels can be a proving ground for future course content, and it will certainly help folks feel like they got a lot of personal attention from you. The best part? It really doesn’t require a lot of time. You would think that 30-40 people in a Slack channel would be unmanageable, but the truth is, people don’t normally post too many things.
If you include a Slack channel in your online course, you certainly won’t regret it.
Thomas Kuegler is a full-time blogger and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He writes on Medium, where he has over 47,000 followers, and he also writes on his personal website from time to time. When he's not writing, Tom runs a publication called the Post-Grad Survival Guide on Medium, which has 38,000 followers. You can catch him in Metro Manila buying some street food, filming vlogs, and learning Tagalog most likely.