A hallmark of an academic community is the ability to interact with professors and classmates. Students learn from lectures and books but also through discussion, by asking questions, and by being corrected. The startup Piazza aims to create a home for these interactions online.
Founded by Pooja Sankar in 2009 at Stanford University, Piazza is a combination of an online forum and a wiki. Students ask questions to everyone enrolled in the class. Their classmates can then answer the question and edit the answers to the question. This means that the answer is continuously refined until it is perfect. This also means that there is only one answer below every question. Students do not need to sift through long threads of comments to find the correct answer. Though, they still have the option to view all versions of an answer.
Professors can also respond and guide the online discussions, but their comments are marked in a different color.
The webpage has several features to encourage both questions and answers. It allows for anonymity, helps shy students ask questions and facilitates discussions which might be otherwise contentious. Students can also flag questions they are interested in following and ask follow-up questions. Furthermore, unanswered questions are highlighted with the goal of making them easier to spot and answer.
Piazza is currently free to use, open to any professor willing make Piazza part of his class, and to every student enrolled in said classes. The service is available online as well as on applications on iOS and Android. The site has registered more than 100,000 students from more than 330 colleges, which include 109 of the top 250 U.S. colleges.Wiki Education,