Hello, my name is Keyan, and I’m a student at the 6th Form College, and I personally use Discord a very large amount. Although I mostly use it for communicating with friends for gaming or being involved with communities, I believe it could have practical uses within the College, beginning with using it instead of ‘Slack’ for the Digital Ambassadors. And here’s why.
First off, let’s talk money.
Discord has all it’s essential features entirely free. Although it has a feature called “Discord Nitro”, none of this is by any means essential. It only gives you perks such as the ability to have animated profile pictures, or to have a badge next to your name, or other superficial things such as that. Everything that is actually needed is entirely free, and as the team has assured before, it will remain free. While Slack, on the other hand, although it does have multiple free features, a lot of essential ones are locked away. For example, it charges you £5.25 minimum to have up to 15 people in a voice call, which in discord you can have an unlimited number of users in a voice call together. You may also have up to 10 users in a video call with discord. Slack also charges for custom user groups, whilst discord allows up to 250 custom user groups, and with each user group having 30+ options that can be changed.
Discord allows users to create a server, and set up roles that can do different things. For example, a role can give people admin privileges, which allow them to have full access to the server settings. Admins can also create different text channels for people to type in, and voice channels for people to talk in. Each channel can have different permissions, either allowing only a certain usergroup to see that channel or talk in it. Channels can be added under categories too, with certain categories having different permissions under it. These user groups can also be specifically “@’d” which essentially sends them a notification. If “@everyone” is used, everyone in the server will be notified. This makes sending a message to the entire group very easy.
New users also have floating exclamation points around which they can click on, and will tell them something about a feature they haven’t seen before. This helps them learn how to use the application without anyone assisting them. If they do need any extra help, there is also an online ‘help desk’ available for users to ask questions.
Discord also has a very user friendly interface, which is very easy to navigate. You can also choose the themes of your application, whether you want a harsh white colour or a sleek dark theme. You can also choose the way your messages are displayed, and the font of them. There is also a colourblind mode for those with that issue.
‘Webhooks’ can also be added to the server which essentially allows for updates to be sent to the server from different websites, such as an update from the College twitter whenever something is tweeted. ‘Bots’ can also be added to lighten the load on admins. Certain bots, for example, automatically assign a user group to a user as soon as they join the server, or can assign a usergroup once a new member of the server agrees to a terms and conditions once the server is joined. However, when adding a bot, it should be ensured all of the features are assessed and perhaps some disabled before use in the server. Someone with know-how on the discord bot system should be consulted for this just to be sure that it’s safe to be added to the server. Custom bots can also be programmed and added to the server with custom commands, which would be preferable for the server.
With possible change and the introduction of a new application, there come some concerns, which is entirely understandable for an establishment that has to protect its students so allow me to reassure you.
Most importantly, it is compliant with the Data Protection Act, along with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations, and will remain to be so. As well as that, you have the ability to request all and any data Discord has about you in your settings, and it will be emailed to you. All of the details of any profile is hidden too, and unavailable to anyone besides the user themselves. All users can see on another person’s profile is their username, and whether they have any mutual friends/servers. Users also have the option to display any social profiles they wish to on their profile too, such as their Twitter or Facebook but I advise students not to do that.
The Discord servers you create, are only accessible via an invite link. Any user can create an invite link if they are in the server, however a server admin can remove any user or user group’s ability to create an invite link. This allows discord servers to be as private or as public as the admins wish it to be. The invite can be edited to:
- Have a limited amount of uses
- Last for as long or as little as you please
- Grant only temporary access
Whilst students can privately message one another, each student can edit their settings to either allow or disallow other users to message them without having added them as a friend first, and the only way a user can be added as a friend is if they give someone their username and unique ID. The user may also decide the safety level of the private messages, which declares whether messages from other users will be scanned, and if they are declared to contain any profanity, offensive language, or any images with possibly offensive content, they won’t be sent. Similar settings to this may also be decided within the servers settings, deciding whether messages in the server will be monitored under the same conditions. The admins also have the power to disallow the sending of images altogether if they wish to.
I believe Discord should certainly be used for communication between the Digital Ambassadors, and the success of it should be monitored as it could have potentially wider uses within the College. Perhaps there could be an overall College Discord for students to be able to communicate, giving them a forum to speak to each other. It could also be used for subjects in order to discuss work, and for teachers to be able to give updates on homework, or perhaps give assistance to the students through an easier medium than the emailing system. These, of course, are possible future prospects.