Using Piazza for Class Discussions – Sep.2019 Teaching Community of Practice (TCoP) Recap!

Hi Everyone!

SJSU’s September 2019 Teaching Community of Practice* (TCoP) Meeting was on the topic of Using Piazza for Class Engagement and Discussions. We had a special guest facilitator, Krissy Connell (Lecturer in the Child and Adolescent Development Department), who shared the various ways she used Piazza in her courses.

  • NOTE: For those who were unable to attend, the Zoom RECORDING of this meeting can be found HERE.


TAKE-AWAY POINTS ABOUT PIAZZA. The following are some of the key take-aways about the usefulness of the Piazza tool, highlighting how and why you might consider using it yourself in any courses you teach:

  • Krissy mostly uses Piazza as a discussion tool, since she has found increased student participation in discussions using Piazza, as compared to using the Canvas’ “Discussion” feature. She also points out that students can use this tool while studying, since they can benefit from seeing her responses to all the questions other students ask!
  • Some of Krissy’s favorite features of this tool include:
    • Ability to organize the discussion posts by FOLDERS (e.g., can organize according to course and by each lecture/module/topic you teach. Plus you cannot accidentally forget to label your posts by folder, since you are required to publish them to one of your folders upon posting)
    • Students can post questions, as well as responses to other students’ questions, ANONYMOUSLY (Krissy says this is the Student’s most reported favorite feature and has led to more students participating in discussions)
    • With one click of a button, the instructor can label students’ questions/responses as a “GOOD QUESTION” or “GOOD RESPONSE”, respectively. Krissy said that she does this for all posts because it makes students feel good to get this feedback
    • Instructor can also post to an individual section or to multiple SECTIONS of the same course at once
    • Students can create STUDY GROUPS and you can see, and comment on, their discussions, 
    • Instructors can create a POLL within a ‘discussion post’, ‘question’, or ‘note’ to her students
    • Instructors can send REMINDERS to students to comment on a post or discussion
    • Piazza’s “CLASS AT A GLANCE” tool shows instructors a dashboard summarizing recent Piazza activity by students, such as: # unread posts, # of follow-ups, average response time, etc.
    • The STATISTICS tab shows you trends in responses (good if there’s a requirement in your syllabus for course discussion)- this also shows trends by the folders you create!
    • You can set up Piazza to EMAIL you every time there’s a post, etc.
    • PEER EDUCATORS or TEACHING ASSISTANTS for the course can also answer questions from students, and instructor can review these to ensure they are good answers
    • EXIT POLL are a very useful feature that you can add to posts, where students are given the opportunity to indicate what they were confused about, how comfortable they are with what they are learning, and any additional questions they may have. 

Questions & Comments:

  • Q: Will this add too much complexity for students, teachers?
    • This is really easy for students to set up, because Piazza’s integrated with canvas!
    • They will just have to quickly register/login at the beginning of term, and can do so right from the Canvas course!
    • Super efficient and easy to post a question, poll, etc.! The text box has the usual text editor ( you can add links, change the font, etc)
    • Krissy’s biggest set up task is to create the folders (for each module, quiz, exam, etc.) at the beginning of term (however, this too is not difficult as you can “batch-add” folders, rather than needed to add one folder at a time)
  • Q: Is Piazza ‘worth the trouble’ to implement this my classroom?
    • Krissy thinks so! She emphasized that most students say they prefer this tool to Canvas’ Discussion feature, especially because they can post anonymously
    • Krissy thinks Piazza has so many more resources/tools for her than Canvas…she even removed the ‘Discussion’ tab from Canvas’ course navigation bar so that all discussions go through Piazza
    • Folders help you organize your discussions! Important because this way students don’t need to scroll through all their announcements to find old content, etc.
  • Q: Do you have to create a new set of folders for every term you teach?
    • Yes, but this is relatively easy. Simply go to “manage class > configure class folders” and then you can bulk-add folders!
  • Q: If you copy your course Canvas shell, does it copy the Piazza layout?
    • No, you would still need to make new Piazza folders, but this is not too much work
  • Q: Can you use Piazza in-class and online? Maybe integrate with quizzes online?
    • Krissy hasn’t tried looking for any quiz features, but there are a lot of features you can add-on to Piazza, ask eCampus!
  • Q: When students enroll and are added to Canvas late, are they added to Piazza automatically?
    • As soon as they are added to Canvas, they can enroll/register with Piazza
  • Q: What are some of the common challenges that your students experience when using it?

    • Students need to make sure they click on the correct folder to see relevant posts
    • Students who are uncomfortable with technology/ not using Canvas often might not use the tool much. However, students she’s asked have mostly said they liked Piazza, especially the anonymous feature!
  • Q: Do students get notifications when you post on Piazza through their email like they do with Canvas announcements?

    • Yes! Krissy can choose when the notification goes out (can save as a draft to send later) and who it will go to (to whole sections, individual students), and can even force-send an email to students who did not sign-up for email reminders.
  • Q: Can SJSU people contact you for more information?

    • Yes! Krissy said you are welcome to email her ( for more information
    • You can also contact eCampus for more information



*What is the TCoP, you ask?

  • The Teaching Community of Practice (TCoP) is a group for part- and full-time SJSU faculty (of all levels, across all departments), who are interested in enhancing their respective teaching practices. The TCoP will meet regularly, according to members’ schedules, to exchange strategies, tips and resources that have led to successful (and sometimes, less-than-successful) teaching experiences. Please fill out this form if you are interested in joining this community and you will be added to the groups’ mailing list. For inquires about the TCoP, please contact me at


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