Name, Abbreviation, and Number of Course

Agricultural & Applied Economics (AAE) 770: Quantitative Methods Res/Energy Economics

Name of Activity or Assignment

Piazza Help Forum

Description and Purpose of Engagement Tool

Piazza is an online problem-solving place where students can ask, answer, and explore questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, under the guidance of their instructors. It gives students anonymity options to encourage everyone - even the shy students - to ask and answer questions. In Piazza, students collaborate in a wiki-like interface to come up with answers to questions that may be posed by students or instructors. Instructors can also collaborate on answers in their own space. In addition, Piazza offers a more traditional discussion format.

Piazza is used as a way for students to build online community and also display their understanding of the content. It gives the instructor a way to gauge student understanding as an informal formative assessment. Through tracking student inquiries and their classmates responses the instructor can adjust content to ensure content understanding of the course goals and objectives. Instructor endorsements of good questions and answers let instructors push the class in the right direction.

Description and Purpose of Activity or Assignment

The Piazza meeting room is tied to a course with the expectation that students may ask questions of each other and assist each other in the understanding of the course content. Other students in the class then answer the posted questions. The instructor and/or TA of the course monitors the questions and answers, giving a virtual “thumbs up” to the answers when they are in the right direction.

By having students initially answer each other’s questions the instructor is using the Analyze Instructional Strategy of Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy. Using Piazza allows the instructor to monitor course understanding and also frees the instructor from having a deluge of the same question from multiple students.

Learning Objectives Associated with Engagement Tool

To ensure that everyone in the program has a solid understanding of statistical and quantitative methods commonly used in applied economic analysis.

Preparation Details of Activity or Assignment

The instructor or instructional designer begins by linking a Piazza room to the course and then ensuring all students within the course are enrolled in the Piazza room. Once all students are in the room the instructor needs to direct all initial student questions to be posted in the Piazza room. Instructors then monitor the questions and student responses with the instructor letting students know when the responses are in the correct direction or guiding them when the responses veer incorrectly.

The instructor or TA will need to create the corresponding Piazza discussion room for the class. Simple directions on how to create the room are supplied at the Piazza site ( Once a room has been created the student names and email addresses need to be enrolled into the class under the “Manage Enrollment” tab. Students are informed by email that they are part of the discussion group. Instructors may post questions and encourage students to do the same. A digest of how often questions are posted and replied to is available and the frequency of receiving the digest may be set to meet the needs of the student or instructor.

Student Instructions for Activity or Assignment

Students were directed to use Piazza as their first resource when they had a question, even before emailing the instructor.  In this way Piazza helps to foster a community of learners and reduced the amount of emails that were received by the instructor. It also allowed the instructor a method to gauge student understanding of the material being covered in the course.

Assessment/Grading Criteria for Activity or Assignment

Students were assessed in each module of the course on their participation in the Piazza discussions. In this course 11% of the grade was tied to the discussion. By requiring students to participate in the online discussion, instructors are guaranteeing student interactions which foster online community as well as giving the instructor one assessment method to evaluate content understanding of both the individual and in a larger context the entire class.  

Example of Final Student Output

screen shot of piazza discussion forum