Press release

Piazza Q&A Launches New Insights and Analytics Tool to Gauge College and High School Student Participation and Engagement in an Entirely Virtual Environment

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As more classes moved fully online this fall due to COVID-19, Piazza, the premier social learning platform, today announced a new insights and analytics tool on its Q&A platform built specifically for instructors to better understand each student’s participation and comprehension of the course materials. Piazza’s new Student Participation Export Tool allows instructors to easily export detailed data on student participation, giving them a sense of where a student may be struggling. The company has also released several other enhancements to its Q&A platform providing a more robust offering for educators as they navigate the new online learning environment precipitated by the pandemic.

“As classes around the world continue in a virtual environment, many students will struggle with the feeling of isolation, making it harder to stay engaged in their courses,” said Pooja Sankar, founder and CEO of Piazza. “At the same time, we recognize that instructors are faced with the challenge of understanding when and where students are struggling, as they lose the ability to interact with students in a physical setting. We’re excited to provide instructors with our new Student Participation Export Tool so they can gain a holistic view of which students are struggling and on what topics. Our hope is that this data empowers instructors to make informed and timely decisions to reach out to students who need help.”

The Student Participation Export Tool arrives at a crucial time as the vast majority of students engage in a virtual learning experience. And with limited access to on-campus resources and support, underprivileged or minority students will be even more susceptible to falling behind in this setting. The ability for instructors to recognize which students need help early in the course enables them to act and offer additional assistance as needed. This can result in better overall learning outcomes and grades, which in turn, positively impact retention rates.

Research by Fisk et al. suggests that personalized messages from the professor regarding grades can boost retention among women in computer science (and possibly anyone who is a minority in their field),” said Professor Tiffany Barnes of North Carolina State University’s Computer Science Department. “Students often experience uncertainty about the meaning of their grades in regards to their ability. For instance, earning a ‘B’ in a high school course might thwart a student’s college dreams, while a ‘B’ in a college-level computer science course is adequate for becoming a computer scientist. Stereotypes about women and minority groups further compound some students’ uncertainty about their ability. Fisk and colleagues found that sending an encouraging message to students who are objectively doing well (i.e., in the top half of scores), that explicitly communicated the meaning of their grades and reassured them that they are doing well enough to be successful in CS classes, had a big impact. These messages improved top-performing women’s intentions to persist in computing by 18%. The ability to easily tap into each student’s contributions on Piazza allows us to personalize outreach to students, potentially driving up retention of students in our class.”

Piazza has also added other new enhancements and features to the Q&A platform in response to the challenges of teaching fully online classes, including:

  • Live Q&A — Live Q&A provides a dedicated Q&A space for students to easily ask and upvote questions in real time as instructors are running their lectures online or hosting virtual office hours.
  • Streamlined and guided course setup flow — The new guided course setup makes it easier and quicker for instructors to get started on Piazza.
  • Added support for Chemistry notation — Chemical formulas and equations can now be easily rendered directly in Piazza posts.
  • Enhanced locking capabilities and control over class content — New features designed to allow instructors to control their class content for when they need to administer online exams, receive homework submissions, or review student content before it is public. Instructors can lock a class to prevent students from accessing course content or posting during a scheduled period of time, and also choose to allow students to post privately only to instructors.
  • Improved experience for humanities course discussions — Instructors now have the ability to disable ‘resolved’ or ’unresolved’ designators on follow-up posts to enhance discussions where there is no “right answer,” which can be helpful in humanities courses.
  • Student Safe Mode — New functionality for instructors to switch to a student-safe view of their Piazza instance where an instructor can strip away any private or group posts from the main Q&A feed. This is especially helpful when professors need to share their Piazza instance during office hours or a live lecture and they don’t want students to be able to see any of the private posts made in that class.
  • Instructor-only Follow-up Discussions — Instructors can now create private follow-up discussions that are visible to instructors only so they can discuss how to best respond to students’ questions. This is helpful when teaching staff needs to collaborate on an instructor’s response before making it public.

To learn more about Piazza’s new Student Participation Export Tool, visit Piazza’s support page.

About Piazza

Piazza Q&A is the premier social learning platform today, helping more than 5 million students learn beyond the traditional classroom in more than 2,000 universities spanning 90 countries. Students from all disciplines use Piazza to work together collaboratively despite differences in learning levels, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, and instructors address their questions as they arise. While Piazza Q&A enables inclusive learning, the Piazza Network opens up career opportunities. Any student in the Piazza community can opt in to join the Network, where they can connect with potential employers as well as interact with other students in their network for career advice.