Part 3: Spring 2016 Labs

37 Piazza with John Gillett — 02.26.2016

John-GillettIn the Active Teaching Lab on February 26, 2016, John Gillett from Statistics shared how he uses Piazza, an online Q&A platform, to challenge and engage his students. Piazza is a unique Q&A environment for asking and answering course questions that is integrated with D2L. Students leverage their shared knowledge and collaborate on a single student response to questions. Instructors can provide their own answers to questions or simply endorse the community-generated response.

  • Ask students to solve challenging course problems through collaboration.
  • Poll students to identify misconceptions, reveal prior knowledge, examine first ideas, and check for understanding.
  • Provide a place for students to ask and answer their own questions, form study groups, and find help when they need it.
  • Post announcements.
  • Ask questions to promote discussion.
  • Put students in groups to promote group discussion.
  • Answer questions related to homework.
  • Use it as a discussion board.
  • Create polls.
  • Load files and resources for collaboration.

Key Takeaways

  • Piazza is integrated in D2L and Moodle, already populated with instructor and student information for each course. The integration with Canvas should be similar.
  • Piazza is typically best for questions with definitive answers, but can also be used to create consensus answers. These require a distinctly different set up by the instructor.
  • Built-in statistics allows the instructor to view student and TA participation (page views and posts).

If you’re interested in learning more to get up and running with Piazza, watch the videos below and try stepping through the Piazza worksheet we created for the session! Also, check out our previous Active Teaching Lab on Piazza.

The Active Teaching Lab, a Faculty Engagement program, provides a safe space for structured explorations of cool teaching tools and techniques that your colleagues are using to engage students and teach more effectively. During the academic year, labs are held weekly and will be listed on the Active Teaching Lab page.

John’s Piazza Story


Also, see the post on Piazza by the UW–Madison School of Nursing’s Academic Technology (

Although D2L has a discussions module, offers students and instructors features not available in D2L, and the software is now officially UW-Madison-supported. Using, students, instructors, and TA’s can post questions or notes (announcements) regarding course assignments, as well as the logistics of the class, and answer other students’ questions. Instructors and TA’s can easily “endorse” some answers or announcements, or add their own answers or comments to existing student answers. For students who are hesitant to pose questions, allows questions which may be posted as anonymous to other students (only the instructors or single instructor know who posted the question), or anonymous to everyone – so that no-one (not even the instructor) knows who posted the question (or the answer). allows instructors to avoid answering the same questions over and over again, and additionally offers one place where the answer to someone’s question is also visible to others (if the person asking and answering the questions chose such option).

Overall, allows a more productive and nuanced exchange of ideas then email, and definitely a faster exchange than D2L discussions, adding a convenience of choices in addition to the web-interface access at the website, participation is also possible through native apps for iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), and Android.

For more information, see a complete list of features with how-to instructions.”


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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