Slack: Channels & Workspaces Comparison

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Slack channels and Slack workspaces offer collaborative spaces with subsets of members centered around various topics, projects, groups, teams, and units. As they serve similar purposes, this document compares channels and workspaces to help you understand the differences between each option and find the best fit for your U-M Slack experience. Refer to Getting Started with Slack at U-M for instructions on creating a U-M Slack account, which is the first step to working in U-M Slack.

Note: When new members are added to Slack channels and workspaces, they can view all history in that channel/workspace.

Slack Channels

Slack channels are topic-focused conversations with other members of that channel. Channels have the hashtag symbol (#) in front of the channel name when public. When private, they are denoted by a padlock symbol.

Public Channels: Any U-M Slack account member can view and join a public channel in the workspace(s) to which they belong. Public channels are designed to provide shared information to all workspace members and are searchable by other members. 

Private Channels: Any workspace member can create a private channel, but individuals must be added to a private channel by a current channel member. Any messages or files posted in a private channel are only viewable by members of the channel. There is no limit to the number of private channels a member can create. Private channels are most beneficial when used for topics that are limited to smaller groups of members.

Channels have several use cases, including:

  • Specific topics (e.g., #covid-19, #security-alerts,  #cool-slack-memes)
  • Groups (e.g., #its-interns, #psa-community-of-pratice, #all-temporarystaff)
  • Teams (e.g., #its-dropbox-team, #hits-help-desk, #um-volleyball)
  • Small to medium size units: (e.g., #lsa-english-dept, #um-smtd, #um-international-center)

Note: For channels with duplicate names (e.g., #general), the workspace name will appear beside the channel name in your channel sidebar.

Visit the Slack Help Center to learn more about public and private channels.

Slack Workspaces

Slack workspaces are a collection of public and private channels intended for larger group collaboration inside U-M Slack. Workspace Admins control who has access to join the workspace(s). Once a member has been added to the workspace, they can see and join any public channels and be added to private channels.

All channels, direct messages, and apps from every U-M workspace you're a member of are viewable from one location called “Home.” However, you can filter Home to view specific U-M workspaces and their content as needed.

Workspaces are good for large units or departments that need five or more channels. For example, a department that wants a channel for every team in their unit or has multiple large distinct projects.


  • Any member of U-M Slack can create a workspace.
  • It is possible to belong to more than one Slack workspace.
  • Direct messages are not workspace-specific, which means Slack members will see all of their direct messages in every workspace to which they belong.
  • Workspace instances are maintained by their creators. ITS manages the organizational-level U-M Slack Enterprise Grid.
    • Therefore, the overall U-M Slack Enterprise Grid preferences take priority over workspace preferences.

Slack for Teaching

Slack can be used for synchronous and asynchronous class discussions, student group conversations, and more. One or more private channels in the Maize & Blue Slack workspace or a full private workspace may be appropriate for your instructional toolkit. Refer to Creating U-M Slack Workspaces for more information on creating a Slack workspace for your courses and Create a channel for information on creating a Slack channel for your courses. You can also enable Canvas notifications in U-M Slack.

  • You may prefer one or more private channels in Maize & Blue if:
    • You plan to use Slack minimally, such as for one or two discussions.
    • You do not plan to create custom Slack emojis (custom emojis are not available to create in Maize & Blue).
    • You do not plan to use/install apps or integrations with Slack.
  • You may prefer to create a workspace if:
    • You plan to use Slack robustly, such as for many discussions.
    • You plan to create and use custom Slack emojis.
    • You plan to install apps or integrations with Slack, such as GitHub, Asana, etc.
Last Updated: 
Tuesday, November 14, 2023