Anybody using Discord instead of Zoom for classes?

I have ~65 students and will need to share screen and also would like something like breakout rooms. I’d love to hear from people that used Discord instead of Zoom.

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We’re not using Discord in class (we’ve got Microsoft Teams for that), but we have experience using it for events such as our virtual game jam at the end of 2020.

The absolute advantage of Discord is the usage among students. Most of them use it already, so they’re highly comfortable with it. There are a few things to consider though, before using Discord in a class, I’d say:

  • It’s meant for communities (mostly gaming but not only), so to achieve a structure where you’re the only one who’s allowed to present, maybe start screen sharing and that sort of thing, you need to configure your server beforehand properly. Meaning, setting up the proper roles with rights and assigning them to everyone (or at least strip most of the permissions from the default role and create an elevated role for yourself, TAs, and the likes).
  • Discord’s abilities when it comes to screen sharing are limited on a free server. You only get 720p with 30fps and 96kbps audio. If you want more, then you need to upgrade your server with money. It’s called boosting, and again, since Discord is a community tool, these boosts are usually given from users to the server, which is a bit odd in terms of education. There might be an edu alternative to that though, I actually never checked.
  • I don’t think that there’s a way to connect a discord server to something like your institution’s active directory. So I guess it will be hard to have people’s real names in there (unless they set it themselves).
  • I’m not sure where you’re located, but for Europe, I guess it could also become a GDPR issue (at least theoretically). There’s no way to influence where the server is hosted. If a student requires deleting their data, all you can do is contact Discord support and hope that they wipe everything, but there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Wolfgang

Thanks Wolfgang, that is super helpful. There’s a fewe things that appeal to me about trying Discord, particularly

  1. persistent location for chat and video (so I’m not using Slack for chat with them [homework help] and zoom for video)
  2. various channels
  3. potential for a better audio/video experience (?)

I’m going to give it a test whirl soon and will report back.

Sincerely, Kyle

There’s a meme about this… posted on our Discord server by a student:

We’re using Discord as a degree program wide networking/help server for various reasons:

  • many of our students already use Discord for video games, etc. so it was a natural choice. I like to use technologies / efforts that are student driven and tap into their intrinsic motivation. For example, the student admins and tutors created several channels (including memes of course) and post regularly to them. the discussion forums in LMSes are always dead because the students don’t use them outside of forced assignments.
  • senpai kohai relationship / networking, even with some alumni across channels and classes
  • channels, roles, mentions, bots, lots of features in general
  • created by a former student, so I like to support him

But we are not using it in as organized a manner as you are asking. My guess is it would work fine, but could be limited as @hochleitner recommended. Zoom has better support for breakout rooms and easier to use with non techies I would imagine. Discord limits file size uploads, no link embedding (without bot), no threaded reply like Slack has, no bullet lists still… There are bot(s) that can rename users of a server, but you would probably need some mapping or have the students use a Google form to collect it or something.

I have used the private video chat / screen share to help students individually many times. I’ll use any technology they want to use with me (within reason), but some simply prefer Discord and asked me to use it. Larger groups could be more of a problem? I never ran into a problem with 4-8 people gaming groups, but beyond that I don’t know.

Zoom works just as good for video chat as far as I’m concerned. Blackboard Collaborate is kinda meh. Microsoft Teams is pretty meh IMNSHO - people seem to be divided on this - you either love it or hate it lol Some of our students like it and the official tutoring department uses it. Other students hate it. One student joined our Discord to get help with how to use the interface of Microsoft Teams… I think that tells you something…

This might be of interest: Discord for College / University Clubs and Organizations
Something I like about discord is the fact that students don’t need me to be there to create their own group calls. The integrations with webhooks are amazing with GitHub Repositories. It allows me to know when someone pushes code or open an issue. We’ve also used Ticket Bot so students can open tickets on discord in private with questions.

The con for me is the gaming “history” Discord has but it has some great tools and promotes collaborations.

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