By Ryan O’Connor
While in-person community building is something students haven’t had since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in January 2020, Ryerson students have been making up for “lost connections” through a virtual community on Discord.
Discord is a voice, video and messaging app that has become popular among students and gamers in recent years. According to Quartz, the platform currently has over 150 million monthly users.
The app’s developers have recently made an effort to connect with its large student user base by launching Discord Student Hub. It first rolled out in Australia earlier this summer and has opened hundreds of hubs in the U.S. and Canada since.
According to a blog post on Discord’s website, a Student Hub is “a collection of student-run servers…to make it easier for classmates to find and join one another’s servers if they choose to do so.”
Launched in Sept. 1, the Ryerson Discord Hub or “the Hub” hosts over 90 servers with more than 3,300 members, with each server being linked to a common interest for people to discuss through the server’s voice and text channels. The main servers are divided by faculty, but students can find smaller servers to join for topics such as K-Pop and esports.
Students can join the Hub by downloading the app on their device and following this invite link. Once in the server, students can find links to smaller servers hosted by students at Ryerson.
“Ryerson Discord Hub was made as a general chat room for Ryerson students, to both build an online community and help students get to meet and get to know each other,” said Bruce Lam, a fourth-year business technology management student who is also a moderator for the main Ryerson server.
“Even if some of us weren’t very close, everyone was still willing to listen if I had anything to say or if I reached out to them”
Lam, who goes by “Ahlie” on the app, said he has watched the main Ryerson server evolve over time, becoming something more to students than just a “place to chill.”
“The server is also a support network that’s great for both school-related things and, as I’ve seen through [the pandemic], companionship and mental health support,” he said. “This happened organically as people became more comfortable with each other on the server.”
Jessica Mac, a third-year chemical engineering student, has been involved in the support group on the server for two years.
“I’ve met many great people in this Hub, some who have even become my closest friends,” she said. “The community did develop into a support group over time. Even if some of us weren’t very close, everyone was still willing to listen if I had anything to say or if I reached out to them.”
“It helps me because even though university isn’t in person, it’s given me the opportunity to meet plenty of people outside of my program that I may not have met otherwise”
Many colleges and universities worldwide have begun utilizing Discord’s popularity and usefulness for educational purposes. Over 200 post-secondary institutions around the world use Discord to help organize events and create servers for their programs and faculties.
David Pham, known as “Tr0llinMe!” on the Hub’s esports server, is a fourth-year software engineering student. Pham said he sees the Hub as a way to socialize with people outside his program.
“It helps me because even though university isn’t in person, it’s given me the opportunity to meet plenty of people outside my program that I may not have met otherwise,” he said.
As a long-time moderator of Ryerson’s main Discord server, Lam believes the server’s evolution continues to this day. “When I first joined the server years ago it was like a big group chat. We had a little slump in server engagement during [the pandemic] until the server’s staff did some work on updating the tech structure and reaching out for new members.”
“Since then, the server’s gotten more diverse and we have more bright minds on it, especially with so many alumni remaining active,” said Lam. “General chat has slowed down a bit, but the quality of help you can get from the server has gone way up.”
Pham believes the Ryerson Discord Hub has become a place to make friends during the challenging social period of online campus life.
“It’s great to have these connections on the server. Having the capability of meeting new people from your school without actually having to be physically in class is a great feeling,” said Pham.