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Engaging Small Discussion-Based Classes on Piazza

“We can see that almost twice as many papers are published since we started the collaboration on Piazza.”

-Professor Birgitta Lindström, University of Skövde

Jeff Offutt, Professor of Software Engineering at George Mason University and Birgitta Lindström, Professor of Informatics at the University of Skövde, Sweden co-host this session of the Piazza Lecture Series. Professor Offutt and Professor Lindström discuss how they co-teach an asynchronous, discussion-based upper level computer science course on Piazza.

Offutt and Lindström moved their small, discussion-based course onto Piazza and found that the discussion that arose on Piazza was deeper, covered more thoughtful issues, and offered both students and instructors additional chances to learn than in the traditional classroom setting. They found that students created better conversations and generated more interesting content when they had the opportunity for reflective participation, and additional time to better formulate and prepare thoughts than in an impromptu discussion in class. All students were also able to contribute because they weren’t bound by class time, and no one could dominate the discussion.


Offutt and Lindström received an increase in positive evaluations from their students after moving the discussions onto Piazza, and found their own experience more rewarding because the discussions were more interesting and allowed them to continue to learn from their students. Professor Offut describes Piazza as a student-driven environment: “I want them [students] to feel like they have a party and every now and then the professor drops in. I don’t want them to feel like they’re invited to the professor’s house for a party, because nobody is comfortable when that happens.”


We invite you to listen in on this session to learn how Professor Offutt and Professor Lindström virtually merge geographically-dispersed students in a unique collaboration, and their tips for creating deeper, more meaningful discussions on Piazza.

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