Team Chat

A Technology for Learning

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Ian Linkletter


Learning Technology Specialist

Faculty of Education at UBC

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UBC Faculty of Education Since 2011...

  • 1000 fully online course sections

  • Cohort-based Masters programs

  • Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education MOOC (20k students, 80% Canadian, 15% completion rate)

  • Bringing Mental Health to Schools self-paced course (1000+ registrants)

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Join the conversation in the OpenETC Mattermost community:

Team Chat!

The OpenETC is a community of educators, technologists, and designers sharing their expertise to foster and support open infrastructure for the BC post-secondary sector.

Learn more about OpenETC:

Anybody heard of Slack?

What's Team Chat?

Or Microsoft Teams?

Or G(oogle) Suite Hangouts Chat?

Or Workplace by Facebook?

Or HipChat?

Or Rocket.Chat?

Or Mattermost?

So what's Mattermost?

Mattermost is an open source communication tool that facilitates collaboration in a chat-type environment.

  • Public Channels

  • Private Channels

  • Direct Messages

🚨 Anyone can create a channel! 🚨

  • Search

  • @ mentions

  • File/image upload

  • Typing status

  • Timestamps

Not "just chat"

  • Asynchronous and synchronous

  • Persistent history

  • Threaded replies

  • Mobile apps

  • Custom notifications

  • Extensible

  • emoji picker 😎


That's not all

+ Open Source

+ Hosted at UBC on EduCloud

FIPPA Compliant

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Team Chat at UBC:

As told by somebody who doesn't know what he doesn't know

A short history

UBC Learning Technology User Group

  • Founded in 2014 using Slack


The initial mission was to reset an adversarial relationship between IT and instructional support staff through the creation of a shared community.


  • Members only
  • Set agenda
  • One representative
  • Monthly meetings
  • Decision making


  • All are welcome
  • Inclusive space
  • Diverse voices
  • Constant conversation
  • Knowledge sharing

Both of these are important

Needs to be communication both ways

I felt something I'd never felt before.

  • On July 29th, 2014, this was jaw-dropping to me.
  • Now: 218 members and 192,123 messages.
  • 1000 years of collective experience

One month later

Screenshot: Arts ISIT

BB IM (formerly Wimba Pronto)


BB IM was “extremely helpful for [students] and it made the course run smoother for me.” “If I can answer a quick question… it makes my life and their life so much easier and they feel as if they are in a face to face class.”

  • Provide efficient and timely instructor-student communication option

  • Create opportunities for students to collaborate, provide encouragement, and support each other
  • Build and foster a sense of community

Used effectively, chat can:

All important! See Chickering and Gamson's

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education

  • high cost (5 figures)
  • low usage (2 digits)
  • passionate instructors
  • big opportunity

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Never start with the technology...

But feel free to start where the previous technology left off.

"The technological landscape has changed significantly since the implementation of BB IM... We may find something more than “just chat” during the course of this project, and that is a very good thing."


- February 2016 Pilot Kickoff Document

Did that sound straightforward?🤣



  • The process has simplified, but we're still not done.
  • We're not alone - too many pilots stuck in purgatory
  • This is the drawback of piloting a pilot process.
  • We wouldn't be here at all without an open source tool.


Evaluation Phase Complete

10 courses (2017W1 + W2)

8 Instructor/TA interviews

202 student survey responses

Couldn't have done it without the LT Hub: IT and CTLT

Request the UBC Mattermost Evaluation Report (hopefully available by end of June)

How did students rate their experience with Mattermost?

From Mattermost evaluation report, prepared by Letitia Englund with assistance from myself and Joe Zerdin

  • distracting or focused
  • interruptive or just-in-time
  • real-time or anytime
  • inclusive or intimidating
  • a rising flood or a flowing river
  • casual or intimate
  • meaningful or shallow
  • never-ending or always-there

What do you think of when you think of chat?

From Mattermost evaluation report

From Mattermost evaluation report

Pilot Evaluation Report Made 7 Recommendations

How could Mattermost be implemented to maximize perceived benefits and mimimize perceived shortcomings? 

Request the UBC Mattermost Evaluation Report (hopefully available by end of June)

Recommendation #1

Set up for smaller groups of students at once

Starting students off in smaller groups may help reduce feelings of being left out or overwhelmed by a large number of posts. It could also help develop community and connection.

Request the UBC Mattermost Evaluation Report (hopefully available by end of June)

Recommendation #2

Organize content into clear channels and guide shared organization

Chat isn't intuitive to everyone. Some guidance about the purpose of each channel and which ones are most important to check is helpful. A "getting started" guide would also be beneficial.

Recommendation #3

Set expectations around instructional team availability

One of the most personalized ways people can engage with Mattermost is through notifications and apps. Everyone has a different preference - students should know whether to expect an answer in 2 minutes, 2 days, or longer. It's entirely up to you to decide this and communicate it.

Recommendation #4

Integrate or regularly prompt to promote use

The courses with the least activity were the ones where an instructor created the space without committing to using it. Students are sensitive to extra platforms (especially when they require another account) and quickly stop checking if they detect it is not a good use of time.

Recommendation #5

Set loose guidelines for student participation

Students didn't always know what was expected of them. Did they need to read every post? Was perfect grammar a requirement? Must they reply right away before a conversation changes course? Setting expectations (but being open to surprises) is a good idea.

Recommendation #6

Emphasize private communication options, especially for fully online

If the purpose of Mattermost is to enable students to contact their instructor privately, showing them how to do this and encouraging them to do it is important.

Recommendation #7

Explain why Mattermost over other more established chat tools

Students are already using chat. Whether it is Slack or WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, there is no shortage of options. This is an opportunity to have a conversation about how privacy and academic freedom are linked. Do we want to contribute to the feeling that Facebook is too important to delete?

On Open Source Pilots


"Open-source educational technologies are not often considered as viable institutional options in highered as advocates face challenges competing with commercial vendors responding to standard IT procurement practices.  RFP processes typically favour commercial applications and limit open-source involvement in the educational technology space at most institutions."

^ This.

Pilot Timeline

  • Pilot started April 2016
  • Evaluation delayed until September 2017
  • Surveys and interviews completed April 2018
  • Evaluation report completed April 2018
  • Evaluation report released June 2018 (🤞)
  • Enterprise team chat operational September 2018 (??? 🙏 ???)


Mr. Mattermost

There is huge demand for FIPPA-compliant team chat, and I fielded all of it. Credit courses in Faculty of Education and Arts participated in the pilot evaluation, but in the meantime many non-credit teams were created.

Non-credit teams


Master of Educational Technology Social Lab

Staff teams (Sauder, ETS)

Teaching teams (Education)

Dissertation research project (Education)

Research teams (Education, Science)

Mental health supports

Student advising (Education)

Anybody see the size of this thing?

How do you catch a wave that won't stop growing?

  • Don't try to stop it
  • Scale up your pilot (and respect it)
  • Any costs must be commensurate with demand
  • Don't push for a site-wide license
  • Combination of Team Edition and Enterprise Edition is the way to go

For the first time ever, I'm comfortable saying...




... but what's next? And Mattermost?

A competitor emerges

  • Mattermost and MSFT Teams
  • Teams is included with Office 365
  • A chat layer would make Office 365 the stickiest software at UBC
  • Teams integrates with everything: email, voicemail, calendar, web conferencing, SharePoint...
  • But how is that important for students?

Space for two techs: Mattermost

  • Self-hosted at UBC
  • 100% Canadian jurisdiction
  • Nobody can have our data without our consent - it's ours
  • Our policies, our wording, our decisions
  • Inclusive space for guests
  • Integrations are distracting
  • Could fork the project
  • Preserve capacity to self-host

Challenges of US cloud products

1) Vulnerability to sanctions

  • Canvas is blocked in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Crimea
  • Refugee education is compromised

Challenges of US cloud products

2) Access to data

  • We have to pay for access
  • We don't get the full picture
  • Canvas has Google Analytics on every page but we don't get to see them

Challenges of US cloud products

3) True academic freedom

  • US law enforcement can target students (CLOUD Act)
  • This has a chilling effect
  • Spaces must be safe
  • Is this part of our digital tattoo?

Challenges of US cloud products

4) Hierachical in nature

  • Instructor as administrator
  • Student permissions limited
  • It is powerful to share ownership

Limitless potential

  • Can this project inform yours?
  • Could this be a shared service?

Continue the conversation in Mattermost:

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Calvin and Hobbes Copyright Bill Watterson

Festival of Learning 2018

By Ian Linkletter

Festival of Learning 2018

Ian Linkletter's Festival of Learning 2018 presentation about the UBC Team Chat project.

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