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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Piazza website helps teachers by limiting student emails

    Email inboxes can easily become inundated with messages. It can be hard to keep up with the constant stream of communication, especially when you’re the professor of several hundred students.

    At the UA, there are 39,086 students and a student-teacher ratio of 20.9 to 1, according to the 2010-11 UA Fact Book and the Princeton Review. With that ratio, professors can often become overwhelmed by email communication to and from students.

    That is why a tool called Piazza can be an effective resource for professors to utilize.

    Pooja Sankar, a recent graduate of Stanford University, launched her free website, Piazza, in order to create an online study hall for professors and teaching assistants to host course-related question-and-answer sessions.

    Additionally, professors can use the website to encourage other students to help their peers. Students will often have Piazza open in a separate tab while they are doing their homework, said Sankar in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Sankar believes this website can save teachers hours each week by allowing them to post answers to student questions on a single online forum rather than through many scattered emails, according to the Chronicle.

    As the end of the semester draws near, more and more professors are asking students to refrain from sending emails about grades, deadlines and so on. Professors are opening up office hours for students who need help understanding a concept that will be on the final or directing them to the Think Tank for tutoring. However, students can’t always make it to office hours or Think Tank hours for help.

    Everyone’s schedule is different, and though these set hours do offer students an alternative to emailing professors, they will not work for every student. Piazza can be accessed from home and is available whenever the student has the time to get online and ask their question, so it is convenient for everyone.

    In college, Sankar was a shy student who didn’t have the courage to ask a question in class, according to the Chronicle. Going online, where questions are almost anonymous, was ideal.

    With Piazza, a student can see other students’ questions to see if their own question has already been asked and answered. Greg Morrisett, a computer science professor at Harvard University, uses Piazza as a way to monitor those students who step up and answer a lot of other students’ questions. Morrisett is able to single out these talented students and ask them to be teaching fellows for the next year.

    However, Morrisett said he’s concerned this online forum may serve as an easy way out for students, leading them to just ask questions instead of trying things on their own.

    A legitimate concern, but any student who is determined to take the easy way out in college will find a way, regardless of whether this website exists or not. Piazza is a convenient way for students to discuss course-related work on a more personal level, both with their professor and with other students.

    — Ashley T. Powell is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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