Here at COD, we have a wide variety of tools that are integrated into Blackboard to make them easier and more seamless to use in courses. However, while we have a lot of tools available, many faculty and staff might not know what they are, how to use them, or how to set them up. We’re aiming to change that!
In this post, we’ll be covering Piazza. Piazza is a discussion tool designed to model real life interactions that allows students to ask questions in a forum-like setting, while instructors moderate and direct the conversation. If you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional discussion board, this may just be the integration for you.
What Is Piazza?
Taking its name from the Italian for plaza, Piazza means “a place where people can come together to share ideas and knowledge.” Piazza allows students to ask and answer their own questions about course content rather than responding to prompts created by the instructor (though you can use it that way as well). Instructors can moderate student questions, reward correct answers, and even allow students to post anonymously.
Here’s how it works: when someone asks a question in Piazza, students collaborate on answers in a wiki-like format, adding to and refining the answer until it’s high quality. Answers can generate follow-up questions with their own answers. Instructors can endorse good questions and high-quality answers, which can help push the class in the right direction.
Why Use Piazza?
While the integrated discussion tools in Blackboard are often just fine for many courses, if you’re looking for something different, Piazza may work for you. Here are some of the features:
- Wiki style format for collaboration in a single space
- Features LaTeX editor, highlighted syntax and code blocking
- Questions and posts needing immediate action are highlighted
- Instructors endorse answers to keep the class on track
- Anonymous posting encourages every student to participate
- Highly customizable online polls
- Updates are done in real time
If these interest you, Piazza might be a tool worth checking out.
How Can You Use Piazza?
So how can you use Piazza? Here are some suggestions:
- As a place for students to ask and get answers to their questions, where all students can benefit from both reading them and answering them
- As a problem solving or study space for the class
- As a place to discuss and collaborate on group projects and writing
- As a back channel for large courses to carry or discussions outside of the main course lecture and ask questions.
- As a way to build instructor presence and develop stronger bonds with students in distance learning courses.
Piazza provides guides on how a wide range of subjects can effectively use the tool, too, which can be extremely helpful in getting started.
How Do You Get Started with Piazza?
Piazza is already integrated right into Blackboard. Simply sign in, select a course, and find Piazza in the Course Tools menu. Once you click on it, you’ll be able to crate a Piazza account.
From there, you’ll be walked through setting up your course in the system. You’ll name it, make it available, configure settings, get a link, and everything else you’ll need to do to get started. Students and instructors are automatically enrolled with appropriate roles, based on the course roster.
Another note: when clicking on Piazza in the LMS, users are automatically signed in to Piazza, so there’s no need to remember a separate user name and password.
Make sure you add Piazza to the course menu for students and you’re set to go! The rest is up to you and the type of course content you’re looking to incorporate via Piazza.
Help and Resources
If you have any questions about using Piazza, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, if we don’t know the answer to your question, you may need to contact Piazza directly or make use of Piazza support.