Popular gaming site responds to educators using the platform

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Over the past year and a half, many companies have been rethinking how to run and market their websites during the pandemic. As quarantine hit, many website and app-based companies have had an influx of users, and platforms have seen their users expanding use of their sites to stay in contact with each other and run their lives virtually.

Discord is a free, popular platform primarily used by gamers to live stream games, play with friends, chat and share content with friends and fans. It operates through invite-only spaces called servers that can host different channels for text, voice and video chat. It includes Discord’s “Go Live” feature that allows people to share screens.

Among other features is the ability for the owner of the server and others with permission to assign roles to the users in their server. Assigning roles can give users access to specific features and channels. Discord also has “bots” coded to help make assigning roles easier, if the bot is used.

When the pandemic hit, Discord noticed people using the site for a variety of reasons beyond gaming. For example, teachers and students began to use it for education. In response to this trend, Discord released an easy-to-use template for servers made for teachers to allow them to interact with students.

John Butler, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, said he has been using Discord to help with his classes since last the school year, and he is continuing to use it now.

“I set it up for all my classes,” Butler said. “(In the server) I used a bot where I told (the users), ‘Depending on what class you are in, pick one of these (reactions to the post)’ and it gave them a role automatically. Then depending on their role for whatever class they are in, I set up a general text channel, and a general audio channel for each of those.”

Butler said that this instant-communication platform both encourages students to interact with each other and lessens his workload. Students began to ask questions in the chat they would have normally emailed to him. Most of the time in the Discord chats, other students in the class would answer each other’s questions first.

Michaela Dunn, junior civil engineering major, said she used Discord for communication with a school club
she set up.

“I downloaded Discord for the first time this past year for my club, Society of Women Engineers,” Dunn said. “It was really helpful because we had different sections for chatting, for homework and (for) questions. That was
really nice.”

Timothy Allec, freshman computer science major, said some of his classes are using Discord to facilitate tutoring, and he said he likes it because it helps to streamline communication.

“Teachers can get the information out there to their students, set up discussion groups and set up tutoring,” Allen said. “I do not see a problem with it, and I think it works well. It is instant communication, so it is very fast to communicate and to keep track of when tests are due or where to find them.”

If students or teachers want to set up a server for their classes, visit discord.com or download the mobile app and make a free account.

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