Academic and research-oriented collaboration tool for classroom teaching, tutoring, investigative projects, assignments, mentoring, and more
- Category Classroom Messaging Software
Piazza is a convenient option used by many professors in universities around the world to engage their students outside of the classroom through an online community. It can be utilized to give assignments, foster discussions, allow students to ask each other questions, and more. It is unaffiliated with any school and is available on a per class basis.
Piazza has built their business model around helping students by fostering a discussion. This can be in the form of assigned discussion topics or it can simply be questions posed by students. Some professors will do a mix of both, where the exact questions are open-ended, but they can still collect a participation grade. This model typically works where a portion of a student's grade comes from doing X many responses to questions and posting Y many questions on Piazza throughout the semester. This method can be effective for some classes, but often leads students to just post a week before the semester is over and often they are posting low quality and prioritizing quantity, which Piazza has an in-built system to prevent.
To prevent low quality responses, Piazza forces students to post their responses with a thesis and then will use AI to give a ballpark rating of student's answers. These ratings can be based on the number of sources giving, length of responses, the complexity of language, and more. Another useful feature in Piazza is that it allows students to rate each other's answers by allowing an insightful badge to be giving. This helps rank what answers are better than others and can continue to foster a discussion between students. Watch out, though, because some students will get into a lengthy argument on Piazza. At least they are thinking critically, though!
Piazza also allows for an additional avenue of contact to the professor(s). Professors can post their own content or replies on Piazza, but students can also message them directly if they would like. This can be good for professors whose email is always full to prevent them from missing important communication from students. However, it can add some confusion in that it may split up where communication is from students (email, Piazza, school hosted services, et cetera). Overall though, another avenue of communication between instructors and students is usually a good thing for both parties involved and can prevent misunderstandings before they get too serious.
Pros and Cons
- Allows for greater discussion between students that may not be present in other forms (e.g. groupchats)
- Another avenue for instructor contact and feedback
- Modern looking website
- Charges each student additional money, which can be tough on them when they are already paying for classes, textbooks, and potentially other class materials
- Often ignored by most students
- Can cause confusion on where the best place to get in contact with an instructor is
- Signup process is generally obtuse
- Adds a burden of extra material on a professor or teaching assistant