About six months ago I became aware of an app called Pi. (piapp.co). It was at its core a chat program designed for higher education. Similar to Slack (and Hall) before it was bought by HipChat) which I’d first heard about and used in my consulting work with OpenEd.com, I enthusiastically embraced it for my classes at Fresno Pacific University.
But before I did, I was invited to talk to their social media manager Jon Koop and AJ Nelson, one of the founders. We talked about my philosophy towards education and I talked about why I wanted to use their app in my class. Over the summer we participated in twitter chats with other faculty and talked about how we envisioned it being used. I fully used it with my masters-level class CRI 709 this past Fall, unsure after all this talk how it would actually play out.
My students (for the most part of course) loved it. Being able to converse during the week for a fully online class created a real community for those who chose to be a part of it. Some of my most tech-apprehensive students found themselves answering questions by the end of the class, and students began organically sharing tools on their own.
Yes, I could have had a twitter chat set up. But many of my students are very new to that and wouldn’t have been able to jump right into it as they were to Pi. Plus the confidentiality factor of being a closed group was important to many.
I’m sad about seeing a fellow startup end, but the lessons learned will live on. I am thankful to the employees of PiApp for being a part of the testing, discussions and beta testing of PiApp. I’m going to try Ryver this next semester, but already I’m disappointed in the interface (too much going on for what I need). Either way, my classes will no longer be bound by the LMS I’m using or once a week video chats for sure! Conversation and community in online classes is the best part about teaching, and with asynchronous communication tools, it can happen!