Avoid These 5 Things To Create a Successful Yellowdig Community

#1: Do NOT make weekly Yellowdig assignment links in your LMS

Sometimes, instructors express interest in assigning weekly discussions topics, weekly prompts, or creating weekly assignments that launch Yellowdig. Yellowdig does not support multiple assignment links inside your Learning Management Course, and Yellowdig Communities cannot be split into weekly Communities.

Why? Yellowdig uses a single discussion space for each course to encourage discussion and the building of a learning community over the entire length of a course. Adding additional assignment links will create additional columns in your LMS gradebook. These additional columns will create a cascade of issues with grade passback from Yellowdig to the LMS that may be impossible for anyone (including members of the Yellowdig team) to adequately remediate.

Aside from technical issues, creating highly structured assignments creates rigid and constrained participation that rarely resembles genuine discussion. And creating separate Communities will fragment any meaningful discussion into silos that students never reconsider or revisit once their weekly assignment is completed. Yellowdig was carefully designed as a unified Community with a point system that encourages long-term, free-form conversations. Attempts to fragment discussions or constrain participation produce sub-optimal outcomes for instructors and learners.

If you are converting a course from a standard discussion board to Yellowdig we would suggest converting those prompts to Conversation Themes.  If you do decide that you need to have specifically prompted discussions or other directives for students to post about specific topics that all students respond to, it is vital that your instructions invite students to create their own posts using an associated topic tag.  Students should not all respond to a single post you create for the topic.  That makes conversations harder to follow, information harder to find, and negatively impacts the point incentive system, all of which significantly harm the student experience.

#2: Don't constrain participation with narrow requirements

Most instructors find it hard to promote discussions in class or with other online technology (e.g., LMS discussion spaces). These experiences lead many instructors to feel like they have to create hyper-focused weekly discussion questions and strict participation rules.

Yellowdig, on the other hand, obviates the need for strict participation rules and weekly prompts. What's more, we find that requiring students to respond to prompts and imposing quotas on the basis of participation type (e.g., "post once, comment twice") stifle community participation, stultify conversations, and lead to cookie-cutter contributions.

We recommend casually encouraging students to consider certain questions rather than making it a strict grading requirement. Instead of coming up with required prompts, use your time to model the behavior you want your students to imitate, and reward the participation you want to see with social points. With less effort on your part, you will see better, more authentic participation from your students.

Why? Learners will quickly pick up on what is expected and act accordingly. The social learning benefits of Yellowdig thrive when learners have some freedom to interact naturally and pursue their interests.

#3: Don't delete topics

Adding new Topics during a course is okay if you realize you have missed one that would be helpful, but we highly discourage deleting Topics. This is an especially strong recommendation if the topic has been used by at least one student, as deleting a topic can prematurely cut off good topic-related conversations.

Why? Deleting topics is tantamount to deleting good conversations. Don't kill good conversations; foster them!

#4: Don't expect disruptive behavior

Posts are "public" (i.e., viewable by everyone in class) and are typically accompanied by the poster’s real name. And learners know that posts are viewable by the Community Owner even when they post anonymously. It would be fairly unusual for a learner to stand up in a classroom and start yelling at another learner in front of the instructor and the rest of the class. Similar social pressures dictate acceptable behavior within a Yellowdig Community, and instructors can easily set the expectations of the community and re-iterate them as necessary on the rare occasions where a problem would arise.

Some instructors also voice concerns about post quality or learners getting points for leaving short, thoughtless commentary. Their concerns are understandable, but social points—points for receiving comments, reactions, and accolades—reduce students' incentive to post "junk content", since students who post junk ultimately have to work harder than students who do good work and consequently receive many social points. These social points simultaneously dissuade anti-social behavior and "trolling".

Why? You shouldn’t expect disruptions; Yellowdig is remarkably non-toxic. To put it bluntly, there are real social and academic consequences for acting like a jerk within a learning community when grading is enabled and points are on the line. Yellowdig Communities rarely require policing, and in the event that correction is necessary, there are ample mechanisms in the forms of post flagging and word blocking.

#5: Don't micromanage

The entire point of Yellowdig is to build learning communities where people can help one another. Yellowdig uses a format that is familiar to learners and that they enjoy using in other parts of their lives. With some small rewards for participation, and by making the experience a fun and different way to engage with the content, learners will find interesting ways to support each others' learning with limited instructor effort.

Why? The pedagogical principles that govern classroom discussions also govern Yellowdig discussions. Your job as an instructor is not to drive or constrain dialogue, but to broaden and facilitate it. As former university instructors, we understand the temptation to micromanage conversations and control topics of discussion. But successful Yellowdig conversations are just that: conversations. It's not about grading or assessing; it's about inspiring students and spurring original thoughts. In a word: Be a bit less didactic and a bit more Socratic.



What day of the week is best to post my weekly prompts?

Though typical in traditional discussion boards, Yellowdig does not recommend using weekly prompts. That framework, and the hard weekly deadlines it creates, leads to students visiting and participating in their community only once per week and tends to focus them on posting their own thoughts rather than discussing with others. Consequently, it does not tend to yield lively or natural conversations and community formation suffers. Nonetheless, there is a weekly reset day/time in Yellowdig which you will need to consider. This is the time at which students weekly maximum has a "rollover" and they can begin earning points until they hit the weekly maximum for the new week. Though we do not recommend traditional discussion pedagogy for Yellowdig, many people that do post prompts will share them a few hours after the reset day/time and then use the next rollover as the deadline for responding to the prompt.
Most often the logical day and time for the reset in Yellowdig is based on how other parts of the course may be designed. Many course designs have weeks that end on Sunday at midnight and if the rest of your course is designed with modules that end weekly at a set day/time, then match your course. If you have the ability to choose differently, we would typically recommend designing courses and placing the Yellowdig weekly maximum rollover on a day and time when students are very unlikely to be awake or have the desire to be working (e.g., Saturday morning at 3:00am). If working at the selected time is unappealing or impossible for most learners, fewer will procrastinate and more will spread that participation out naturally throughout the week.

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