[caption id="attachment_41510" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Professors can confirm student answers are correct on Piazza.com. "][/caption]

College students on 900 campuses are taking a grassroots approach to online class discussions, using a popular new platform to create web-based gatherings and prompting their professors to join the real-time back-and-forth.

The website, Piazza.com, was first used for a few courses at Stanford University last year as a counter to the top-down approach of universities’ learning management systems (LMS) software, such as Blackboard.

Campus officials often sign contracts with giant LMS companies, giving students little...

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