455: Schools x Discord

Moderating a server owned by a school isn’t the same as moderating any other Discord server. As a school server, your goals will not often align with community servers driven by users seeking like minded people with similar interests. This article will explore how Discord can be used in classroom settings, but we recommend reading this article before diving into this more detailed approach. If you’re a student thinking about how to bring your College/University club onto Discord, check out this page! 

The world is evolving and more educational institutions are moving online, but not everyone is aware of unique connections that the digital world provides. Generally, educational environments follow a pre-existing set of ideals when considering the principles revolving around when and how to teach students. Although new and unknown software may be daunting, this article aims to prove how useful Discord can be in an educational environment while also examining the drawbacks. Discord creates a new schooling environment as it is a constant online platform where students, teachers, and staff members can communicate, do schoolwork, engage in lessons, and even have some fun. 

Benefits of Using Discord in Classrooms

Lots of new opportunities are created for schools who make use of a private Discord server. One of the biggest opportunities is presented in a cultural shift away from formality and closer to general bonding. Gone are the days of formal communications over e-mail and instead we have open chat discussions with teachers, fellow classmates, group project members, and even private one-on-one’s (similar to office hours!) when necessary.

In this section we seek to discuss the many ways that Discord can help virtual learning. Discord can function as a virtual classroom setting in ways that can generate new opportunities for continued and reliable teamwork while enabling new and exciting ways for students to connect with each other.

Utilizing Discord as a Virtual Classroom

While certain permissions are essential to creating an environment that separates teachers and student private chats and subjects, a classroom environment acts as the overall hub for everything necessary from a full school, to a specific classroom, to separate groups working on projects, and even a variation of subjects being taught. 

Simultaneously, a server can be set up to serve a variety of school-related functions including, but not limited to:

  • A Q&A forum for questions about a shared lesson where students can help each other, but teachers can also jump in to assist
  • Private student-teacher meeting spaces for additional tutoring or conversations regarding behavior
  • Voice channels where students can talk or video call to build out projects in designated groups
  • Break-out channels accessible only by assigned groups for group work that teachers can monitor to ensure equal participation
  • The utilization of screen-sharing to have a live online class in a voice channel for up to fifty students
Discord’s Real Time Communication Abilities

Discord naturally lends itself to communication in ways that allow students to help each other. If one student is stuck on an assignment, any student can answer their question or perhaps join them in a study session to work out the problem together. Schoolwork can feel less solitary, there is less of a reliance on teachers and aids, and students who may be taking the same subject in different classes can meet each other and help each other out. This also allows teachers to monitor such a space to gain insight as to where their students are struggling so they can adjust their lesson plans accordingly. 

Interaction with each other doesn’t have to be limited to just typing in designated channels. Students can interact with each other and teachers while using subject specific audio and/or video channels as well, allowing them to have more personal interactions and cater to different learning styles. However, if you are using these channels to broadcast a lesson and not promote group work, make sure that you disable voice activity for students to avoid accidental noise from being broadcasted throughout your online classroom. This helps create a controlled environment for all involved in the virtual classroom space. An example about how to do this is below.

 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Teamwork is a necessary skill in educational settings and Discord’s platform is especially adept at helping to facilitate this. Students can use Group DMs to create private areas to communicate among group members to communicate about a project outside of designated school hours. If you’d like to oversee a groups’ efforts to make sure that everyone is contributing equally, you can also create private chat and audio channels in your school’s Discord server that are accessible only by teachers and students in a designated group project. In a remote teaching setting this allows the teacher to monitor multiple teams at once while being easily accessible to assist or help with any questions, reviewing, or general coaching that is needed for the assignment.

With the proper channel permissions, Discord can also allow several students to share multiple screens at once. This is ideal for multitasking and group work so that students can be assisting each other in group work in real-time without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Discord’s Easy to Use Interface Will Make Students Feel at Home

Discord was created for housing online communities which sets it apart from other routes taken for e-learning platforms. Your students and staff will feel at home in the Discord user interface because it is easy to use and made for quick adaptation. The natural familiarity that many students may bring from their personal usage of the platform and even other similar platforms will reduce the friction of adopting into new virtual learning atmospheres and more easily help transition Discord into their daily educational routines.

A common complaint in larger classroom settings, both in person and virtually, is that the environment is impersonal. In a sea of many faces, it is understandable that a student may feel like just another number on the attendance roster. However, Discord’s premise of providing an easily built space meant for easy and informal communication can reduce this lack of personal connection and instead help students feel welcome, including, and easily engaged.

There is Always Fun to be Had in a Healthy Community

When creating your virtual classroom it is important to keep in mind what you want the purpose of your server to be. A server for a specific math classroom taught by Mr. Wumpus at noon everyday is going to be geared entirely towards education, whereas a more open-concept Algebra server that welcomes all students currently enrolled in the course under various teachers to have a more common meeting space while also being split into their respective virtual classrooms via permissions allows for antics in addition to education. 

 

Educational settings can also be fun if you choose to build them that way. There is always fun to be had in a healthy community when the school day finishes, and providing this hang out space for students will allow them to not only bond but associate positive feelings with school. There can be spaces designated to help students study together in after school hours or perhaps come together to take a study break to play one of their favorite games. A music bot can be used to listen to music in an essay-writing sprint, and a leveling system can be used to reward students for participation. Community feelings lead to happiness, which can impact mental health and grading.

Discord is an Extension of your Physical Campus

Discord also brings many advantages to educational arenas outside of the classroom. A server can be viewed as an extension of your physical campus to the Internet in an e-learning environment. Similar to a real-life campus, Discord is a meeting place for students and staff to chat, get to know each other, and build a stronger community in places they feel safe. Shy students may even find it easier to bond better in an online environment than a physical one which can lead to generating new friendships while also improving pre-existing ones. Students who perceive a welcoming environment and have positive feelings about their school and community will often get better grades because of higher motivations levels.

Interestingly, a further extension of a physical campus would be to an alumni association. While school related Discord servers are often for study tools or virtual classrooms, they can also serve as special places for alumni to connect after graduation. They can not only catch up with their old classmates, but they can mentor current students as well. Such a situation can be brought about via unique ideas like career fairs oriented towards advising current students about future career options by making use of a schools’ alumni network.

The Disadvantages of Using Discord as a School Platform

As mentioned above, Discord’s widespread usage for personal gaming and easy to use interface means that a lot of students could already use Discord in their free time or begin to adopt it into their lives after being introduced to it in a classroom setting. The person someone may present themselves as online can differ from who they are in real life. When given the opportunity to use a profile picture, set usernames and nicknames, and even statuses, things can get out of hand quickly. It may even be difficult for some teachers to identify which student is behind certain accounts if these expectations aren’t established immediately upon server creation.

 

With the likely change that a student might not want to use a picture of themself as their profile picture, it is important to establish server guidelines about what is appropriate to be in that photo. While some users may not be comfortable using their full name or even their first name in their username, set the expectation that everyone has to change their nickname in your private school-related Discord servers to their real name. When students first enter the server, we recommend enabling Developer Mode to privately connect each individual User ID to a student should someone mess up their identity in the future.

 

It is also imperative to reiterate the boundary that you expect everything present in the virtual school ecosystem to be school appropriate. Features like profile pictures, username, and status are platform-wide features that appear in all servers a user is in. What is appropriate in some spaces may not be appropriate in school. Consider this ahead of time to establish rules around this and also punishments should this not be respected. It is important to keep in mind that Discord does have strict Terms of Service and Community Guidelines that state users aren’t allowed to use NSFW content and other forms of illegal content as their username, profile picture, and/or status. This will partly make sure the content on their profiles is acceptable to a degree. However, you may not be comfortable if a student is cursing in your virtual classroom and that can be dealt with accordingly by you.

 

Conclusion

Discord’s very purpose is to foster communication by bringing users an easy to understand interface that is adaptable to a variety of needs, thus making it a really useful modern tool for e-learning and virtual classrooms. With the right permissions, students can be brought into environments where they can not only learn, but also have fun in a virtual extension of their physical campus. Through utilization of a variety of ways to teach classrooms and communicate amongst groups, Discord naturally fosters teamwork and open forum discussions between students and teachers alike.

 

However, Discord is still a platform with millions of users exploring a variety of interests. It’s important to enter Discord prepared to handle students who may be using inappropriate media for school via platform-wide features like profile pictures, statues, and usernames because they are appropriate elsewhere. If you consider the logistics of creating a safe, school-appropriate environment and set expectations and guidelines upon entry, Discord is a great tool for your future educational needs!

Ready to test your moderator skills? Take the Discord Moderator Exam!