At the University of Central Florida (UCF), our division supports faculty and students by leveraging technology, practices, and innovation in online learning. In alignment with UCF’s 2027 strategic plan, we strive to investigate and pilot new technologies with our faculty and students. While searching for a way to improve online student engagement through discussions outside of the traditional LMS, we conducted a pilot with Yellowdig in the Summer and Fall of 2022.
The Creation of a Yellowdig Community
UCF is a large institution. In order to help support over 40 faculty throughout this two-semester pilot, we came up with the idea of creating our own internal Yellowdig community. The idea of having our own pilot community greatly matches the cadence of our culture at UCF.
Visual Verification: UCF faculty prefer seeing how a new tool works ahead of their students. By acting as a “student” in the pilot community, they would be able to emulate how it would appear and function for the students in their own courses.
Testing It Out: It is always reassuring to have a safe space for faculty to play around and test out features without worrying about a notification being sent out to students or accidentally not deleting a test post that students may see.
Community of Practice: By creating a pilot community for all of our participating faculty, this helped not only us as facilitators but also the faculty to have a central location for everyone to ask questions and share ideas. Rather than feeling isolated in this pilot, they could connect with the rest of the pilot participants at any time and receive feedback and ideas from each other. Sometimes the best resource is your fellow peers.
How We Did It
Here are six recommendations that helped make the faculty community successful:
Give each pilot its own YD community. We had a pilot in summer and another for fall, each with different weekly schedules. We decided that having a separate community for each semester pilot would work the best for our faculty. By creating a new community each semester, this would help “reset the stage.” Faculty would not have to be confused by older posts and we could make sure to provide new and improved posts from what we had learned from the first pilot. However, we did make sure to invite the faculty from the first community into the second one to continue sharing their ideas and to stay connected. We communicated through emails for the initial kickoff and evaluation, but everything else occurred within the faculty community. An occasional email during the semester would contain a permalink to a post in the Yellowdig faculty community that we wanted people to respond to.
Create the faculty community as a No Points community. Although we highly endorse the idea of using points in a community to truly replicate the learning environment, for our purposes we wanted to remove one level of confusion for our faculty. Instead of focusing on earning points, we focused more on the methodology and use of Yellowdig, hence our decision.
Offer periodic posts and pin to the top. To help make sure our faculty were receiving the help that they needed throughout the pilot, we created periodic posts in the community. These posts included updates regarding Yellowdig or the pilot, reminders about information we needed from the faculty, and helpful tips to help them become more comfortable using Yellowdig. For each of these weekly posts, we sent out an email to all of the faculty with a permalink to the post. This helped remind faculty to engage with the community.