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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Discord helps students connect during periods of virtual instruction

Students explain how Discord’s unique platform allows clubs and classes to form communities online

By ANNE SALTEL — features@theaggie.org

Campus has been quiet this January due to the extension of remote learning; however, online, students are buzzing with connection. As people have relied more heavily on various social media sites to connect with friends and peers during the pandemic, students explain what makes Discord especially useful for fostering community.

Discord is a social media platform that houses invite-only servers, often based around a specific topic, which include chat rooms and voice call channels for members. Invites to specific servers can be very inclusive, such as the UC Davis server hub which students can access by searching the university’s name, or more exclusive, like servers for friends or study groups. Because anyone with a Discord account can create a server in just a few clicks, these groups are popular for forming online communities at Davis. 

Because there are so many servers unofficially associated with the school, fifth-year applied physics major Sammuel Pertruescu created the “UCD Club/Server Directory” to help students navigate the various channels. The directory houses hundreds of UC Davis Discord channels, including servers for social conversations, official and unofficial clubs, university announcements and classes or majors. By accessing the server directory, users can join these servers to find community members interested in the same topics as them. 

Pertuescu shared why he believes Discord has become many students’ go-to social platform for collaboration and connection online.

“I think Discord works well because there are other softwares out there, but they’re not conducive to having a lot of servers,” Pertuescu said. “Any beginner can pick up Discord really quickly and learn how to use it. It’s just easier to see and easier to organize [than other platforms].” 

Pertuescu created this server in the fall of 2020 when instruction was remote. Since then, it has amassed over 11,000 members and inspired the Discord application to create a similar “hub” feature.

Many clubs created Discord channels during the 2020-2021 academic year because most campus events were limited to virtual gatherings, and are now returning to their online servers during the COVID-19 surge fuelled by the Omicron variant. 

 Maggie Chen, a second-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, said that the Aggie Baking Club has been using Discord to connect with their members during periods of remote instruction. 

“We definitely struggled with COVID-19 making everything online,” Chen said. “What we’ve been doing is planning online events. I feel like it’s easier for people to join from the comfort of their own homes so that maybe inclines people to join our meetings more.”

Chen is the social media director of the Aggie Baking Club, and she explained that most social media sites don’t foster conversation between members as well as Discord does. Outside of being a forum for hosting meetings, club members are able to text via the Discord channel to stay connected with each other. The site allows club officers to push important announcements but also lets members bring up conversations in the same space. 

“We have a recipe trading channel [and] we have a channel where people can post pictures of their baked items,” Chen said. “We [also] have private channels for just the club officers to communicate on where we can deal with behind the scenes things. It’s all in one place, so I really like how it’s organized like that.”

Discord is also being used to form academic communities, especially within classes or majors. Class discords can be used for distributing resources, creating study groups and allowing students to ask their peers questions about the course. Other academic channels are more broad, like the Political Science Discord, created by first-year political science major Grey Crawford.

“My political science Discord has course specific channels so [users] can send a message into those channels to meet other people who are taking their course,” Crawford said. “Now they have connections that they can take with them in future courses or just in general. […] We’ll also drop some opportunities there, like internships or opportunities to submit your work.”

Crawford has found most Discord channels to have a tone of connection and camaraderie between people connecting both professionally and socially. They explained that recently they had to drop a course, and asked older students on the political science channel for help deciding what course to take instead. 

“That was really cool, because […] they could lend their knowledge to me, and then I can then lend my knowledge to them too,” Crawford said. “It’s just turned into a really nice place with hundreds of other political science students who can help you.”

Crawford said that these online communities have been helping students — especially those whose first and second years of college have been interrupted by the pandemic — form strong connections, even when far apart.

Written by: Anne Saltel — features@theaggie.org

Correction: An earlier version of this article used the wrong pronouns for one of the sources. The article has been updated to correct the error, and we apologize for harm caused. Writers are trained to ask sources their pronouns — if you have any questions, concerns or comments about our training protocol, please reach out to managing@theaggie.org.

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