Piazza

What is Piazza?

Piazza is an online platform that facilitates communication among students and instructors.  It’s main purpose is as a question and answer discussion board that facilitates collaborative solutions.  A unique feature of Piazza is the format for student questions that the instructor might otherwise receive via email. Students ask questions that all instructors and students can see. Then, Piazza leverages the student community, allowing students to create a single answer to the question. Likewise, instructors can collaborate to create a single answer to the question. Instructors can also endorse student answers that do a sufficient job of answering the questions. A history slider allows a user to see how an answer has evolved over time.  

Piazza has additional uses and features, such as:

  • Announcements
  • Class files and resources
  • Polling
  • Private message capabilities
  • Participation statistics
  • Folders for questions about different topics

What is the purpose of Piazza?

Piazza is a question and answer discussion board. It can be used to replace most email communication related to your course.  Students can ask and answer any kind of question, for example, about homework, about details of an assignment, or about the syllabus.  For instructors, the tool is intended to improve email workflow. For students, the purpose is to get faster responses (since students may answer before an instructor would), to practice application of knowledge (in response to questions about homework), and to build a community.  

How to use Piazza

Piazza is intended to be used to facilitate communication for the duration of the course

  • Make announcements
  • Reduce instructor workload by reducing the burden for answering (and re-answering) questions
  • Support fellow instructors and TAs by answering all questions in the same place
  • Facilitate student Q&A
  • Support student learning by giving students the opportunity to help others
  • Poll students
  • Facilitate exam review

Tool Evaluation

Evaluated: October 2018

Functionality overall rating: 2 starFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 2 star

Scale

Piazza can scaled to accommodate any size class but lacks flexibility to create smaller sub-groups or communities of practice

Ease of use rating: 3 stars

Ease of Use

Piazza has a user-friendly interface. The folders for different questions can be personalized.

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 3 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Email based technical support is readily available and promises answers within a day (or less). Support is available for instructors and students in the form of step-by-step instructions with pictures.

Hypermediality rating: 2 stars

Hypermediality

Piazza allows users to communicate through different channels (visual, textual). Students can edit other students questions and answers, which provides for non-sequential engagement with material. Students can also engage in follow-up discussion (linear engagement).

Accessibility overall rating: 3 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 3 stars

AODA Friendly

Piazza Lite is WCAG 2.0 Level A & AA compliant* and supports web and mobile accessibility. Piazza offers a free assistive technology app to members of our community who have trouble typing, moving a mouse, or reading.

Assistive Technology rating: 3 stars

User-focused participation

Piazza is designed to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, thereby widening opportunities for participation in learning. The tool is largely text-based but supports a LaTeX editor, code blocking, markdown, and students can also include pictures in their posts.

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of Piazza does not require equipment other than a computer and access to the internet. Piazza can also be accessed on a mobile device via a browser or the piazza app.

Technical overall rating: 1 starTechnical

Rating Rationale
Integration/Embedding within OWL rating: 1 stars

Integration/Embedding within OWL

Piazza can only be offered in OWL through a link to the external Piazza site, rather than a functional version of the tool itself

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize Piazza with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.)

Web Browser rating: 3 stars

Web Browser

Users can effectively utilize Piazza with any standard, up-to-date web browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 etc.)

Additional Technical Requirements rating: 3 stars

Additional Technical Requirements

Users can effectively utilize Piazza without any browser extensions or downloaded software

Mobile Design overall rating: 1 starMobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 2 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

Piazza is fully functional with a range of electronic mobile devices (laptops, tablets, touchscreens, mobile devices, etc.), however, the browser based version of Piazza is not mobile friendly making the text very small. Mobile use of piazza can be improved by downloading the Piazza app which is mobile friendly.

Mobile Functionality rating: 3 stars

Mobile Functionality

There is little to no functional difference between the mobile app and the main tool. Posts can be made and read from the app, including the ability to insert files, images, and markdown text.

Offline Access rating: 1 star

Offline Access

Piazza cannot be used in any capacity offline

Usage and account set up overall rating: 1 starUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 1 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

All users (instructors and students) must create an external account or additional login using their institutional account.

Cost of Use rating: 3 stars

Cost of Use

All aspects of Piazza can be used free of charge

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 3 stars

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Instructors can view, save, and export activity data in a variety of formats (spreadsheet of user data, spreadsheet of polling results, and piazza report). There are limitations to exporting content from the site, although a site can be cloned by an instructor for future offerings.

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 3 stars

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; the user can keep data private and decide if/how data is to be shared. Piazza’s Terms of Service outlines, “You retain ownership of all intellectual property rights you have in the User Content you post on the Service.”

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars

Collaboration

Piazza has the capacity to support a community of learning through asynchronous but not synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users

User Accountability rating: 3 stars

User Accountability

Instructors can control student anonymity. While students always have the choice of showing up as “Anonymous”, instructors can enable “Posting anonymously”, which means that even the instructor cannot see who posted (if the student so chooses to be anonymous).

Diffusion rating: 2 stars

Diffusion

While student familiarity with Piazza is likely mixed, students are typically able to start using the tool with little training or orientation

Instructor Presence overall rating: 3 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating: 3 stars

Facilitation

Piazza has easy-to-use features that would significantly improve an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement.

Customization rating: 3 stars

Customization

Piazza is adaptable to its environment. It is easily customized to suit the classroom context with customizable folders and settings.

Learning Analytics rating: 3

Learning Analytics

Instructor can monitor students’ performance on a variety of responsive measures, including questions asked, number of “good questions”, top student answers, and top student listeners. Instructors can also monitor average response times and the response frequency of their co-instructors.

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Depending on the questions that students ask, it can enable functional improvement to engagement in the cognitive tasks. Both the question askers and answerers can have high cognitive engagement.

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Depending on the questions that are asked by students or posed by instructors, Piazza may engage students in higher order thinking skills.

Feedback on Learning rating: 3 stars

Feedback on Learning

By providing thoughtful answers and follow up discussion, both instructors and fellow students can provide feedback on learning within Piazza.

View the rubric for an explanation of this evaluation
Leave feedback to comment or request that the tool be re-reviewed