Engaging Students using Piazza

Piazza is a tool integrated and available in Canvas. Students can post questions anonymously, answer their peers, and read TA or instructor responses in the course forum. In addition to posting anonymously, students can endorse, or “upvote”, questions to increase interest in common issues. Using Piazza can also reduce the number of emails sent to TAs and instructors, especially during midterms and exams.  Students using Piazza have access to a public and archived forum for course and content-related questions.

Here are some tips for introducing Piazza to your course:

  1. Enable Piazza in Canvas and encourage students to sign up during the first week of classes.
  2. Discuss in person and state on your syllabus that all course-related questions should be posted to Piazza first. Reserve email and office hours for personal questions or questions still unclear from the Piazza forum.
  3. Introduce Piazza in class during shopping period, orienting students to the “New Post” function and ability to add images, equations, and polls to a post.
  4. Bring questions posted on Piazza back to the physical class. Discuss the top questions in class or highlight student contributions.
  5. Stay active within Piazza. Students are more likely to participate if you respond to their questions. If you have TAs, make participation in the forum one of their responsibilities.

When setting up your Piazza course, take a look at the course settings to create custom folders/tabs, allow anonymous posting, and view student analytics. These tools are helpful in identifying students who not only post the most questions, but answer and read questions as well.

Learn more about enabling Piazza in Canvas or contact us for help!


Weather proof your courses

Weather related campus closings and class cancellations due to treacherous road conditions make it challenging to maintain the pace of learning in the Spring semester. When you or your students can’t be physically present in the classroom face-to-face, you can salvage the situation with variety of technological solutions.

In order to hold a formal class meeting at a distance WebEx is the most stable and easily available option that does not need prior planning. It allows multiple people to participate in a live web video or audio conference. Hosts can invite anyone, including people outside of the Brown community. WebEx can be used to hold class sessions, office hours, or host guest speakers when weather makes it difficult to reach campus. WebEx sessions can also be recorded and made available for later review. Learn how to schedule a webEx meeting.

Asynchronous Class Sessions
You can also prepare your class sessions in advance for students to access at their convenience. Here are some of the options available for Brown faculty:

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Projects with Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award winners

The Karen T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (UTRAs) support Brown students  who are collaborating with Brown faculty on research and teaching projects during the summer or academic year. Every year, the Academic Technology team works with select Summer UTRAs on projects that have a technology component. Past Summer UTRAs have done interesting work ranging from creating instructional resources to developing apps for digital humanities projects.

Mapping Violence

Professor Monica Muñoz Martinez and her team of Summer UTRA students mapped the locations of racial violence in Texas from 1910 to 1920. The digital map displays these historical markers to coordinate public history exhibits and create a visual representation of violence, grief, and loss. The team was composed of undergraduate students in American studies, ethnic studies, comparative literature, education, English, visual arts, history, public humanities, sociology, engineering, and computer science.
Over the summer, students collaborated with researchers using digital tools to document, evaluate, and archive primary sources. Students gained valuable research and writing skills and contributed to the initial designs of the project website. Additionally, the UTRA team included a dedicated group of students who developed a new collaborative database platform designed specifically for humanities research. Professor Martinez’s project will expand to deliver a public digital map of this research.

Sondheim Course Development

The primary goal of this project was to develop course materials for a first-year seminar about Stephen Sondheim, one of the most prominent musical theatre composers of the 20th century, who wrote the music and lyrics for Broadway shows such as Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. One of the goals of this course is to connect Sondheim’s musicals to their cultural and historical surroundings

The challenge was organizing various materials —texts, recordings, videos — in a manner that was practical and not tedious. There were no surviving sources where the dialogue texts and song texts are presented in a linear sequence. The course needed a well-organized website and well-presented materials and excerpts.  After discussion with the faculty and the Summer UTRA student,  we recommended using a Canvas site and hosting video content on Panopto.   This allowed the student to create an integrated learning experience that makes the musicals, scores, and scripts accessible to students.

learn MORE about the Utra program

Interested in working with an UTRA student?  Check out this site!  Academic Technology staff are happy to partner with you and your UTRA to provide support for the technology component of your project.  Get in touch with us at  ITG@brown.edu to learn more about our services.