What Communication/Collaboration Platform Does Your Team Use?

Hi All,

We are currently trying to decide on a teamwide communication and collaboration platform to more effectively enable communication among teachers, mentors, and students. Our team currently uses Google Classroom and Google Meet, but we are running into some efficiency issues since mentors do not have access to the Google Classroom or ability to administrate the Google Meets.

Specifically, I’d love to hear from teams operating within a public school because responses here will be shared with teachers and administration responsible for approving such things.

If you have experience with getting platforms like Slack or Discord approved by administration, I’d also love to hear more about that in a response.

Thanks in advance!
Akash

What Communication Channel(s) Does Your Public School Team Use for Team-Wide Collaboration Between Teachers, Mentors, and Students? Video and/or Text Chat
  • Slack
  • Discord
  • Zoom
  • Google Classroom/Google Meet
  • MS Teams
  • Skype
  • Other (please elaborate)

0 voters

2 Likes

Voted. We are affiliated with a public school, and use both Slack and the Gsuite apps, however it’s worth noting that we use Gsuite on our domain and not the school’s, so we have full control over it

7 Likes

Interesting, this is great info. Did you guys have to have this approved for use by administration? We are aiming to play things safe and run all decisions by the school when it comes to communicating with students.

We’re in the same boat as @rtomp . We meet at a public school but operate under an independent 501©(3), and we’re using Slack and Gsuite as well. Our school has been requiring all extracurriculars to use google meet for meetings, and it’s sort of a gray area (as with most things) how much we’re bound by that since we’re technically a school-connected organization rather than a school extracurricular. But we have our own domain for Gsuite, so it hasn’t been much of an issue and we’ve been reasonably content to go with the flow. We’re debating possibly trying to move to Zoom because it has better break-out room capabilities, but haven’t really decided whether to actively pursue that yet.

We’ve been using Slack for many years, and I know our school is okay with that, though again I’m not sure if we need their permission, or just chose to follow their guidelines (for auditability etc) because it was easier than trying to parse out the liability issues on our own.

1 Like

We previously used only Whatsapp for team comunication, and google meets for well meetings, last semester we started using discord we found it really good for communications between subteams, we even have our ftc team on the same server, chats are invisible if you aren’t on the other team

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3946 (based at Slidell High, a public school) used Slack to good effect my last three seasons with them (2016-2018). My biggest takeaway from the experience (and I suspect this is largely independent of the specific platform) is to manage your channels:

  • have an “official announcements” channel that a limited number of people can post to (or is moderated), but EVERYONE is expected to read. Use sparingly, for schedule changes and deadline reminders.
  • always have a few “chit-chat” channels, because if your team is properly gelling, people will want to talk about non-robotics things with each other also, and having those conversations on your “official” platform but a “freeform” channel will benefit the team in both cases.
  • Have someone (or maybe two or three) assigned to create channels as needed and deactivate channels when they’ve been silent too long. Create channels for coordination of specific events, whether competition or outreach to reduce chatter on general channels - then close them a reasonable amount of time after the event.
  • unless you have some other means of recording conversations and decisions, pay a few bucks so you can keep conversations of previous years - there were quite a few times when referencing a post over a year old would have been helpful, but the team basically posted enough that everything older than about nine or ten months had been deleted.
  • 3946 also had a channel (I forget the name) which was readable by anyone, but was intended as a direct communication to the head coach. Among other things, any requests to be excused from a nominally mandatory meeting or build session were to be sent to this channel.

Also, for YPP purposes, establish very specific rules about direct messaging. The last thing you want is one mentor and one student DMing each other. 3946’s rule was that any DM which had at least one student and one mentor should have at least two students and two mentors. If flat out blocking DMs were possible, we’d likely have done that.

5 Likes

If you’re specifically looking to choose between slack and discord, some thoughts:

Text channels: slack wins
Slack has threads. Threads are great. Discord replies are not great.

Calls/voice channels: discord
Slack caps calls at 15 participants, discord allows up to 100. You can also adjust each person’s volume in discord, and mods can mute/kick participants.

Message history: discord
Slack’s free plan caps the number of saved messages, which can be annoying if you’re looking for how you did something before.

File sharing: slack
Individual max file size on slack is 1gb, on discord it’s 8mb.

Perms: discord
You can set perms separately by role and channel, you can call roles whatever you want, it’s just better than slack in basically every way.

Bots: discord
It’s easier to write bots, there’s more available bots, it’s way easier to integrate them.

Notification: discord
You can set notification options per channel (vs just muting on slack)

DMs: tie?
Slack dms are per workspace, in discord you just have one account that you join different servers with. I like having everything in one place, but you might prefer keeping stuff separate.

Mobile app: discord
Slack’s app is terribly buggy for me – I often don’t get notifications, get notifications that flash and disappear, new messages don’t load properly until I force stop the app, etc. Discord’s app is great.

I would summarize it as discord is better in almost every way, but lack of threads might be a dealbreaker.

7 Likes

Personally, I hate Slack’s threading model. Slack threads are a great way to send messages to oblivion, if you ask me.

I’ve heard good things about Zulip (and very few complaints about their threading model), but I haven’t personally used it enough to make a solid judgement about it.

AFAIK, both Slack and Discord have exactly the same per-channel notification options. I definitely have mobile notifications enabled for all messages only in particular channels I’m in.

Whoops…I didn’t read it before voting. Private school that uses MS Teams (have access through school). Would not recommend it to anyone unless you already have access through your school (and that doesn’t seem to be your situation).

1 Like

Our team (public school) uses microsoft teams.

Benefits:

  • The amount of integration with the rest of the office suite is nice (this is the main selling point imo)
    • Virtual meetings can be integrated into outlook calendar, for instance
  • No cap on call participants
  • Message threads are nice
  • There’s a squirrel emote (as opposed to chipmunks)*

Drawbacks:

  • The absurd amount of memory it takes up (for instance, right now it’s using about 200 MB while I’m not even looking at the app).
  • In addition, it also runs pretty slowly (see: memory issues), which can get extremely frustrating, especially during calls
  • Fairly difficult to add people outside of the organization to a team
  • Bots don’t really exist. At all.
  • Notification options aren’t very intuitive/easy to use
  • No custom emotes

Overall, I second @jago21’s point - if you have access to the microsoft suite through school, go for it, but if not I’d recommend using slack or discord.

*This is something I care deeply about. You might not care at all. :man_shrugging:

2 Likes

We use Slack and Google Meet and we’re kind of too deep into those two to switch, but Discord having voice channels, no message limit, group pings, role management, simpler bot development, and a FRC community on the level of CD only one click away at all times puts it way ahead of Slack feature wise in my opinion.

Note: qualifying non-profits can upgrade to Slack’s Standard Plan (unlimited accessible messages and files) for free.

3 Likes

We are essentially part of a school district and so tend to use the same tools. I thought it might be interesting to mention padlet as a place to track/thread discussions though the number of padlets you get for free is quite limited. Having said that, I did click the thread looking for something better than what we use currently.

Other - google groups for email distribution

Thanks for the insight! As of right now the preference is Discord because of the specific permissions that can be set. We also have mentors with extensive admin experience with Discord, which is a huge plus.

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We use and are sponsored by samepage.io It allows us to have different communication teams with privacy. Also there’s file storage, tasks and calendars. Samepage has been a great communication and organizational tool for us.

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I know you made the clarification, but nonprofits related to schools are not eligible. (we went down this road)

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Up until this year we just used Whatsapp for communication among the whole team and individual sub-teams. Whatsapp is used as the main method of communication instead of SMS here, so it was only natural.

This year needing to move online, we started using Discord more. Whole-team meetings are done either through zoom or some other video-conference software that the school uses because that’s what the teacher mentors are used to. But many of the sub-teams do their meetings over Discord. The voice/video conference + text chat + easy screen sharing was easier both for training new members and collaborating on work. The adult mentors on the team are not so quick to pick it up, but many of the students were already very familiar with it from their personal lives so it was natural for them. I personally am not a huge fan of it and found Slack more intuitive, but I also didn’t have much experience with it before now and I imagine I’ll get more used to Discord the more I use it.

Are you outside the US? (Whatsapp seems to have very little use in the US)

I voted even though we are not a HS team, but a 4-H team that is more-or-less affiliated with the high schools in the county. We use Slack/Zoom/Meet for official stuff and the kids use Discord for unofficial stuff like coordinating Among Us etc.