Teaching Tuesdays: Piazza – Less time answering student email, more student community

Center for Teaching Development 2013-03-16

Teaching Tuesdays: Themed informal discussions on teaching and learning

When: 3rd Tuesday of every month 2-3:30pm Where: Center for Teaching Development — Center Hall 307 Why: Because we’d all love teaching (and student learning) to be more effective, efficient and enjoyable. Who: Everyone in the UCSD community interested in teaching and learning.

February Topic: Piazza Less time answering student email, more student community

Tuesday, February 19 2:00 – 3:30 pm Center Hall, Rm 307

Faculty at UCSD are using Piazza as a convenient, friendly-interface replacement for

  • traditional class discussion boards and
  • dealing more efficiently with email from students in your class

(Piazza del Duomo by Bjorn Geisenbauer on flickr CC)

Piazza is built around the notion of the Italian “piazza” or public square where people can gather and talk.  In it, students in your class can post questions which can then be answered either by other students, or by you and your TAs.  The key difference of Piazza is that each question has exactly one instructor answer and exactly one student answer — which makes it much easier for members of the class to find and use answers from both their own questions and questions posted by others.  This is accomplished by allowing wiki-style editing of responses.

In this discussion, you’ll learn how to:

  • Save time and eliminate redundant effort in larger classes;
  • Solicit high levels of participation from students;
  • Enable shy students to ask questions with varying degrees of privacy

The platform has had impressive growth— capturing most STEM classes at the top universities (Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, PrincetonCornell, and thousands more institutions). Students love Piazza and affectionately call it “the third tab” in their web browser (along with Facebook and Gmail).

UCSD’s Center for Teaching Development has invited Piazza CEO and founder Pooja Sankar to campus to help us learn more and to allow us to have a conversation about whether we would like Piazza to be supported more formally (e.g. within TED) at UCSD.

Brief intro to the speaker, Founder & CEO, Pooja Sankar:

Pooja started Piazza in 2009 during her tenure at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Her inspiration for the platform draws from her hugely compelling personal journey (written about in the NYT). Her story begins in a small town in the poorest state in India, where she trained with her father and brother to excel on the entrance exam to the most coveted engineering school in India, IIT. There she was one of three girls in computer science; she felt isolated and,  without a bridge to her peers like Piazza, she struggled. As a graduate student at Maryland, she was forced into a traditional arranged marriage. She honed her skills as a software engineer at Oracle, Kosmix, and Facebook and built the confidence to pursue her passion: to empower students around the world, especially women and minorities. Today she is happily married to Shyam Sankar and mother to a baby boy, Arjun.