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Piazza for Class-based Question and Answer

Frontiers of Science (the core science course at Columbia) is now using Piazza as a way to post questions and quickly get student- and faculty-provided answers.

At the heart of the system is a question and answer interface with three wiki-like fields: a question, the students' answer, and the instructor's answer. Anyone can edit the question, offering it focus and clarity. All students (and, of course, the instructor) may edit the students' answer and there's a "good answer" button that the instructor can use to endorse the students answer. Additionally, there is a field that the instructor can use to answer the question herself if the students' answer is unsatisfactory or she feels more information is needed. Any class member can ask follow up questions as well.

The software is simple to use and feature rich -- and it will doubtless greatly reduce the number of emails that the faculty must field. More importantly, though, it fosters a sense of community in this very large (570 students!) lecture course.

Set up and sign up are simple. Students must use their email addresses via an invitation link (sent by instructors). After they set up their Piazza accounts, students are automatically given access to the course space. Faculty can easily create a roster for their course sites and the administrative interfaces are streamlined and intuitive.

FOS Piazza