Piazza

Brief Description: 

The online discussion is a familiar form of online writing for most students and instructors. Often, the instructor posts a question or prompt, and students respond either to the initial prompt, or to the posts of their classmates. The technologies available today offer many options for encouraging, organizing, and moderating online discussions. 

Tips for Using Online Discussion Tools

Preparation

  • Define clear goals and objectives for the online discussion.
  • Organize the online conference clearly by category and topic ahead of time.
  • Provide detailed instructions for students, including student roles and responsibilities.
  • Establish rules for appropriate and inappropriate behaviors before starting discussions.
  • Require students to log in for a certain number of times each week.
  • Establish clear expectations and standards for assessing student performance in the online discussion.
  • Distinguish between two types of conferences: a) formal and b) informal ones.
  • Create an outline of different types of activities for the online conferencing/discussion.
  • Make online discussion/conferencing an integral part of the course. (Do not separate what is happening in the conference from what is happening in the face-to-face class meetings.)
  • Establish a clear starting and ending time for each discussion topic.
  • Direct students to technology training classes, online tutorials, and any other assistance when necessary.

Facilitation Read more »

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Do you see the same student  questions over and over on email? Would you like to extend student discussion beyond the classroom? If so, Piazza can help. Read on for an overview of Piazza's functions, recommendations for using it effectively, and videos on how to get started.

Features of Piazza

  • Piazza is integrated within Canvas, supported by ITS, and available to all U-M instructors free of charge.
  • Piazza supports organized online discussions and Q&A that students can access 24/7.
  • Students can comment on answers or post follow-up inquiries.
  • Students can edit questions and answers wiki-style.
  • Instructors can respond to questions and endorse a student's answer.
  • There's a LaTeX editor for equations and support for multimedia.
  • Tags facilitate targeted searches.
  • Analytics for student usage help instructors assess participation.

Classroom Challenges Solved Through Piazza

Faculty used Piazza in diverse, and sometimes unexpected, ways to address teaching and learning challenges specific to their courses. Read more »

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Answering the same student questions over and over... An inbox full of student emails... Too little peer-to-peer interaction in your classroom... If these challenges sound familiar to you, you may want to check out the online discussion platform, Piazza.

Piazza logo

A recent CRLT study of University of Michigan students and faculty (from Winter 2013) found that Piazza is a great tool for answering student questions, reducing email volume, facilitating student interaction between classes, and increasing the number of students participating in class discussion.
 
Available through CTools, Piazza can help you promote student engagement outside the classroom while keeping the workload manageable. Instead of emailing you with questions after class, students can post questions to Piazza, and other students or GSIs can answer them. As the instructor, you can also answer questions, endorse select student answers, provide feedback, edit student responses, and view reports of student participation. One key strength of Piazza is the ease of organizing questions: you can create tags or folders for each lecture of assignment, so students can easily find out if the question they have has already been answered. 
 
If you are a faculty member who is interested in learning more about Piazza or would like to try it out in your class, join the CRLT on September 23rd at 8:30am for Emerging Tech: Piazza, a workshop where you will get a hands-on guided tour of Piazza and learn about potential uses for it in your classroom. If you are a GSI and would like to learn more about Piazza, CRLT will be hosting Next Steps with IT on October 4th at 9am. This workshop will cover the use of multiple classroom tech tools including Piazza and UM Box.
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Brief Description: 

Personal response system (PRS), Classroom Performance System (CPS), and Audience Response System (ARS) refer to technology tools that provide a way for students to interact with the instructor during instruction. Through small remote devices ("clickers") or through laptops, tablet devices and/or smart phones accesssing online tools, instructors can poll their students, ensure key points are understood, give low-stakes quizzes to assess student learning, and receive immediate classroom feedback on teaching.

Tips for Using Personal Response Systems (PRS)

  • Examine your own teaching style and establish clear goals for using a PRS in the class.
  • Know how the PRS works before bringing it into the classroom. If you are not well prepared technologically or pedagogically for using a PRS, it is recommended that you postpone using it until you are ready.
  • Explain to students why a PRS is being used in the course and clarify how the PRS can help students achieve the learning objective(s). Be sure to use the PRS regularly and consistently.
  • Clearly articulate your expectations of students and also establish rules and student responsibilities (e.g., it is the students' responsibility to bring clickers or other device to lecture every time).
  • Develop a pool of thoughtful and effective questions for each lecture. Questions that ask for conceptual thinking in technical courses or critical thinking in any class are particularly effective.
  • Use a PRS in conjunction with teaching strategies such as "Peer Instruction" and "Think-Pair-Share" to improve students' conceptual understanding of the content, as well as their critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
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Professor Trisha WittkoppHere is a short video describing this teaching strategy.

Trisha Wittkopp,  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, teaches genetics to hundreds of students in a large lecture. She uses personal response systems (clickers) to increase interactivity, assess student learning, and address student confusion during class. Nevertheless, between classes, questions remain, and many students have similar questions.

To avoid responding individually to each student, Wittkopp employs Piazza, a discussion forum designed to crowdsource answers to students’ questions. Instead of sending individual e-mails, students post their questions on Piazza, where they can be answered by one of their peers, a graduate student instructor (GSI), or Wittkopp herself. This reduces the number of redundant questions and shortens response time. Students collaboratively edit answers to questions as they would on a wiki, eliminating the need to read through long, threaded discussions or chat transcripts to find the correct answer. Read more »

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