Using Discord can streamline online school and beyond

October 31, 2020 — by Viraaj Reddi
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Throughout the last six months, students have quickly adapted to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has generally taken the form of recurring Zoom meetings every week to simulate the feel of a real classroom. 

Yet despite Zoom’s popularity, quarantine has pushed it to its limits. Yes, Zoom fulfills its primary purpose, professional video calls. But as the school has seen through various bugs, glitches and technical difficulties, Zoom isn’t completely reliable. Even some of Zoom’s functioning features have proven frustrating. For example, breakout rooms are difficult to manage, configurations are hidden in obscure settings and screen sharing on iOS Zoom requires 13 separate steps.

On its own, Zoom is not the solution to a troubling time. The school needs to explore other supplementary platforms to aid education, and Discord, a messaging and gaming application popular among streamers, is one of the best.

At The Saratoga Falcon, our staff has also had to adjust to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the routine Zoom meetings, however, Discord has been one of our staff’s most invaluable tools. Its collaborative features have provided the newspaper staff with a level of efficiency rivaling in-person school. 

Intuitive and easy-to-use features such as voice channels, text channels, and roles simplify the complexities of online communication, solving problems that Zoom, as well as messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, might have. 

For example, breakout rooms and small-group communication is far easier on Discord. Teachers have struggled with Zoom’s peculiar format of creating rooms during each session and assigning students individually to each. 

Discord makes this easy with pre-existing voice channels that function like permanent Zoom breakout rooms, so students simply have to click into their specific voice channel. In each channel they can call and chat, and it is incredibly easy to keep track of who is where. Students can also easily switch between voice channels to talk to whomever they need, streamlining communication. They can even video chat, essentially replicating Zoom and Google Meet. 

Discord’s features can simplify existing processes, and at the same time, they could solve problems that teachers in online learning haven’t yet addressed.

Currently, teachers all have their own methods of posting homework online. While juggling six or seven classes, this can easily confuse students and lead to missing assignments because they simply don’t know where to look. Instead, Discord could standardize this process by letting teachers post daily in a homework channel. 

In addition, many students already form informal text groups for each class to discuss assignments, tests, and more. Discord could easily standardize these groups through casual classroom server channels, the equivalent of staying in a classroom with one’s friends during school. These relaxed student discussions have been sorely lacking during quarantine, and Discord could mimic this in-person feel. 

Many students are already familiar with Discord, and its smooth learning curve means it’s simple enough for teachers to learn. 

This isn’t to say that the school should abandon Zoom, which is still elite for video call communication. But teachers should consider  exploring Discord as a tool that could help both students work more efficiently and maybe even supplement Canvas and Facebook beyond the pandemic.

For years, students at Saratoga have lacked a standardized way to communicate for school-related activities. The default option has been Facebook, which is quickly falling out of favor with students and parents due to privacy concerns. 

Discord could even allow the school to truly oversee official meetings and activities that have been informally happening through Facebook for years. For example, club updates and ASB meeting information are often released solely through Facebook, which many students simply don’t have. For an official school activity, it doesn’t make sense to restrict students from participating because they don’t want to use Facebook. 

Discord servers could replace Facebook groups, and through a school-managed Discord account, every student could automatically have full access to the school’s extracurricular opportunities. Clubs could have many more methods for coordinating activities with Discord’s features, and many have already begun taking advantage of its capabilities. 

Discord strikes down two birds with one stone by streamlining the rest of online school and setting a precedent to follow well beyond the pandemic. The benefits are too good to pass up, and there is no better time than now to try it.



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