Campuswire vs Piazza: a Breakdown

Here at Campuswire, we’re all recent students & TAs, so we all experienced some frustrations with the communication tools available to us in our classes — we knew that students (and professors) deserved something better. So we designed Campuswire to address many of the specific frustrations we experienced with platforms like Piazza and others.

So, what does Campuswire do differently than Piazza?

1. Scope

Simply put, Campuswire and Piazza are on different levels as teaching and learning tools.

Campuswire includes a modern discussion forum, Slack-style chatrooms, direct messages, a student response system, a lecture presentation tool, and a video chat tool for live lectures and office hours. Piazza is a Q&A forum.

With Campuswire, you get a better, more usable discussion forum, plus tons more functionality (and you can pick and choose which pieces to include in your class infrastructure). Check out the full rundown of our feature list on our homepage.

2. Student data and privacy

One of our primary issues with Piazza was the way they handled student data as part of their business model.

Piazza maintains a free product by selling student data to recruiters and prospective employers (take a look here).

At Campuswire, we’re building an entirely different business model — we will never sell student data or advertisements.

Take a look at our approach to user privacy here: Campuswire’s View on User Privacy

Campuswire includes two version: Basic (free) and Pro (paid). Classes are welcome to use Basic for as long as they’d like for free — if they see value in Pro, they can upgrade. That means that we only make money when professors and students get so much teaching and learning value from Campuswire that they want to pay, not when we can monetize the data we’re collecting from students.

Our customers will always be the professors and students who are using Campuswire and giving us the feedback that we rely on to build a better tool (not the recruiters and corporations who are Piazza’s customers).

So, if you’re looking for a complete course communication tool that protects student data and that has intentionally aligned its incentives as a company with your incentives as an instructor, TA, or student, welcome to Campuswire!

3. Eliminate email with chatrooms and direct messages

Piazza doesn’t offer group chat or direct messaging — when TAs need to coordinate or when students need to collaborate on group assignments, they’re forced to use email or other apps like iMessage or GroupMe.

Campuswire completely eliminates email inbox clutter — students can directly message instructors, TAs, and each other. Professors can also create chatrooms to host group chats for any purpose: virtual office hours, TA chats, project groups, specific topics, or more informal Q&A.

Our goal with Campuswire is to completely consolidate class communication. From direct messaging to project groups to Q&A, everything happens on Campuswire.

Rooms and real-time Direct Messages mean that every type of communication, from TA coordination to 1 on 1 chats with students, takes place on a single platform.

4. Quality control

For students, it can be hard to know which peers really know what they’re talking about. With Piazza, we had to wait for a TA or instructor to answer our questions, or endorse a student’s answer, before moving ahead with confidence.

Campuswire supports Reddit-style up-voting which crowd-sources credibility. Students can up-vote each other’s answers so even when it’s 3am, and instructors aren’t around, they can get a sense of who’s on the right track. Instructors can also endorse students answers — this means that professors and TAs can indicate that an answer is correct without having to create an entirely new answer.

This saves instructors tons of time — rather than having to personally answer every question, you incentive students to answer one another’s questions, trust that there’s quality control for info being shared on Campuswire, and simply endorse correct answers in one click.

5. Class reputation

Campuswire immediately rewards students for asking questions and answering each other’s questions by giving them class reputation points. Students can also gain reputation points and climb reputation levels by receiving upvotes and endorsements on their answers.

Class reputation leverages robust gamification to drive increased collaboration — classes that choose to enable this optional feature see a 120% increase in questions answered by students and more than a 30% decrease in average question response times.

Reputation also makes it easy to track, measure, and incentivize student engagement — you can monitor which students are most engaged (and which students are lagging behind) and give bonus or participation credit to students who reach certain reputation benchmarks.

6. State-of-the-art tech for STEM classes + integrations

Campuswire has full LaTeX & Markdown support with code syntax highlighting in messages (it’s the first real-time messenger in the world to support both markdown and LaTeX in chat!) and in posts.

LaTeX and Markdown are no longer daunting!

7. The user interface

Compared to apps like Instagram and Snapchat, which students are used to using every day, Piazza’s traditional “forum-style” interface is out-dated, clunky and unintuitive; each new crop of college students finds this type of forum increasingly unfamiliar and engages with it less.

In many of our classes, students would setup unofficial Reddit pages, Discord servers or even Facebook groups just to avoid using Piazza.

Campuswire is simple, organized, and a delight to use. Our design is subtly different in important ways: it’s modern, clean, and familiar. For students (we speak from experience here), that’s everything! When they log on, they see a tool that looks like the messaging platforms they use in every day life and feel immediately at home.

8. Active Learning + Video Lectures and Office Hours (Campuswire Pro)

In addition to all of the communication features listed above, Campuswire also includes Campuswire Lectures and Campuswire Live Sessions.

Campuswire Lectures is our student response system that brings active learning into your class and makes it easy to take attendance and open up a backchannel for questions during lecture.

Professors can upload their lectures into their Campuswire course, build multiple choice or free response questions into those lectures, and broadcast those lectures during class from their Campuswire web app or mobile app.

Students will use Campuswire’s mobile apps to respond to polls and questions and receive immediate feedback on their responses.

Campuswire Lectures

Campuswire Live Sessions is a complete Zoom/Skype/Hangouts replacement for hosting sharable, scalable live office hours, review sessions, and lectures.

Professors can host virtual office hours and review sessions for as many students as they’d like, implement active learning into those sessions, and easily share those live sessions with all of their students. With features like the speaking queue, the backchannel, and the same polling capabilities as Campuswire Lectures, Live Sessions helps online lectures and office hours feel as personal and engaging as in-person learning.

All of this functionality makes Campuswire a complete teaching and learning tool for every class environment, not just a Q&A forum. From asynchronous communication outside of classes on campus to synchronous lectures and active learning in online courses, Campuswire is the home bases for all your teaching.

9. Approach

Ultimately, our approach is fundamentally different than other companies’ — whereas many of the course communication tools used today are the same as they were 5 years ago, Campuswire improves every week (literally!). We’re constantly incorporating feedback from professors and students — we’re 10x as useful as we were 9 months ago, but not half as useful as we’ll be a year from now.

Though it can be hard to describe, Campuswire also feels fundamentally more familiar and welcoming to today’s student. Their classmates are just a DM away, they’re rewarded for participating (anonymously if they want), and they know their questions will be answered quickly.

We’ve found that students tend to use Campuswire more (300% more daily, to be specific), which, in turn, actually means instructors have to spend less time managing class q&a.

About 40% of our professors are former Piazza users — we asked them to randomly DM their students asking for their feedback…

Another one…

… and another…

The feedback has been overwhelmingly consistent from students and instructors alike — students viewed Campuswire as a sort of digital study-hall for their class — a place to constantly “hang around” while working on assignments and problem sets, as opposed to just a Q&A forum.

Phrases like “user-friendly” and “more responsive” pop up again and again in our feedback, and students volunteer that they’re more active and engaged in their classes on Campuswire.

Key feature breakdown:

When we set out to build Campuswire we deeply examined our experiences as users of Piazza — considering what worked, what was missing, and incorporating this knowledge into our plans.

Much more is on the way — we’re only just getting started :).

-The Campuswire Team

Campuswire

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