Mercy College Discord- A Better Way to Communicate Online for Students

Second part of a two-part article that details Mercy College and its connection with its official Discord Server.


Discord can now be a place “Where Campus Communities Talk,” and even though servers have a history in gaming, they are now promoting it as a place online where schools and colleges can “Create a place where your club or organization can get together to meet, organize, and hang out.”

This is based on the college description on their Discord website and even though it was already something Mercy students implemented about two and a half years ago, the channel titles were all pretty much the standard, and a few original ideas that were Mercy or college-specific and not based on other servers.

“The original Official Mercy College Discord server had most of the channels seen today. Additions were made as needed to accommodate students’ needs/wants. Pretty much every Discord server has welcome, rules, announcements, and general, and meme chats, but other than that, the original channels were not inspired by anything other than what Charlee and I had brainstormed together,” according to Leah.

Charlee followed up and said: “I’ve never seen another college discord before, so it was entirely based on what we came up with,” while Nathan mentions the timing of making a new channel, stating that “we admins would decide if we should make a channel for that specific topic at the time.”

Early on, it could’ve been a risk for Mercy to allow an official server on Discord that was led by students, as it is a newer platform compared to others. However, once it was verified and backed by the Mercy social media team, some of the potential issues that could’ve occurred were less likely to happen, for the most part. And with the COVID-19 pandemic taking place around that time, it was a great place for new students to communicate and socialize online in a private group server.

For students, yeah it was established enough. Discord was approaching its 5th year of existence at that point. It was already the kingpin in terms of online chatrooms and voice calls for computers and had a decent market share for phones at that point too. “However, before the pandemic, Discord always marketed itself toward gamers and zoomers. Until the pandemic, Discord never really tried to branch out. Only then did Discord realize that there was a demand for competitors in the academic market and that they could tap into that market. That was the real reason why Discord added features such as stages and student hubs, an attempt to tap into that market share. As a future teacher and a history/education major though, I wouldn’t want to use Discord in an academic setting, nor would most schools consider it. Better productivity-focused alternatives exist like Google Classroom, Canvas, and even Blackboard,” said Dylan Pirone, a history and education major.

Leah hits both topics here, as she states, “One risk of a school taking on a newer idea like this without proper backing is that there are some NSFW Discord servers that users may be in on their personal accounts that others might be able to see, and that is not a good look for academic learning space. As for how the pandemic affected students being involved in the Official Mercy College Discord server, it gained a lot of traction during a couple of months before the fall semester of 2020 began.”

Charlee notes that there are some minor risks with Discord that still exist potentially like “trolls, NSFW stuff, etc.” and mentions “I think the biggest one (and a risk that did materialize) is just drama. It’s a great place to meet people, but anytime and anywhere you meet folks, you may not get along. We’ve had our fair share of drama over the years.”

She also agrees that the pandemic was “critical to a lot of the growth we saw since people wanted a different medium to connect without the risk of COVID.” This is a similar sentiment to Nathan, who highlights the most impacted by the pandemic and Discord, “the students that wanted a way to stay connected or make new friends – especially incoming freshmen at the time who were exploring the school’s resources and themselves.”

Dylan, however, has a different perspective on both subjects asked, explaining that “Discord was not that new when the server was made, so I don’t really think it was that crazy of a stretch to make a student Discord server. However, the server was made during the pandemic and it was made before Discord introduced its student hubs feature, which was actually how I first joined. The pandemic definitely played a role in people wanting to connect with each other online through the form of Discord, but I can’t really see any risks for it. I imagine though that getting faculty on board would be the hardest thing to do since a Discord can also allow people to be DMed by anyone if they leave their DMs open and things can happen.”

In terms of the future of Discord and its application within colleges and schools, Leah just doesn’t see it working out with the classes themselves just cause of who and what the server was meant for originally.

“Discord itself was originally intended for gamers, providing them with ways to find each other, coordinate play, and talk while playing. It has since evolved to encompass whole communities and has even begun to integrate features for colleges (i.e. the hub). Personally, I would not recommend that schools begin to incorporate Discord in their online learning curriculum unless schools were to partner with Discord to create professor and student accounts.”

Charlee also agrees, stating alternative programs that are better for classes instead: “Discord was a platform a lot of people were (and weren’t) familiar with, so it was easy for a lot of people to just join the server. As for teachers, I think there are better platforms out there, such as Google Classroom or Blackboard, etc., Discord is too informal.”

Pirone is like-minded with both Leah and Charlee on this, mentioning the reasons Discord wouldn’t be used over other apps for classes.

With Discord expanding its horizons and adding new features to cater to even non-gamers, it is becoming a multi-faceted platform that can be used to maximize what’s offered at a school or college, at least online. But for a new student who isn’t internet or tech-savvy, it could be tough to understand everything that is Discord overnight. It would benefit to add new students to the server always, as it would be advantageous to the member and the student community that is online to connect if they wanted or ask a question or find out more information about a club or event going on.

Leah, as a former admin, agrees in terms of Discord being mainstream, but not at the same time, and states Discord isn’t really like Zoom or Skype and is unique in that way. “Surprisingly, Discord is an app that is very foreign to a lot of students. I suppose that because of its origins in the gaming community and because not everyone plays games, it is not as popular as Skype or Zoom.”

Charlee, as an alum working full-time and owner of the server, states “As for new things the server is implementing, that’s something that needs some brainstorming and is difficult due to the rest of the mods being full-time students with scheduling. However, it’s a conversation we’re having, as I think most new students come across Discord via Mercy events or social media, and that’s been pretty successful to reach people.”

Pirone has some ideas to potentially promote the server again, mentioning that the server goes with the semester and has dead points in terms of the flow of activity. He supports his method through his experience of growing other Discord servers that were not affiliated with a school or college, as it was done through “partnering with other servers as well as hosting game night events.”

“Well, the Mercy College server needs members a lot right now. If I wanted to reach out to new members rapidly and as quickly as possible to those who either do not know about Discord or do not know about Discord, I would begin marketing. In order to adapt that strategy to the real world, I would take a mixed approach: obtain permission from Student Life to post fliers across the many billboards and walls scattered around our campus advertising the server in order to put the server out into the real world. But my main way of advertising our Discord to reach new members that I want to propose to the rest of the team is to reach out to other clubs at Mercy to try and get them to both participate in the server and advertise their club there to prospecting members AND to advertise our server on their Instagram pages. That way, we have Club Day Every Day.”

For now, it is mostly students sharing information online using Discord but it could become bigger than just clubs and classes. An example that Pirone brought up was how the Treasury Department of the United Kingdom successfully advertise and hosted a public Discord server for British citizens. Despite getting backlash and traction from it, it was something done to that extent on that platform compared to other social media or other methods of posting to an online community.

As online communities and social media platforms change, the people who are in them do as well. The trending movement of online conferencing has impacted everyday daily life for everyone. This applies to sectors like gaming, schools/colleges, workplaces, and other uses of this application. Discord is at the crux of the online chatting revolution that is currently going on and this is likely not the end of it.