Capella University - Student Success and Persistence with Yellowdig

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

When Jenny Taber, Project Manager of Academic Initiatives at Capella University, and her colleagues, began using Yellowdig, they were committed to collecting and analyzing efficacy data from day one. This focus meant that over the course of Capella’s pilot year, the use of the Yellowdig platform was able to thoughtfully evolve to best suit the needs of their institution.

At the very beginning of the adoption of Yellowdig, they had a general goal of improving learner and faculty experience. They also wanted to increase student engagement while avoiding increases in faculty workload, allowing instructors to focus on “high-value work” directly related to their expertise.

Jenny and the team established this “North Star” from the outset, but always remained agile enough to adjust their approach. It was crucial for them to think about how to make use of Yellowdig’s Accolades (badging feature) and point system. They also had to find the right mix of faculty interactions to increase engagement. They began the pilot by casting a wide net with their analysis and fine tuning the questions they were asking as they pulled in more detailed data. Once they had some foundational information they could better establish the direction in which they wanted to take the platform.

“We saw higher gains in courses that did have Yellowdig than courses that did not have Yellowdig. So, we can say that it’s definitely contributing to our core success measures, to our registration measures, and I think it has so far been an overall win for us at Capella.” -Jen DeGroote, Senior Evaluation Specialist in Academic Quality and Effectiveness.

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Some of the course metrics that they analyzed for every quarter were the number of students who completed the course, the pass rate of those students, and whether or not students continued moving through their program after the course was over (i.e., continuation rate). Their data indicated that Yellowdig was useful for driving peer-to-peer discussion and had an impact across each of these critical KPIs.

From the beginning of using our learning platform, Jenny asked, “Can we see sizable academic gains, experience gains, and faculty workload gains when the focus is about peer-to-peer engagement?”

The answer was yes to all three. Conventional wisdom led them to think that the more time instructors spent managing message boards the more the students would participate. In fact, though some instructor presence is helpful, the optimal amount of instructor interactions is actually only a few per week. The less the instructors hand-held, the more the students willingly and thoughtfully engaged in peer-to-peer discussion, lessening faculty workload significantly. When instructors let students take ownership of their course communities, conversation flourished.

“I have faculty who report that they get up every morning and do Yellowdig with their first cup of coffee because it always makes their day better.” -Sara Drake, Faculty Chair of Undergraduate Psychology

According to Jen, Sara, and Jenny, who all joined us on our recent Client Spotlight webinar, there were six key actions necessary for successful Yellowdig implementation:

  1. Identify a clear and reasonable purpose

  2. Center on academics

  3. Centralize decision making

  4. Take educated leaps of faith

  5. Know and watch your data

  6. Be curious and flexible, but disciplined

The pilot and implementation experience with Capella University was a highly effective and rewarding partnership because every idea and adjustment was couched in real data. Compared to any learning institution Yellowdig has worked with, Capella successfully leveraged student and faculty feedback in tandem with a robust set of metrics. Their process allowed them to make educated leaps of faith safely, using immediate evidence. With Yellowdig enabling new approaches to peer interaction and community building, Jenny Taber and the Capella team were able to swiftly create a positive impact on student engagement and success. These outcomes were achieved without adversely affecting instructor workload or sacrificing the academic quality of student contributions.


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