Yellowdig for Instructors

Yellowdig is a conversation platform that can be linked from a Blackboard course to form a private class community. Yellowdig communities are designed to make it easy to post, comment, share media, and respond to each others’ posts following the conventions of social media apps that students are familiar with.

Difference between Blackboard Discussion and Yellowdig

The Blackboard Discussion Board is typically used in this way: students are assigned to post about a topic by a due date and asked to reply to classmates’ posts by another due date. Grading is usually based on whether students’ posts meet certain criteria and are done on time. Discussion activity is generally considered fulfillment of an assignment. Some instructors have set up optional optional conversation forums to try to build a sense of community among students, but faculty usually report that students don’t participate in these optional forums.

Yellowdig, on the other hand, is considered an engagement tool and the characteristic that sets it apart from Blackboard is the gamification of participation: a point system that motivates students to earn points for a variety of activities. This Yellowdig article explains more about the differences: Gamification, not Gradification: Use Yellowdig to Motivate Rather than Assess Student Learning.

In summary, it should be stressed that Blackboard and Yellowdig approaches are both valid ways to reach different goals. If you have been using Blackboard’s Discussion Board successfully and feel it serves its purpose well, you might find that Yellowdig isn’t a good fit for you. For example, Yellowdig isn’t designed for instructor-driven discussions that are assessed using qualitative criteria; for that, Blackboard is more effective. But, if you’d prefer to have students drive their own discussion for which points are earned for frequency and word count, you may find that Yellowdig is the best choice.

How to add Yellowdig to Your Blackboard Course

Note: Avoiding Student Confusion

We recommend you do not use the Blackboard native discussion board if you are using Yellowdig. You can hide the tool in Blackboard by going to the course menu, clicking the grey arrow next to Discussion Board, and selecting Hide Link.

  1. Click the “+” on the top left of the Blackboard course menu, and select Content Area.
  2. Enter a title for this new menu item, e.g. “Yellowdig.”
  3. Check the box next to Available to Users.
  4. Click Submit.
  5. If you don’t want it to appear at the bottom of your course menu, hover over the link you just made and reposition it by clicking the arrows that appear on the right and dragging the link upwards.
  6. Click on the new menu item you just created to enter the content area.
  7. Click Build Content > Web Link.
  8. Enter a name for the link that will appear on this page e.g. “Yellowdig Discussion Access”
  9. Enter the URL as: https://api.yellowdig.app/launch
  10. Check the box next to This link is to a Tool Provider. (Important: You must check this box in order for the link to work.)
  11. If you want to include Yellowdig activity in your Grade Center, select Yes next to Enable Evaluation, and enter the point value you want the column to have. It’s a good idea to set Visible to students to NO, so that students aren’t confused about which point system they should be focusing on. It’s easiest for students to track their Yellowdig points within Yellowdig and you can reveal the overall score at the end of the course in Blackboard.)
  12. Click Submit.

How Points Work

When instructors (owners) set up Yellowdig for a course, they can assign point values for word count and frequency of posts and comments as well as other types of feedback.

When setting up points, you can decide how many points a student should earn in a week and what they need to do to earn those points. As the community owner, you get to choose these values. Here are two examples of point breakdowns:

For a target of 1,000 points in a week:

Posts: 300 pts
Comments: 350 pts (higher than posts to encourage interaction)
Reactions (likes and emojis from other students): 20 pts
Accolades (instructor recognition): 50 pts

For a target of 100 points in a week:

Posts: 30 pts
Comments: 35 pts (higher than posts to encourage interaction)
Reactions (likes and emojis from other students): 2 pts
Accolades (instructor recognition): 5 pts

How to Set up Points

To begin setting up points for your course, open Yellowdig and:

  1. Go to Settings in the left menu
  2. Click Point System
  3. Under Participation Settings leave both of the top options checked.
  4. Click Weekly Point Configuration
  5. If you choose to pass points into Blackboard, you should hide that column from students in the Grade Center until the end of the semester. Students can be confused by the running percentages in Blackboard and they are able to track their Yellowdig points by clicking My Participation in Yellowdig at any time. You can always see the points students have earned by clicking Data on the left in Yellowdig, and Reports.
  6. Click Weekly Point Configuration and you will see links on the left:
    1. Earning Window – This is where you plug in the dates that span the semester (or other span of time you want to use Yellowdig during the semester). Important: When entering the specific dates, be sure to assign the start and end dates to be the same day of the week. If you start on a Monday in February, be sure to end on a Monday in May. (This will ensure even point distribution.)
    2. Periodic Target – This is the total points you want students to earn in one week.
    3. Periodic Buffer – the amount of “wiggle room” a student has for each week. If they fall short one week, they can make it up in subsequent weeks. We recommend a setting of 20%. (See Yellowdig article.)
    4. Earning Rules – This is where you choose your distribution of points for different activities. Think about what you most want to encourage: for instance, if you want to see more interaction, you can assign a higher number of points to member comments.
    5. Points Review – On this screen you can review your settings and click Submit Configuration.

Organizing and Elevating Posts

Topics are similar to hashtags and can be selected by anyone publishing posts. All community members have the option to click on a topic to read all posts that have been tagged with it. For organization, therefore, it’s best practice require students to select one or more topics for each post they publish. Topics are created (and edited) by the instructor only by clicking on Settings > Topics.

Accolades are graphical “badges” that instructors can give to a post to award points to that student. Yellowdig provides a few default accolades (“Helpful!” “Interesting!” “Insightful!”) but you can edit what they say, how many points they’re worth, or create new ones that say what you like. Topics can be created and edited by clicking on Settings > Accolades.

Reactions are emojis that both instructors and students can leave on an individual post which gives that some points. Posts with the most reactions will rise to the top of the page.

Pinning to top allows the instructor to fix the post to the top of the page. “Pin to top” can be selected when writing or editing a post. Only one post can be pinned at a time. If a second post is pinned, the first one will return to its original position on the page. After a post is pinned, you can then choose to remove the pin (in edit mode).

Communicating with Students

Getting Students Started

At the start of the course, instructors often write an introductory post that explains how they’d like students to introduce themselves and gives brief instructions on how to make a post in Yellowdig. It’s a good idea to pin this to the top of the page for the first few days of the course, then unpin it when students are used to posting.

Your instructions might say:
To make a post, click the blue “Create” button. Type your message, be sure to select a topic, and click post. You can edit it afterwards by clicking the 3 dots to the right of the post’s title.

What Do Students Need to Know?

Yellowdig has some sample wording you can use on this page: Telling Your Students About Yellowdig. And they provide resources for students on this page.

Note a few important things to communicate to students:

  1. Students should not set up a separate Yellowdig ID but should only log into Yellowdig through Blackboard. (A separate ID will cause confusion and won’t be integrated with Blackboard)
  2. Yellowdig sends out notifications of activity by email and the volume can quickly become overwhelming. All users can control what notifications they want to receive by clicking on their personal Yellowdig graphic icon in the corner of the page, choosing Account Settings, and then Notifications.
  3. The Help button is found by clicking on their graphical icon in the corner of the Yellowdig page.

Using the Video Option for posts

It’s possible for instructors to allow students to create videos as part of their posts as an alternative to text, but if there is a student in the class who needs the video to be captioned, this is not advisable.

Setting up Small Groups in Yellowdig

  1. Navigate to Settings → Groups.
  2. Set the “Groups Enabled” slider to ON.
  3. Under “Group Count”, specify how many groups you want in your Community. Community Members will be sorted evenly between these groups, though you can manually re-sort Members after the initial sorting. Community Facilitators will not be partitioned into groups.
  4. For large classes you may want to turn the Public Visibility slider to “OFF” to prevent confusion, but if you do want students to see and interact with other groups, set the Public Visibility slider to “ON.”

Equity Consideration

Experienced instructors note that it’s important to remember to be equitable in responding and elevating students’ posts. For instance, be sure you’re checking the community throughout the week so that all posts get your attention, not just those from students who typically post early.

Yellowdig Nomenclature and Glossary

Communities: Courses
Owners: Instructors
Members: Students
Comments (on posts):are the same as replies in Blackboard
Periods: weeks
Periodic targets: the point goals for set for each week. They can earn more than the goal, but they don’t get extra credit after reaching the target.
Accolades: quick ways faculty can recognize student work.
Reactions: emojis that students and instructors can leave on each other’s posts and comments.
Periodic Buffer: the amount of “wiggle room” a student has for one week. If they fall short one week they can make it up in subsequent weeks. (See Yellowdig article.)

Additional Resources

Updated on February 26, 2021

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