BY KELCIE LEE
“Study Together” — one of many public Discord servers used by students across the globe — has allowed users to virtually come together during a time of distance and isolation.
After the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, schools all over the world closed and adapted to virtual learning platforms. Homes and bedrooms became classrooms, leaving students isolated and struggling with motivation and focus. A potential solution to this issue rose when users from over 50 countries began meeting in virtual spaces to study. This has allowed students to hold each other accountable, share studying tips and foster new friendships.
In January 2021, a TikTok advertisement about study servers appealed to Yeshi-Wangmu Sherpa, a high school senior in San Francisco. During the pandemic, many of her classmates lost motivation, which led to procrastination and submitting late assignments. Sherpa did not want to fall into similar habits, so she joined a study server to surround herself with motivated students.
“Seeing everyone focus on their work helped me keep the habit of doing all of my online school work,” Sherpa said. “This really pushed me to thoroughly do my assignments and submit them on time. I liked using it because it felt like I was in a library again.”
Discord is a social platform home to communities called “servers,” used for text messaging, voice calls and video calls. It was originally designed for video gamers, but transitioned into a platform catering to all types of communities, ranging from school clubs to bonding over shared interests in musical artists. Study servers became popular during the pandemic with students who wanted to stay motivated and held accountable.
One of the most popular study servers, named “Study Together,” has over 400,000 student users globally, with around 40,000 consistently online. The “Study Together” server contains several text channels for different public discussions on study tips, goals or motivating words.
There are also over 30 video calls where students are muted, but often turn on their camera or share their screens to ensure that they stay on task. In these calls, students often see other users writing, reading and watching lecture videos. Voice and video calls are filled 24/7 due to a variety of time zones and extensive hours of studying. Students can also change their screen names and customize their profiles to add their geographical regions, academic levels and fields of study.
During the spring of 2021, most of Sherpa’s classmates found that studying for Advanced Placement (AP) exams were pointless because teachers did not teach all the courses’ content. However, she still wanted to study for the exams but lacked motivation and encouragement.
“Initially, I felt lonely studying for these exams because I wasn’t really around people that decided to take online classes seriously,” Sherpa said. “After joining the servers, I saw that people my age were still trying in school even if their classes were all online.”
Other students enjoy using study servers for company during long study sessions. Since students from a variety of countries use study servers, video calls, called voice channels, are constantly filled by students across time zones. Hao-Yuan Hsu, a student studying medicine in Taipei City, Taiwan, finds himself the most productive when he is studying with others. No matter the time, Hsu could use “Study Together” to stay motivated.
Aveesh Vashistha, a student in Delhi, India, was encouraged by a friend to use “Study Together.” His current preparation for an engineering exam called the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) has led him to study an average of nine to 10 hours a day.
“I found this server very helpful, [because] seeing other people doing their work encourages me to keep working,” Vashistha said. “Moreover, by screen sharing, I force myself to focus on my studies only. Through the server, I found many people who followed the [same] educational path.”
In addition, students in these servers often share study strategies and resources with others.
“Study servers have taught me new study methods and ways to concentrate better like the Pomodoro technique,” said Noah Masó, a student in Rada Tilly, Argentina. “I get distracted very easily, but it helps me to stay focused.”
Other online resources that users often use include Hours by Fiveable and LifeAt Spaces.
For several users, the most significant benefit of using study servers has been being able to interact with students all over the globe.
“I’ve met incredible people and made some friends too,” Masó said. “It’s comforting to share thoughts and experiences and learn that many of the things that happen to me also happen to others no matter what they are studying or where they are from. It’s amazing and it has become part of my routine.”
Creating friendships with other students has allowed Sherpa to gain new perspectives and camaraderie.
“It’s very exciting to know that I have interacted with people around the world,” Sherpa said. “I have learned so much about student life in different countries. Being connected with these people and seeing them studying online everyday helped create strong friendships that seemed deeper than bonds with friends in real life.”
Today, there are over 2,000 study servers on Discord.