University of Wisconsin–Madison

02.26.16 Piazza with John Gillett

John GillettJohn Gillett from Statistics shares 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

Activity SheetNotes • Active Teaching Lab full schedule

John’s Piazza Story


  • 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).
  • Also see the takeaways from Brian Esselman’s Piazza Active Teaching Lab in Spring 2015. [LINK]

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.”

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