A recent article on Chronicle features the rising popularity of an internet service called Piazza. Created by a Stanford graduate named Pooja Sankar, this free service is designed to allow professors and TAs to respond to students quickly and efficiently.
The article emphasizes that the service is not unnecessary or redundant, as one might initially think. Instead, it is much more streamlined than having professors reply to numerous emails or using discussion features on Blackboard or Sakai.
By using Piazza, students can choose to post questions that require rather straight-forward answers on the site for the professor, TAs, or other students to answer. Thus, more time during face-to-face office hours is left for students who need more one-on-one help. Best of all, Sankar is constantly evaluating feedback from users about how to improve the service and the testimonials from professors that use the service show that Piazza can help you save time and be more efficient.
In addition to being beneficial for professors and other instructors, Sankar’s personal experience of being too shy to approach others shows that the service can be helpful for students as well. The discussion area can become a virtual study hall for students to quickly get their questions answered, help other students by answering their questions, and overall interact with one another to better understand the course material without having to set-up personal meetings. That way, class doesn’t have to end with the lecture portion — students can continue to learn and discuss topics away from the classroom setting.
If you are interested in using Piazza, check out the wealth of information on their site (including a demo or free live demonstrations you can register for) and read the testimonials from professors using Piazza.