An exploration of course and cohort communication spaces in Discord, Teams, and Moodle
Eva Heinrich, Heather Thomas, Ella Kahu
This research examined the impact of supplementing a learning management system, Moodle, with communication tools, Discord and Teams, to support communication in blended and distance undergraduate courses in computer science, information technology, mathematics and statistics at a New Zealand university with well-established use of Moodle. Nineteen students participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings show that adding Discord or Teams increases information and knowledge exchange and helps students to connect with peers and teachers in their courses. Teams was beneficial particularly in settings with formal group work. Discord, which enables both students and staff to set up additional communication channels that are not restricted to course enrolments, was instrumental in connecting students across year levels with peers and alumni. This enabled discussions on course selection, career options and disciplinary topics beyond the course curriculum. Importantly, these beyond-course communication spaces nurtured belonging to wider discipline and study communities. The research establishes the importance of the increased levels of communication by highlighting the effects on student learning and connections to others. Looking beyond the specific tools, the level of formality and the degree of student co-ownership are identified as key factors in supporting the within- and beyond-course communication spaces.
Implications for practice or policy:
Learning management systems provide valuable course support but do not meet all learning and teaching communication needs, partly due to their formal and university-controlled nature.
Educators and students benefit from using strong chat tools with improved information and knowledge exchange.
Both educators and students experience enhanced belonging when using collaboration and chat tools.
Students value Discord's informality and student-led characteristics.
Educators who use Teams to support formal group work must carefully manage integration with Moodle.
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