Crowdsourcing Q&A to Engage Students: Efficiently Answering Students' Questions in a Large Course

Resource Title:
Crowdsourcing Q&A to Engage Students: Efficiently Answering Students' Questions in a Large Course
Technology Type:
Online Writing and Discussion
Technology Tool:
Discussion Forum
Pedagogical Goal:
Providing feedback to students
Course management
Answering student questions
Crowdsourcing learning activities
Increasing engagement and/or interactivity
Course Type:
Academic Area:
Science, Technology, and Math
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Faculty Name:
Trisha Wittkopp
Online Collaboration Tool:

Professor Trisha WittkoppHere is a short video describing this teaching strategy.

Trisha Wittkopp,  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, teaches genetics to hundreds of students in a large lecture. She uses personal response systems (clickers) to increase interactivity, assess student learning, and address student confusion during class. Nevertheless, between classes, questions remain, and many students have similar questions.

To avoid responding individually to each student, Wittkopp employs Piazza, a discussion forum designed to crowdsource answers to students’ questions. Instead of sending individual e-mails, students post their questions on Piazza, where they can be answered by one of their peers, a graduate student instructor (GSI), or Wittkopp herself. This reduces the number of redundant questions and shortens response time. Students collaboratively edit answers to questions as they would on a wiki, eliminating the need to read through long, threaded discussions or chat transcripts to find the correct answer.

Wittkopp can answer questions directly in a separate field, edit the collaborative student response, or, with a click, simply confirm that the student-generated answer is reliable. Tagging contributions with labels such as “lecture,” “homework,” “quiz,” or exam number aids searching and organization. Additionally, Piazza can generate a report of student activity, facilitating relatively easy grading of participation.