Office Hours on Slack

Continuous office hours

In this class I will be holding the vast majority of my office hours online using the hipster tech startup communication tool called “Slack“. What this means is that you will be able to contact me, as well as communicate both publicly and privately with other members of the class, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It also means that I can answer questions publicly in a space that the entire class can see.

I used this method of holding office hours last year and had at least twenty times more questions and interactions with students than when people were trying to catch me during a restricted set of in-person office hours. My goal is to be able to answer your questions and help give you hints to get you un-stuck when you are stuck, as efficiently as possible, and Slack works really well for this purpose.

Get connected

The trick is, Slack only works if people use it. If a lot of you choose to communicate with me and the class using Slack then it will be a vibrant and informative space from which you can learn a lot. So use it!

How to use Slack

Type stuff. People see it. Sometimes it is public and sometimes it is private. Here are some use cases:

  • If your question is about a math problem or class policy, then post it in the general Slack channel so that everyone can see and learn from both your question and my answer.
  • If you’re looking for people to study with, put out a call in the general channel for people to join you at a specific place and time. Sometimes people show up; everyone is in the same boat and wants to get ready for the Mastery Quizzes!
  • If your question is personal (about your grade or a difficult situation, etc) then send me a Direct Message in Slack. Nobody will see it but me.
  • If you want to set up a private discussion group with one or more other people, you can do so from the left column menu by clicking on the “+” near “Direct Messages”.
  • If you want to create kitten gifs in Slack then type “/giphy kittens” and shuffle to find one you like.

How to ask math questions in Slack

Follow these best practices to get your questions answered as quickly as possible:

  • If you’re asking about a problem from the book then mention the section and number of the problem.
  • Also, take a picture of the problem and/or of your work on the problem with your phone and include it with your message. That way I can reply to your message when I see it, not many hours later when I finally get to a place where I have a copy of the book.
  • Try to describe where you got stuck on the problem. “How do you do #12” is much less likely to get a quick answer than something descriptive like “I tried #12 (picture of problem) and got stuck on the induction step (photo of your work). Why isn’t this step working out?”
  • Feel free to answer each other’s questions and discuss! I’ll answer when I’m around, but it’s even better if you can try to help each other out.

What if you want to meet in person?

Well, you can catch me after class any day, meet me in office hours, or make an appointment for another time, if you have a situation that can’t be handled over Slack. If you’re looking for a place where you can sit and work on homework and ask questions when you get stuck or want to check your work, then that’s not office hours, it’s the Math and Science Learning Center.  🙂