Subject: Piazza Support Ending - August 31, 2021

Date: Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 11:06 AM

From: Information Technology Services

To: UCSC Instructors who use Piazza

In December, Piazza announced a new pricing model that took effect in January 2021. The free version we currently use now contains advertisements, which violates university policies. Due to this change, ITS will be removing Piazza from Canvas on Tuesday, August 31st, 2021.

Who is impacted? Instructors who use Piazza (in the past, presently, or planning to do in future)

What to do now? Read on to learn about alternatives to Piazza, meet with an instructional designer (if desired), and/or migrate your data out of Piazza by Tuesday, August 31st.

Continue using Piazza outside of Canvas:

You can do so by exploring the paid models at piazza.com. However, we encourage you to carefully review and remain aware of Piazza’s evolving privacy policies. Please consider the risks and impact of an ad-supported experience on your classes. While Piazza does offer the opportunity to maintain accounts directly with them, these accounts will not be integrated with Canvas. For a history of this evolving situation, see previous information on Piazza at UCSC.

Explore alternatives to Piazza for discussion boards:

The removal of this tool from Canvas may require rethinking your discussions and use of Canvas. We recognize that it can be frustrating to rework previously successful activities and find alternatives that work for you and your students. The following alternatives may not be identical to Piazza, but they are intended to help anyone looking for an improved discussion board experience to understand the free, UCSC-supported options that are currently available. We are happy to help you explore these alternatives.

Attend an open forum to discuss supported alternatives:

An open forum to discuss moving forward from Piazza and Canvas will be held on Wednesday, July 28th at 3:00 PM and Wednesday, August 4th at 3:00 PM. Please register for either or both open forums. All instructors are welcome to attend.

Migrate data out of Piazza:

For instructors who want to preserve data in Piazza, please refer to these data migration options. Though the vendor may allow for extensions to view the data beyond August 31st, we currently do not have a firm commitment to access the data beyond August 31st.

Want to explore some of these ideas in more depth?

● Email online@ucsc.edu to request a consultation with one of the Instructional Designers to discuss using alternative discussion board tools or approaches in your course.

● Visit the FITC/Online Education office hours (2–3pm daily) to discuss and explore alternatives.

● Join the Online Education Slack workspace.

● Complete the Let’s Get this Canvas Started - You can self-enroll using this URL: https://canvas.ucsc.edu/enroll/9R9LH4

● Contact the Canvas support team at UCSC by email at canvas.help@ucsc.edu

● Vendor Support Options

● Instructors may contact Canvas for direct support 24x7 by clicking on the Help icon (question mark) on the Canvas menu.

● Have a look at the Canvas Discussion guides to learn more about Canvas Discussions.

Quick Links

Discussion Board Alternatives for Piazza Instructors

Getting Data out of Piazza

Previous Piazza Announcements

Technical Help: Contact the Canvas support team at UCSC by email at canvas.help@ucsc.edu.
Redesigning courses: Support is available at online@ucsc.edu or via the Online Education Slack workspace.

We’d like to hear from you! Give us feedback.

Let us know what we missed that you need to know. Provide general feedback or ask questions using this feedback form.

Subject: Important Update - Removal of the Piazza Integration with Canvas CANCELED

Date: December 22, 2020

From: Information Technology Services

The proposed removal of the Piazza integration in Canvas, previously scheduled for Dec. 30th, has been canceled.

Piazza announced that they have abandoned their plan to display ads on their platform. UCSC will continue to closely track the developments as Piazza explores other revenue generating options.

ITS is working with other UC campuses as well as directly conferring with Piazza on licensing options. We are also working with other vendors to explore alternatives to Piazza. All of these options will be reviewed in consultation with UCSC Academic Senate committees.

UCSC does not have a contractual relationship with Piazza, and we remain concerned about the use of the product for instruction, whether or not the access is through Canvas. The issues include the Piazza Talent Network, accessibility and uncertainty about Piazza’s future business model. We do not recommend including Piazza as an integral part of any course until these issues are clarified and resolved.

This is a dynamic situation and your understanding is greatly appreciated. If you have questions during the break, please contact the UCSC team at canvas.help@ucsc.edu.

If you would like to use an alternative to Piazza, such as Canvas Discussions, support is available at online@ucsc.edu or via the Online Education Slack workspace.

Subject: Additional Information - Piazza may no longer be integrated in Canvas

Date: December 17, 2020

From: Information Technology Services

This email provides additional information to the previous communication from the Academic Senate, CITL, Online Education, and ITS outlining Piazza's move to an ad-supported model. Subsequent to the release of that email, we have received new information.

UC Counsel and Privacy Officers have advised that the targeted ads served through Piazza may violate the University's Electronic Communications Policy if Piazza is embedded in our Learning Management System.

  • Based on this concern, ITS will be removing the Piazza integration with Canvas before January 1, 2021.

UC will be contacting Piazza to request that they delay their plan to display ads, which Piazza has currently scheduled to begin on January 1, so that the university has time to consider the full implications of this change. If Piazza agrees to delay the integration of advertisements, the integration with Canvas will remain in place.

If you have questions, please contact the Canvas support team at UCSC by email at canvas.help@ucsc.edu.

If you would like to use an alternative to Piazza, such as Canvas Discussions, support is available at online@ucsc.edu or via the Online Education Slack workspace.

Subject: TIMELY: Piazza Users Please Read

Date: December 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We write to alert you about concerns regarding the Piazza student engagement platform that can be linked to Canvas. According to records provided by ITS, you have connected Piazza to one of your courses in the past two years.The first part of this message describes changes coming to Piazza in January, when the platform will begin to have advertisements for users who are not covered by an institution- or instructor-level license. The second part of this message describes ongoing privacy concerns related to Piazza Talent, an optional feature.

These issues are affecting every UC campus and the campuses are working together on solutions. We recognize that Piazza is a powerful educational technology for promoting student engagement, and that tools like Piazza are especially needed during remote instruction.

Many of the concerns are detailed in this recent post from the Stanford Daily.

Piazza advertising

As of January, 2021, Piazza will begin displaying ads to faculty and students (see above). There will be both banner ads and ads along the right side. The ads will be targeted based on browser cookies, unless the user opts out of using cookies, in which case ads will still appear but will not be targeted. Piazza has stated that in no case will the content of the discussions or the user interactions within Piazza be used to inform the advertising.

Once advertising is enabled in January, the information stored in cookies in the student's browser will be accessed by the advertising engine. Piazza is selling the access to that data by enabling the advertising service to have access. As we have noted, this is similar to other ad-supported services like YouTube. The issues raised here involve both the presence of advertising in a learning environment and sale of student information by a platform provider. For example, students who do not wish to see advertising or have their personal information sold by Piazza to its advertisers may trigger a need for purchase of a non-advertising use license. Some students may end up using Piazza with advertising and others without. It also is unclear who would pay for the license - the student, instructor, department, division, or campus. To date, the pricing structures offered by Piazza for either instructor licenses or a campus-wide license have been prohibitively expensive.

Piazza Talent

Another ongoing aspect of Piazza is that students can opt in to Piazza Talent. When they do, their profile information is made available to recruiters who pay for access.

The issue raised here is the clarity and level of disclosure provided by Piazza when it invites students to opt in to Piazza Talent. This exchange has not been vetted by UCSC in terms of protecting student privacy. Be sure that your students know that if they opt in to Piazza Talent, their information will be shared widely with recruiters and others.

Winter and Spring Quarter Planning

Many faculty have Piazza integrated into the course plans for Winter 2021. We want to make sure that those of you planning on using it have full disclosure about these concerns and can make a decision about how you wish to proceed. If you plan to move forward with using Piazza, be sure to inform your students about the use of targeted advertising and about the concerns regarding opting in to Piazza Talent. If you would like to use an alternative to Piazza, such as Canvas Discussions, support is available at online@ucsc.edu or via the Online Education Slack workspace.

With an eye to Spring Quarter, the UC campuses are making a good faith effort to negotiate with Piazza to see whether it is possible to reduce the cost and the security issues. We will keep you informed of any progress. If Piazza cannot provide minimum assurances on student information disclosure and security, the campus may consider delinking Piazza from Canvas starting in Spring Quarter 2021. This scenario would not occur without prior consultation with the Faculty Senate.


Jody Greene, Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning

Brent Haddad, Chair, Senate Committee on Information Technology

Maureen Callanan, Chair, Academic Senate Committee on Teaching

Michael Tassio, Director, Online Education

Leslie Kern, Learning and Instructional Tools Product Manager, ITS