Pharmacy Professor modernizes the classroom with the Discord app

Pharmacy Professor modernizes the classroom with the Discord app

Popular with gamers, Discord offers users a real-time communication platform complete with voice chat, group interrupts, roles, pings and announcements. Unified Messaging Pharmacy Professor Daniel Riche found that the app also offers valuable opportunities for interaction between students in his class.

JACKSON, Miss. – A popular messaging app among gamers is helping a University of Mississippi pharmacy professor stimulate interaction between students in her class.

Discord, which allows users to build communities around common interests, has seen its popularity grow tremendously since its launch in 2015 and boasts over 150 million monthly users.

Daniel Riche, a professor of pharmaceutical practice at the UM School of Pharmacy, found advantage of using the app in his class at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He allows him to quickly connect with students and interact with them in a way that other older platforms can’t.

Daniele Riche

“Discord allows for the customization of a communication platform,” Riche said. “In addition to real-time replies, there are other features such as voice chat, group interrupts, roles, pings and announcements.”

Discord at first glance looks like a chatroom. It also offers other services, such as voice chat or uploading of images, documents and other materials. Since it can be used on many devices, including smartphones, computers and tablets, it is a convenient way to connect.

The app was first used in video game communities, allowing them to coordinate and chat while playing. It has expanded into other communities over the years and even into the world of education. According to the company’s website, more than 200 colleges and universities use Discord as a hub for students.

Like many others, Riche was introduced to Discord through video games. While searching for a way to communicate efficiently with student pharmacists, Riche found features that improved his class by allowing students to easily get the help they needed and opening up new ways to collaborate with each other.

“I asked students to use Discord for various things, including homework, group work, breakout during active learning, voice chat help sessions, and even information uploads that complete the day’s lesson from our teaching assistant.”

Discord’s mobile app allows users to access all of its features from their phones.

Lindsey Simmerman, a fourth-year pharmacist student, said Discord has improved her learning experience and created a more comfortable environment for students to ask for help.

“I had a quick and easy way to ask my questions, to notify the person I needed an answer from, and to be notified when an answer was given,” said Simmerman. “I also like Discord because I felt like the students were more open to asking questions they might not otherwise have asked.”

Riche found Discord particularly useful as distance learning became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Zoom provided a safe way to conduct a lesson, Riche said he did not allow much of the interaction that would otherwise have taken place. This is where Discord made a difference.

“Having a solid, real-time communication platform was essential during the distance education shift,” Riche said. “Collaboration was emphasized in teamwork and it was much better to use Discord to join active learning groups than Zoom workgroup rooms.”

Pointing out that the technology used by students is constantly evolving, Riche said Discord offers educators the opportunity to meet today’s students where they are.

“Technology has changed and students have changed with it,” he said. “The focus has to be on how we, as educators, communicate with the student.

“An educator’s comfort zone in content delivery needs to broaden consistently and begins with understanding the best way to communicate.”

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