Fostering connections for professional identity formation: two case studies of Discord discipline-focused communities


  • Eva Heinrich Massey University
  • Lucila Carvalho Massey University



chat-based online communication, student-professional communities, professional identity formation


This research focusses on the links between online communication environments in university teaching contexts and supporting students in their professional identity formation. The online communication environments studied have been formed with Discord ( to complement the learning management system by providing informal chat-based environments. These environments can be easily maintained beyond semester limitations and membership is independent of enrolment status with the teaching institution. The first of two case studies is situated in the disciplines of computer science, information technology, mathematics, and statistics. A Discord community of current and past students and academics has been active for over three years. This community has developed organically and provides students with a variety of support – for specific courses and for their disciplines more generally, for making connections with others, and for gaining insights into their future professions. The second case study examines the introduction of Discord in support of a second-year veterinary sciences course. The learning design of the course aims at connecting knowledge to practice, and at helping students to understand the links between course content and professional work. Discord was introduced as a first step towards establishing an online community of students, academics and veterinary professionals. In interviews with students (first case study) and academics (second case study) the links between the Discord communities and professional identity formation are examined.