Teaching Continuity at Caltech  /  Tech & Tools  /  Course Q&A Forums

Course Q&A Forums

What are online Q&A forums?

Piazza and Ed Discussion are online Q&A platform that facilitate interaction among students and instructors in an efficient and intuitive manner. Both are integrated into the Caltech Canvas LMS and can work as stand-alone applications. These resources differ from built-in Canvas discussion forums in that they are typically course-wide, highly searchable, and include enhanced features for working with LaTeX and code, as well as dynamic highlighting of helpful peer-to-peer and instructor/TA responses.

Piazza

Piazza helps students who are stuck on homework problems get unstuck with the help of their classmates, TAs, and professors. Caltech has an agreement in place with Piazza, allowing Caltech and Piazza to work together to protect student privacy.

NOTE: Piazza at Caltech is integrated into the Caltech Canvas Learning Management System. If using Piazza with Canvas, upon first setting up Piazza for the course, Piazza recommends that you skip over the creation of an access code and skip manually enrollment. Instead, students and TAs in your course will automatically be added in Piazza when they click through to Piazza from Canvas.

Piazza Features:

  • Wiki-style format enables collaboration in a single space
  • Features LaTeX editor, highlighted syntax and code blocking
  • Questions and posts needing immediate action are highlighted
  • Instructors endorse answers to keep the class on track
  • Anonymous posting encourages every student to participate
  • Highly customizable online polls
  • Rich course participation data
  • Duplicate post detection functionality to limit students from creating repetitive posts
  • Integrated with Caltech Canvas Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Available on iOS and Android Apps

For additional information or assistance, contact Piazza at team@piazza.com or 800-818-4124, or contact canvas@caltech.edu.

Ed Discussion

Ed Discussion is an online application for class Q&A, which Caltech is piloting through fall 2021. Ed emphasizes student privacy and has no advertising. Ed Discussion is integrated into Caltech's instance of Canvas for this pilot, with secure, single sign-on and enrollment syncing. Ed Discussion reports that instructors using their app save considerable time compared to traditional email and forums due to the following features.

Ed Discussion Features/Benefits:

  • Fewer direct emails sent to staff
  • Fewer duplicate questions being asked
  • Students often answer each other's questions
  • Questions can reach and benefit the whole class
  • Seamless creation and display of equations, runnable code, and more
  • Higher-quality questions and less back and forth with thread templates

For additional information or assistance, contact Ed Discussion at support@edstem.org, or contact canvas@caltech.edu.