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Arizona State University

Interview with Professor Nicholas Duran


Arizona State University

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Assistant Professor


One piece of advice from Professor Duran to fellow Yellowdig instructors:


"In large online courses, I really emphasize Yellowdig participation as it's the only way students can really get to know and interact with each other. I also make it the least demanding component of my overall assessment each week, where there is a lot of room to explore the big themes for whatever content I might be covering."



How Professor Duran Uses Yellowdig:


Between Fall 2017 and Summer 2019, Professor Duran used Yellowdig for 7 graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology and cognitive science. Professor Duran teaches a mix of online and offline courses with large enrollments. Teams of graduate TA’s help Professor Duran moderate his high-enrollment Communities, and he encourages his TA’s to kickstart conversations by posting articles and sharing their views on course topics. Professor Duran also uses Yellowdig as an opportunity to familiarize his graduate students with subject matter outside their areas of specialization. He even finds that using Yellowdig helps him keep abreast of recent developments in his field. Finally, Professor Duran uses Yellowdig to identify promising undergraduates to work in his lab.


Yellowdig was a graded component of Professor Duran’s courses, and students’ Yellowdig grades were typically worth 20-25% of their final grades.


Professor Duran’s Results:


On average, students in Professor Duran’s Communities created 46 Posts and Comments and earned 99% of the 100% participation goal. The average conversation ratio (Comments / Posts) was 2.67, which could be increased by adding social points. In Professor Duran’s most recent undergraduate course, students were well-connected to each other despite the large class size; the average Community member responded to or received responses from 34 other active Community members. (See network graph.)


Overall, our data suggest that Professor Duran and his TA’s fostered strong and engaging Communities. One way for Professor Duran to further strengthen his Communities would be to increase the value of social points, which tend to increase high-quality posts, peer interactions, and student engagement.

duran graph.png

The abbreviated network graph (left) and breakdown of settings (below) depict Prof. Duran’s most recent undergraduate cognitive science Community (S19). The red nodes in the network graph represent students; the green nodes represent TA’s; and the blue node represents Prof. Duran.


Prof. Duran and his TA’s divided their labor. TA’s commented on students’ posts (avg. out-degree centrality = 0.16), while Prof. Duran created posts for students to comment on (in-degree centrality = 0.35). Students who never commented or posted were excluded from the analysis.

asu duran graph 2.png

About Professor Duran:


Professor Duran earned his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Memphis and served as a postdoc at the University of California Merced. He is the Director of ASU’s DynamiCog Lab, an interdisciplinary lab dedicated to applying cognitive research to real-world settings. Professor Duran works on coordination, deception, bias, and perspective-taking, among other topics.

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