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Inside Higher Ed

Josh Kim Interviews Shaunak Roy in Inside Higher Ed

3 More Questions for Yellowdig's Shaunak Roy

June 18, 2024

Shaunak Roy, founder and CEO of Yellowdig, discusses the importance of human connections in learning, student isolation, and the role of AI in education with Joshua Kim.

Questions Explored:

  1. Why is "human connections" an important topic in learning?

  2. Are we creating a path for a mental health disaster in the country with the rise of online learning?

  3. What can we do to ensure we are addressing the human connections issue through AI/automation?

Key Points:

  • Human Connections: Roy highlights the "Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation" declared by the U.S. Surgeon General and the significant impact on students. Yellowdig's studies show that fostering a sense of belonging improves academic outcomes and retention.

  • Student Isolation: Roy argues that the design of the learning experience, not the mode of delivery (online, offline, or hybrid), affects student mental health. Effective design should prioritize agency, mastery, and connectedness.

  • AI in Education: Roy discusses Yellowdig's efforts to integrate abd foster needed conversations around AI, such as through the Human Connections Summit and AI-powered features. He emphasizes that AI should enhance, not replace, human interactions in educational settings.


"It’s important to understand that the mode of course delivery—whether online, offline, or hybrid—has less to do with its impact on the learner’s mental health than the design of the learning experience. Sitting in a lecture hall does not inherently lead to more human connections and a sense of belonging, just as an online course is not inherently devoid of connections. The difference lies in the pedagogical and behavioral design behind these courses and programs, which should prioritize human connections and a sense of belonging. For example, small group discussions can create a sense of cohesion and immersion in learning, and a carefully designed online learning experience can achieve the same effect.

We often advise our clients to carefully consider student agency, mastery and connectedness when designing their online experiences. These aspects are deeply rooted in the learner’s motivational factors, making learning both joyful and productive. However, integrating these elements into the overall learning and delivery process requires more than just lip service." ~ Shaunak Roy, Founder and CEO of Yellowdig

About the Author

Joshua Kim

Joshua Kim is the Assistant Provost for Online Learning Strategy at Dartmouth College and a well-respected voice in the field of higher education. With over two decades of experience, he has been instrumental in shaping online learning initiatives and advancing educational technologies. Kim frequently writes and speaks about the intersection of technology and education, focusing on enhancing student engagement, faculty development, and institutional strategy.

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