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Yellowdig's Community of Inquiry: Scaling Proven Pedagogy for Better Outcomes

Education 3.0 is the movement that acknowledges we cannot simply continue with the tried and true methods of yesterday, but we also cannot throw technology at education and expect better outcomes. We must listen to the needs of our modern learners and adapt our pedagogy and teaching methods for this new era of learning.


Yellowdig’s approach to Education 3.0 is creating virtual communities for learners in all phases of their life-long learning journey. It brings two long-sought values together in a unique and powerful pedagogical partnership: consistent content and outcomes-based validation of learning coupled with engaged, collaborative learning communities. Education 3.0 delivers a trifecta of quality: Deeper and more successful learning, higher faculty satisfaction, and, as a result, a stronger bottom line for the institution, both educationally and financially.


For more than 100 years, educators and philosophers have pointed to one part of John Dewey’s learning philosophy, communities of inquiry, as a powerful version of the Socratic dialogue that focuses on open discussion and strong group participation with the general course material being considered.


Dewey was quite ahead of his time and had a foundational understanding of Education 3.0, see the excerpt from a research paper by a Kaplan University faculty member below:

Common learning activities include discourse facilitation of the type employed in CoI, which is historically associated with what Dewey called “progressive” education, and direct instruction, which is a form of “conservative” education. Dewey was critical of both progressive and conservative education. He believed that “a new order of conceptions leading to new modes of practice” was needed. Dewey saw the role of the teacher as a “guide and leader” in activities intended to promote “social renewal.” If he were with us today, teaching online, he would guide and lead learners as they all together sought to renew their scholarly and professional communities.

Research, as well as professional experience, tells us that engaged learners are more successful and learn more than those who simply go through the motions. Answering questions with the “right” answers, writing papers, and passing exams with the same focus often do not inspire much curiosity or drive deep learning that will be retained beyond the course.


It is also true that their engagement is a two-way street that can be enhanced by interaction, diverse and interesting questions, and varying points of view. We know that personal participation - “social renewal” - which has the learners putting their own perspectives, reflections, and questions into the conversation, is the heartbeat of the community of inquiry. For these reasons, it should come as no surprise that, through engagement in an active community of inquiry, learners learn more, are more successful, and complete their learning programs at higher rates, with a Yellowdig partner study finding a 9% increase in pass rate.


Quote from article with handshake graphic

For decades, however, creating viable communities of inquiry has been extremely difficult as well as inconsistent across faculty and institutions. Many communities of inquiry were driven by the college’s mission, like Black Mountain, Goddard, Antioch or Marlboro Colleges. Others were more ad hoc, relying on the individual pedagogy of faculty members and their commitment to creating a true community of inquiry. In most circumstances, however, the commitment was philosophical and the approaches employed varied from institution to institution and person to person. As a result, ultimately, there was no way to guarantee consistent achievement and validation of learning outcomes along with the desired engagement and inquiry at either course or the institutional level. As a consequence, teaching and assessment became more focused on right or wrong answers and measuring the extent to which a student was gaining control over the content in question.


Today, however, we can combine both the robust engagement and community-building envisioned by Dewey in his communities of inquiry with consistent validation of learning across sections of the same course or among courses within the same program. The Yellowdig Engage platform delivers dramatically higher engagement, builds deeper community, drives better completion and persistence, and helps faculty identify and focus on learners who need support using an innovative and patented gameful learning approach.


A big aspect of Education 3.0 is ensuring that you’re meeting the needs of your learners, which is why Yellowdig conducts a student survey every year. In the latest survey during the Spring of 2023 students shared many valuable insights with Yellowdig, and how Yellowdig communities drive “social renewal.”


  • 77% of students surveyed highlighted Yellowdig increased a sense of belonging in the institution.

  • 60% of the students reported visiting Yellowdig 3-5 times a week or more - showing a strong social presence.

  • When asked to rank the aspects of Yellowdig, the #1 ranked response was “Interacting with my Peers”


77% of the students highlighted Yellowdig increased a sense of belonging in the institution

Yellowdig enables institutions to move towards achieving Education 3.0 because community and content do not compete with each other. They combine to create a consistent three-dimensional learning experience, unattainable even 10 years ago. And the instructor’s role as a “guide on the side” in the conversations is the glue which holds the two components together.


Imagine a learning experience that delivers measurable attainment of knowledge along with cross-cutting intellectual capacities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, writing, and numeration. Then add personal and social-emotional capacities like reflection, teamwork, questioning, and leadership to the learning being delivered. That’s what Education 3.0 encourages.


The Yellowdig solution is one critical aspect - technology and pedagogy - of transforming a class to education 3.0. The instructor/designer must still set the standards or the content for the course, program, or educational service in question and re-evaluate it through the lens of what modern learners need. Transitioning to Education 3.0 does not have to be an all or nothing approach - gradually adapting courses to better serve students with the proper balance of technology and proven pedagogy is a logical approach.


Implementing Yellowdig is a simple and effective first step, as it surrounds course elements with a robust, data-driven, engaged, and gamified learning community that encourages cross-cutting intellectual capacities and social-emotional learning. Yellowdig communities also enable instructors to adapt course content throughout the course as learners indicate areas of confusion and interest and as real-world events are discussed in the community. It brings quality consistency and depth without the stultifying uniformity and one-dimensional characteristics too often associated with traditional teaching and assessments. And it can deliver these outcomes at scale, serving 500 pre-enrollment learners, 50 learners in a course, or 85,000 learners across multiple programs.


Finally, as good as it is for learners and faculty, Education 3.0 is great for the institution. Whether it is applying Education 3.0 principles and platforms like Yellowdig to drastically reducing the “melt” between a learner’s application and enrollment or cutting drop rates after a learner begins, Education 3.0 is generating significant revenue, net of expenses, for the institution. When it is also being used to better career support and information for learners and graduates, loyalty to the institution is enhanced even more.


That is why we call Education 3.0 the “trifecta of quality”. It improves learning, teaching, and the bottom line, both educationally and financially.


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