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What is Discord and How Does It Work? Best Tips and Tricks

Discord
(Image credit: Discord)

Discord is a name that's at odds with the nature of this platform, which actually provides a digital space for collaboration through shared communications.

At its most basic this is an online chat space, a bit like Slack or Facebook Workplace provide. This one, however, is primarily aimed at – and used by – gamers. It's also become a very useful tool for teachers and students to chat when not physically in the room together.

Features such as online voice chat, easy screen sharing, and access to public servers all make this a powerful tool for use by students and teachers when in a hybrid or remote learning situation. It's also ideal for after-school clubs.

Read on to find out all you need to know in this Discord review.

What is Discord?

Discord is an online chat and messaging platform designed to be used by groups. Since it is invite-only, it is a secure space for students to interact without the need to be in the room together physically.

The team messaging app is focused on voice chat, primarily. The text chat option isn't as in depth in its offerings as the voice channel.

Discord

(Image credit: Discord)

Thanks to a host of permission controls, this is a platform that works particularly well for schools and, specifically, teachers. The ability to create channels that have certain classes or groups allows for privacy and focused chat when it's needed for those who are invited.

This is a very easy-to-use system, which is also quick to setup. As such, it can help to ease the shift to remote learning or a hybrid classroom while still creating the feel of everyone being in the same room together. The low-latency video and audio help with this for near-instant responses as with real-world chat.

How does Discord work?

Discord has a dark-themed layout that feels modern and welcoming, which is well complemented by the ease of use. You can have a group channel setup and running within seconds.

By setting your microphone to "always on," it's possible to keep the audio running while you're using different apps. You could share your screen and have a host of images and videos that you go through with the class, or group, while the audio keeps running seamlessly, as if you're all in the same room together. Only in the browser version, via a website, do you have to keep that window on top to make sure the audio keeps working – get the app though and this isn't an issue.

Discord

(Image credit: Discord)

Permission levels are helpful to give student access to certain channels only. So students could see all the class and group chats they're welcome in but wouldn't see other classes or teacher rooms, for example. Whereas the headmaster could have access to all classes to enter whenever, if that's how your school works.

Popup-based guidance helps this to be an intuitive system, which is simple even for first-time users. It could conceivably be ideal for meetings with parents and teachers by simply sending a link to the meeting, which would be like a group forum, only virtual.

What are the best Discord features?

Discord also offers video chat with up to eight people able to join in using the free version of the platform. But if you're looking for more complex features, such as threaded conversations, then you'll need to go elsewhere, such as Slack, for that.

The ability to share videos and images makes this an integrated platform that can cover most lesson needs. The fact there is no limit on storage makes this even easier to use longer term.

Discord

(Image credit: Discord)

Within servers and channels, it can be adjusted so that only the conversations relevant to the students are accessible. This not only makes it more secure, from a school perspective, but also makes the choice selection more simple for students.

The ability to create public servers, in seconds, and include hundreds of thousands of people, makes this a viable presentation platform. It can provide access for the class to a wider discussion forum, that could include presenters such as scientists or artists, or even other schools.

For use at home it's possible for parents to monitor who sends invites and even check for bad language use. This is a handy addition as some students may also use this for its intended gaming forum purpose when out of the class situation.

How much does Discord cost?

Discord is totally free to sign up to and use, which includes unlimited data so you don't have to worry about hidden extras to get the most out of the service. 

With more than 150 million active users each month, 19 million active servers per week, and 4 billion conversations per minute each day, this is a lively space with lots to be discovered. Impressive when you consider this is totally free to use.

Discord best tips and tricks

Get started quickly
For an easy way to setup your own classroom, use this template and you can get started with a virtual room space right away. Customize as you need and get going.

Go Live
Use this feature to teach a class of up to 50 students in which they can see what you're sharing on your computer live and with very low latency for a life-like experience. To get started, select the speaker symbol, then the screen icon in the status panel at the bottom left. After picking the screen to share, select "Go Live."

Start from scratch
If you want to create a totally bespoke experience from the ground up then you can do so by following these simple step-by-step guide here.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.