Presentation by Tyler Rohrbaugh


In case you wanted to jump to points of interest in the video, here are some timestamps:

1:30 – Purpose of Yellowdig
15:58 – Basic functionality
28:09 – Best practices
30:51 – Community building
33:46 – Measuring engagement
43:22 – Onboarding and initial training


Authored by Rich Kingsford, Software Development Manager and Adjunct Instructor

The Yellowdig platform has some pretty impressive capabilities – all in the student engagement department. Their features integrate with popular learning management systems (LMSs) and ease the instructor’s maintenance burdens.

In summary, Yellowdig offers rich, asynchronous, discussion features; similar to those found on Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Youtube, and the hundreds of other popular social media tools out there. Except the Yellowdig environments are authored by instructors and instructional designers and, therefore, seem more intelligently targeted than 90% of what I see my students (and kids) sharing on social media and video platforms.

Yellowdig also helps instructors and instructional designers identify students who are posting but not engaging with their peers. Or students who initiate topics but then drop off. Or students who frontload or backlog their comments. Or high achieving students who drive engagements for others.

Here are a few claims about the results of using Yellowdig:

I love these objectives. The claims are pretty steep – let’s see if they stack up!

What is asychronous discussion?

Asynchronous discussion tools are new to a lot of us.  These allow two or more people to raise topics, comment on topics, link to resources, attach resources, and acknowledge/respond to comments using emojis (e.g. 😀😎💣🔥♥😆).  Modern tools have more capabilities than the classic forum features (where someone starts a topic and the comments go on and on for 100’s of pages). 

We’ve been enjoying face-to-face and other synchronous discussions for so many years – and they’re great!  I love being with my students, getting to know them, learning how they think, and feeling the joy that comes when they try or learn something new.  Asynchronous discussion tools, like Yellowdig, try to bring all the goodness of the synchronous methods while addressing some of the limitations (language barriers, physical distance, and other accessibility limitations).  Of course there are tradeoffs, but we don’t have to use solely one or the other.  As we explore Yellowdig’s features, keep the pros and cons of asynchronous and synchronous methods in mind.


Yellowdig’s most obvious feature is the classic thread-and-respond functionality.  This is wonderful functionality and many tools have this natively.  I really appreciated Yellowdig’s emoji-response capabilities.  They’re bold, flexible, and easy to use.  Students are naturally drawn to these and use them to quickly (one-click) respond to someone’s comment in highly creative and fun ways (acknowledge, agree, disagree, laugh, question, empathize, etc).  Have you ever worked hard on a comment and then wondered if anyone even glanced at it?  Emoji-responses decrease the frequency of this sad event. 

Subtle Point System

Many instructors and instructional designers are accustomed to traditional discussion boards and assign students to do the classic “one topic and two comments” participation assignments. If you do this, aren’t you also discouraging the students from discussing more? What percentage of the students will post only one topic and two comments? Yellowdig’s point system is more subtle – and I love it.

Yellowdig lets the author craft the period points and their implications on grades in highly flexible ways. Tyler explained how they’ll train instructors and instructional designers to craft point systems that offer a variety of ways to gain points, preserving student autonomy. I loved his explanation on how receiving points for others’ comments and reactions on your posts will incentivize students to get involved earlier in the week – discouraging procrastination. Grades and points have long since been used to encourage the behavior we want, but Yellowdig’s more subtle approach wipes out many of the perverse incentives we sometimes don’t see.

Rich Media

We all know students learn in different ways. Some prefer to draw or vocalize their thoughts rather than typing them out. Yellowdig’s Poll, Draw, Attach, Tagging (e.g. #branding), and Record Video features give plenty of variety. These make it a little more comfortable for students to step outside of their comfort zone!


Yellowdigs analytics features are pretty powerful.  I see two primary sets of analytics: student-centered ones and content-centered ones. 

With student-centered analytics, I can easily visualize a bell curve showing average, low, and highly engaged students.  Maybe you can help the lows by teaming them up with the highs?  Or perhaps it’s better to put the highest performing students together so they can fly even higher?

With content-centered analytics, I can differentiate between high-consumption and low-consumption content (questions, videos, case studied, etc).  It hurts a little when I see low-consumption on some of my beautiful content, but at least I know where to put my energy now.


I’m a fan.  Very intelligently crafted. Yellowdig has a lot of well-designed, quality, features and they’re targeted right at what students need.  Online courses are tricky.  Face-to-face courses are tricky.  But using a wide variety of activities and tools, including Yellowdig, can ensure no minute in your course is wasted.  Well-designed asynchronous discussion tools, like Yellowdig, can help generate interest in your concepts and they can even spark fires (the good kind).  They can overcome location, language, and other accessibility challenges. 

Thanks Tyler and the Yellowdig team!

Atomic Assessment Tip: Creating Item Pools

What are item pools?

Authored by Tawny Hoskin

If you are familiar with Canvas quizzes, then the term “item bank” might ring a bell. This feature is not only high on the saving time list but is also an excellent way to discourage cheating.

Item Pools save time

Atomic Assessment is already set up so you can access all your questions/items across all your courses allowing you to access the same items to use in other courses or sections.

Once you author an item, you can then create a tag for the item. This tag will not only help you quickly locate the item, but also create an item pool to randomly select from.

Item Pools discourage cheating

You can author and create an unlimited number of items to be randomly selected for an exam or assignment. In addition to creating a large item pool, shuffling answers is an excellent strategy to mitigate cheating.


Presentation by Eli Luberoff, Founder and CEO of Desmos and Meaghan Maguire, Director of Partnerships


Timestamped Outline

  • 0:00 Introductions
  • 1:00 LTI Versions
  • 1:22 Background on Desmos
  • 3:54 Initial Reception and Takeoff
  • 4:27 Focusing on Access, High-Stakes Assessments, and Curriculum
  • 5:50 Desmos Team
  • 6:15 Business Model
  • 7:44 Partnership Integration
  • 8:34 Demo
  • 20:13 Emergent Use Cases
  • 20:48 Custom Graph Components in Curriculum (internal for now)
  • 24:58 Statistics
  • 27:48 Accessibility
  • 30:14 More Emergent Use Cases – Making Music With Graphs
  • 31:26 Unique Benefits of Desmos
  • 33:50 Drag-and-Drop support in RCE for students
  • 37:40 Performance
  • 38:44 Thanks to Desmos

Authored by Kyle Hovey, Software Developer

We are currently going through a renaissance in education fueled by the ever-growing availability of capable computers and prominence of the web browser as a software platform. In STEM especially, concepts are commonly hard to grasp, let alone express. We are seeing an explosion of tools that allow both learners and educators to be more expressive with their academic experience. Perhaps even more importantly, these tools are decreasing the interval in the try/see feedback loop that is at the heart of learning.

If you visit a STEM tutor lab, you are sure to find many screens glowing with Desmos: a revolutionary online graphing calculator. At first glance, a graphing calculator may not seem so impressive, but that is why Desmos is so exciting. Gone are the days of learning the arcane dance necessary to communicate to your ancient and overpriced TI-84 (which runs the same Z80 processor as the original GameBoy™). With Desmos, you can effortlessly play around with concepts previously only accessible to calculator savants. Not only that, but Desmos offers a level of intractability never seen before in a math tool.

The Learning Feedback Loop

When learning a new concept, especially ones abstract as those found in the field of mathematics, learners will need to produce many versions of their own understanding before they find one that fits enough to generate their own ideas on the topic. A textbook provides a pre-processed concept that will not make sense to everyone, so efficient education must focus on the personal journey of each learner and their quest for true understanding.

There are many online graphing calculators these days, but none that afford the same ease and performance that Desmos offers. The simplicity of the tool means that students can rapidly ask questions, make experiments based on those questions, and get answers with profound intractability in their creations. Also, once these experiments have been created, they can be easily shared with a link that anyone with a web browser can use.


What sets Desmos apart from other online graphing tools is the simplicity of the user experience, and the cohesive nature of each component you interact with. Being a purely two-dimensional graphing utility, the most atomic concept in Desmos is that of a function. The key abstraction is that any component of a function can be made interactive by assigning it to a variable, where it becomes a slider. You may also add points, which can be clicked and dragged on the screen. Equations can reference each other, which allows for and organization of concepts that is both convenient for creation and the subsequent parsing by fresh eyes trying to understand the concept.

Recently, Desmos added colors to the app in the form of hue-saturation-value variables that may be referenced in the style for any element in the graph. The hue, saturation, and value can all depend on any existing variable in the graph, making it immensely powerful for producing dynamic visualizations that react in real-time to the users’ actions.

Check out their What do you want to learn about today? resource that links to their FREE calculators, distance and classroom learning, activities, etc.

Desmos also offers amazing accessibility for their graphs. The toolkit now offers a way to listen to graphs so that visually-impaired learners and educators alike can use the tool.


Desmos is showing no signs of slowing down, and is constantly improving their feature set. It will be exciting to see what will be made and shared with their creative platform in the future. What will you make?