The Developer of Digital Health and Welfare Services

DeDiWe Is Going Slack

June 20, 2017

Reading length approx. 5 minutes.

A call to modernize DeDiWe was heard through feedback from last year’s students.

DeDiWe is a UAS curriculum that gives future professionals skills in developing eHealth services. Some of DeDiWe’s students have already found employment in organizations like HUS.

Slack, on the other hand, is an online team collaboration tool used daily by five million people and said to be the fastest growing enterprise company in history. Slack is currently used by institutions such as Harvard University, LinkedIN, Samsung, and Time Magazine.

The move to shift the entire DeDiWe curriculum into an entirely new platform is a bold one. While some web users are still getting used to the idea of collaborating via live video feeds, Slack may seem like a backward step into a future where chat-based communication is considered more efficient than recorded or streamed speech.

Instead of video webinars, the upcoming DeDiWe implementation will bring students and lecturers together in what we call Slackinars. A Slackinar is a real-time chat-based webinar that takes advantage of Slack’s modern communication features. Slackinars will take place in Slack Channels which can be seen as sort of theme-oriented group chats.

Screen capture from the DeDiWe Slack platform.

By simply drag-and-dropping content directly into a group chat, lecturers and students can share web links, images, short videos, ebooks, Tweets, slides, news stories, or documents from cloud services. Students participating in DeDiWe’s Slackinars can react to any piece of shared content by commenting on it, by starting threaded discussions around it, or by using Slack’s Emoji Reaction Feature.

Use of emojis in a professional academic context may seem like poor judgement to the unaccustomed. We regard the platform’s Emoji Reaction Feature as a logical solution for expressing oneself in a text-based virtual setting that is agnostic of time and place. How many times have you cursed an email that contains a single yes-or-no question? In Slack, it’s just thumbs up or thumbs down.

Besides interacting via threaded conversations and emojis, students and lecturers can for example pin a shared PDF to a channel or favorite an insightful comment for later personal reference. Slackbot can be tasked to set a reminder for any piece of content. “Slackbot, remind me about this next week.” Okay!

Screen capture from a DeDiWe Slackinar demo.

DeDiWe’s shift to a chat-based environment can be seen as part of a larger, ongoing trend that questions the efficiency of email. This shift has been partly propelled by Slack itself. Bigger players like Microsoft and Facebook have paid attention to the platform’s growing adoption rates and are currently developing their own messaging services for professional collaboration.

“One of the objectives the DeDiWe team seeks to achieve by shifting to Slack is an open, unobstructive learning environment,” says DeDiWe’s project manager Outi Ahonen from Laurea UAS.

For DeDiWe’s lecturers, the shift brings new ways to stimulate their students. Some frustration has been expressed with the loss of voice when moving from audio and video feeds to typed chats.

One of the upsides of text-based communication is its searchability. For example, DeDiWe’s multi-professional group discussions and Slackinars will remain accessible for retrospection throughout the curriculum. They can even be archived or exported for administrative purposes. An advanced search feature will allow rediscovery based on keywords, usernames, and time frames.

In the current phase of DeDiWe’s modernization, lecturers are working to prewrite engaging and dialogical manuscripts for their Slackinars. The manuscripts are part of DeDiWe’s student-centric approach to deliver a robust learning experience right from the start when the first study unit kicks off in September.

Before the kick-off, DeDiWe’s students will be assigned into multi-professional small groups. The small groups and their development themes will be designed according to a pre-curriculum survey to participating students. When implemented in Slack, these pedagogical choices are expected to boost productivity and inspire creativity — the qualities a future eHealth services developer will surely have a use for. “We see this shift as an ongoing development process and exploration of eplatforms that will continue throughout the fifteen-credit curriculum,” Ahonen adds.

Curious about Slack? Go check out a collection of short video guides on their official YouTube Channel and learn about the tool we are currently building our curriculum on. You can also approach our Slack Yoda Master Kaius Karlsson with further questions on DeDiWe’s shift into Slack.

Written by: Kaius Karlsson