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If you want deep discussions, don’t dive into the shallow end!

At Yellowdig, when we talk about “standard discussion pedagogy”, we are referring to a framework where there are assignments for each course module/topic (usually weekly), students have a deadline for responding to a prompt, and there is a requirement to make a certain number of posts and comments (usually 1 post and 2 comments on others’ posts) in response to those prompts. There are many related variations to this methodology, but the script is shockingly similar across institutions and departments… as is the sentiment that these “discussions” are a time-consuming and disappointing exercise. Let’s consider this the shallow end of the swimming pool. It feels safer, but it’s still plenty of water to drown in and you definitely can’t safely dive very deep in here.

The deep end of the pool is Yellowdig’s community-building system. Our system was based around a different approach. Our patented point system in Yellowdig is designed to change student behavior while also requiring a regular baseline of participation in open-ended conversations. Additionally, social point earning rules inspire timely, relevant, and high-quality posting and commenting. These conversations are typically started by students sharing news articles or asking questions without specific instructor-led prompts.

The point system can be set up to require a certain amount of participation each week but was not intended to constrain how students participate to earn their points. The expectation is that comments will form the bulk of point earning in a healthy community such that the comment-to-post ratio will be much greater than the 2-to-1 that standard discussion pedagogy dictates. We typically hope these comment-to-post ratios (which we call “conversation ratios”) are upward of 7.0 because higher conversation ratios are related to higher instructor and learner satisfaction, more voluntary participation beyond the requirements, and better grades. This is the fun end of the pool.

Same Pool, Different Rules

As the above descriptions make clear, standard discussion pedagogy (SDP) and Yellowdig’s intended pedagogy for course-based use are quite different. In a course context Yellowdig may be playing in the same pool as LMS Discussions, but the rules around what you can do couldn’t be more different (as seen in the figure below). As a result some instructors see Yellowdig as a paradigm shift requiring a major change in thinking. Change can be scary.