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!