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Chitu Okoli

Posted on Sep 19, 2014 in Teaching

Piazza for students: helpful tips

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Piazza is an online platform that makes asking questions to (and getting answers from) your instructor a lot easier. You can see questions and answers from other students in your class, and you can even answer each others’ questions. It is absolutely free. Different teachers might use it in different ways, but here are a few of its most common and useful features:

  • Question and Answer forum: This is the primary purpose of Piazza. Students ask questions and they can be answered either by the instructor or by other students in the class. If other students answer, the instructor can still give their own answer, or might mark the other students’ answer as “approved”, meaning that it has been verified as correct. You can send anonymous questions (if your instructor enables this feature) so that you don’t need to be embarrassed if you’re afraid others might think your question is stupid.
  • Notes and announcements: The instructor can post notes and general announcements to the class using Piazza. Some instructors use it as the primary or even the only system for sending students announcements related to the class.
  • Polls: Piazza can be used to poll students for various questions. Not only the instructor can poll students, but you can create polls to get feedback from your classmates.
  • Forming groups: Piazza has a feature to allow students to communicate with each other to help find group members in their class for group assignments. This is very useful in a class where you don’t know many other students.
  • Piazza Careers: Piazza has a major module where companies looking to hire students post their profiles and job announcements. If you choose to fill out your profile (basically, it’s an online resume, like LinkedIn), then companies can search for you, find you, and invite you for interviews. (This feature is completely optional; your information on Piazza is completely private unless you enable the Piazza Careers display options.) On a side note, the companies that recruit on Piazza pay Piazza a fee. This is one way that Piazza makes money, and that’s how the service remains free for you as a student.

If Piazza sounds like a good idea, you could suggest it to your instructor. I use it for all my classes now–it makes communication easier for my students, and also much easier for me as a teacher. Here are a few useful tips for using Piazza.

How to access Piazza

  • Web browser (usually for a desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet, though the site is also mobile-friendly)
  • Smartphone app for Android or Apple iOS (iPhone or iPad); other systems can use the regular web interface on a mobile web browser

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