As students try to traverse through online schooling, it’s hard to think that there aren’t any other options than having to settle for Zoom as the “premiere” software to attend class. However, there is one: Discord.
Unfortunately, the company missed its golden opportunity to reign supreme as a leading communication software over the Zoom overlords.
When attempting to understand why students don’t necessarily need Zoom, it’s not that Discord is better and that students should use it. Rather, Discord provides a practical and much more user-friendly interface than Zoom.
Instead of just accepting the status quo, there should have been some other options considered albeit universities’ swift online transition.
A benefit to using Discord for educational purposes is its cost. Take Zoom as the current example — a single license for education for 20 hosts, giving 20 teachers the ability to host is $1,800. According to College Factual, a website that displays college data for prospective students to understand statistics for certain schools, Cal State Fullerton has over 2,000 instructional employees, with a 25-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.
Without having to negotiate with a Zoom salesperson, the online price for the highest number of hosts shows that a school can acquire a license for a mere 149 teachers for nearly $13,500.
With over 2,000 teaching faculty, the dollar amount fixated to that can surely cost more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not a shock to assume that students would probably pay for this in their tuition as well.
Adding to that, each of the hosts on Zoom can host upwards of a reported 300 participants. Realistically, many of the classes at CSUF hardly exceed over 50 students in attendance. However, Discord’s max server capacity can only hold up to 50 participants, which include the host of the server.
It’s a small downside as there are, of course, classes that do have participants that exceed 50, overflowing into the hundreds of students for one professor to handle. This factor makes Zoom the only solution for such a large class.
Even though Discord lacks in meeting size, it’s conveniently free of cost. At that price point, it’s something to consider, especially if paid licenses for university-wide software come out of students’ pockets.
A powerful feature that teachers can really take advantage of is using one server for multiple classes. It has its drawbacks if a teacher isn’t very tech savvy, but it can lead to a layout similar to a Canvas page.
Discord provides text channels where people can post messages instantly and voice channels where professors would be able to hold their classes, with video and screen-sharing options that are similar to Zoom.
It’s a combination of both professional software with a user-friendly interface that has a small learning curve.
One thing Zoom can’t do is allow for students to chat after class unless they’ve already exchanged information with each other. Discord excels in its messaging feature as students are able to chat with the class after hours, in real time and privately.
Most of the time when meetings close, that’s all the time they have as the conversation would be left hanging. Instant messages are crucial for education, especially when someone is having an existential crisis at 3 a.m. because their homework is due in a couple of hours.
Granted Discord’s platform is geared toward gamers, that doesn’t discount the fact that it should be seen as a major contender in terms of using it for education.
In fact, it’s a top player in the realm of Voice Over Internet Protocol Software, commonly abbreviated to VoIP, with about 250 million registered users as of last year. Seeing as the gamer population only increases, it would be far easier to integrate a software into their education that many are familiar with.
Even though Discord missed the opportunity to be the leading software for education, it doesn’t mean that the platform isn’t free of criticism in terms of connection and audio issues.
Whether it be Zoom, Discord or the “ancient” technology that is Skype, each platform has its problems, and until technology advances, there is no perfect option.
Despite few downsides, Discord has many upsides. With a loyal and strong user base, the transition to using the software could immediately cut costs for schools, saving thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide students with an already familiar learning experience.