Art by Piper Berbano
Words by Keanu Plantilla
When there’s already Zoom and Google Classroom making online learning work wonderfully for us, there’s not a lot of reasons to explore other options for online classrooms. They have become the go-to platforms for many educators because of the softwares’ easy-to-learn features and instant accessibility.
But what if we told you that there are other programs that can also get the job done? Better, at that. Sure, Zoom and Google Classroom could be considered the standard of online classroom set-ups, but have you ever tried Discord?
Discord is a chat app, similar to programs like Skype or communications platforms like Slack. It supports voice and text chat, video calls, and screen-sharing, giving users multiple options to connect and communicate. It operates on two levels: servers and channels. The server acts as a classroom and the channels set the stage for open discussion. Though it gained popularity as an app for gamers, Discord has diversified its identity and services to cater to communication needs in general.
If you aren’t familiar with it yet, here’s a few good reasons why you should consider Discord the next time you hold online classes:
1. Free and Accessible
It’s available on mobile and desktop which makes it easy to use. Plus, all the features you’ll need from an online classroom is there. If you want an upgraded experience, there is a paid option called “Discord Nitro.”
2. Group Oriented and Collaborative
It’s all about the channels. You can set up voice channels where everyone can interact and move freely to different channels. You can also create text channels which gives you all the flexibility you need in facilitating your tasks. (upload files, post updates, share images, review previous lessons, etc.)
3. You Can Assign Roles
If there’s a serious topic that must be addressed or a group meeting that needs to be held, teachers can create role assignments so only a specific group can be involved in a discussion.
4. One Invite Access Pass
No need for multiple codes for every class session. One initial invite is enough for the class for the whole term. If you have an account, just click on the invitation, log in, and you’re good to go! If you don’t have one yet, you can still click on an invite and sign up from there.
5. Voice, Video, and Screen-Sharing
Discord allows you to do voice chat, video call, and screen-sharing all in one channel. What’s cool is that they allow up to 50 people in their screen-sharing feature (temporarily upped from 10 in response to the current situation).
6. See Who’s Listening and Who’s Not
It’s already hard enough to keep track of who’s participating in a regular class, what more in an online class? Discord lets you know when someone’s doing things outside the discussion through their status message. It also gives you the ability to give direct feedback and interact with your students anytime.
7. Minimal Data Usage
Since Discord’s a chat app, it doesn’t require too much data or high internet speed for optimal performance. You can connect to audio calls even with minimal internet speed and can eat up less than 60MB in about 3 hours.
Although Discord has a lot of amazing features, here are some possible disadvantages you should consider:
1. Age Restriction
Discord limits its access to users 13 years old and up. Sadly, educators with primary students cannot make use of Discord yet.
2. A Challenging Learning Curve
Its unique interface and multitude of options makes Discord a little bit confusing, especially for first time users. Explore and tinker to see what works for you; you’ll eventually get the hang of it.
3. File Size Limit
Discord only allows up to 8MB when sending or uploading files. If you’re planning to share a video or upload a presentation, make sure it’s compressed or within the limit. Or make use of cloud storage to send it as a link instead.
4. 2000 Characters Only
Discord has a 2000-character word limit to avoid long and spammy messages. So the next time you send a message, make it short and sweet.
5. Browsing Through the App While in Calls
Other servers that may not be school-related (again, Discord gained popularity as a chat app for video games) are still visible even when in calls, which may be a cause of distraction.
For some of us, e-learning has been a tough transition. The persistent connection problems, the sluggish internet speeds, the draining video calls, the frustrating delayed responses, and other uncontrollable factors have made virtual classrooms an unpleasant experience. Yet, learning continues through online platforms.
Discord aims to help establish a community for learning where everyone can work together and be collaborative as much as possible—a place that can be fun and interactive for both teachers and students. Most of its features are designed to maximize participation, engagement, and communication so everyone can be involved in the process.
So if you’d like to check out a new place to learn and connect with people, then Discord might just be for you.
Piper is a student based in Metro Manila, eager to learn more about different causes and how visual art can be used for social good. Whether it is resonating with a fictional lazy egg or being fascinated by the stars, she finds interest in many simple things.
Keanu is from Metro Manila, Philippines and is a Sensereporter for Makesense Asia. He creates content to promote positive mental health. Keanu supports building mental health awareness. He believes that the more we share, the more we care.