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. 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: https://eliterate.us/popular-discussion-platform-piazza-getting-pushback-selling-student-data/ and here: https://ithelp.brown.edu/kb/articles/piazza-student-privacy for more context).

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

Beginning in January, we’ll offer a Pro (paid) version of Campuswire. That version will include powerful features like video office hours and active learning technology, and professors will have the option to upgrade their course to Campuswire Pro. (Everything we’ve built so far, up to and including Campuswire V3, will remain free forever.)

That means that we only make money when we’ve built a tool that provides professors and students so much value and enhances the teaching and learning experience so much that they want to pay for Campuswire.

We’re in a really exciting place where our interests as a company are completely aligned with the interests of our users.

Our customers will always be the professors and students who are using Campuswire and giving us the feedback that we rely on to improve Campuswire (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!

2. Duplicate question prevention

Another frustration with Piazza (and every forum, really) was the clutter of duplicate questions, especially in large classes where lots of students have the same questions at the same point in the semester. Those questions can overwhelm students and make it really hard for professors and TAs to provide timely, efficient help.

So, we built a clever AI to identify similar questions and prevent them from being posted. When we introduced it, we reduced duplicate questions in a large class by 75%!

No more Class Feed clutter and repetitive questions!

3. 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.

Up-votes and endorsements reward students for helping their peers and encourage high-quality answers

4. Eliminate email with rooms 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 privately message instructors, TAs and each other. Professors can also create Rooms to host group chats for any purpose: virtual office hours, TA chats, project groups, document sharing, 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!

5. 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!

6. 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.

7. Class reputation

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

Rep levels and points!

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.

8. 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.

During our Beta and Pilot periods, 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.

All of our Beta professors were previous Piazza users — we asked them to randomly DM their students asking for their feedback…

Students use Campuswire a lot more than Piazza

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

The Team!

Campuswire

We're on a mission to optimize the world’s teaching and learning.

Campuswire Student Design Team

Written by

Campuswire

We're on a mission to optimize the world’s teaching and learning.

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