Stanford Adds Piazza To Its Most Popular iTunes U Course

Stanford is adding interaction with other students to its massive online open courseware, according to InsideHigherEd.com. The interaction ability will be launched with the help of Piazza, a program that allows students to interact with professors, teaching assistants, and peers.

The peer-interaction capability will be offered alongside Stanford’s iPad and iPhone Application Development course, Stanford’s most popular iTunes U offering. This course alone had more than 400,000 subscribers during the fall 2011 video set. Brent Izutsu, a senior program manager for Stanford, said Piazza is already used by the iPad and iPhone Application Development students on campus, according to InsideHigherEd.com. Teaching assistants will moderate discussions through Piazza and answer general questions for assignments, or specific questions for individual peers. This will make the course the first iTunes U offering coupled with a school-instituted social learning component.

The iPad and iPhone Application Development course provides an overview of the tools and APIs required to build iPhone and iPad applications using the iOS software development kit (SDK) and the user interface designs for mobile devices and multi-touch user interactions. The course is taught through Objective C, and requires a background in C language and object-oriented programming.

Piazza is already used on campus at Stanford University, the University of California- Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M University, MIT, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to AllThingsD.com, it was started in 2009 by Pooja Sankar, a former software developer at Facebook, and raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners last month.

Sankar thinks the pilot program will generate increased interested in Piazza, and told InsideHigherEd.com that the pilot collaboration with Stanford, Piazza, and iTunes U is a very promising and powerful indicator of what can happen with the available content. He also noted that "this will be an indicator to many other institutions and professors that they can do the same thing now with their class materials."

Izutsu told InsideHigherEd.com that Stanford will determine whether or not they will add more socially integrated courses to iTunes U depending on the success of this pilot program. "We’re trying to see how this works over the summer and then reevaluate it afterwards," Izutsu said.

The class begins June 25 and runs through August 16, utilizing Professor Hegarty’s materials from Fall 2011. The first 1,000 people to register and log into Piazza regularly may have their final project considered for special mention, according to Piazza’s website.

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