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Online Education Services Finds: Community Building Impacts Student Success and Retention Rates

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Case Study with OES: Importance of Community Participation in Online Learning

The Following case study was produced in collaboration with Online Education Services (OES) and explores the benefit of using conversational online learning communities to foster student engagement and increase support for at-risk students. You can also view the case study on their website.


  • Students observed in this study used Yellowdig Engage to build interpersonal connections that eased their anxieties around their studies, created a sense of community, and set them up for academic success.

  • Yellowdig participation was correlated to increases in student pass and retention rates, making it important to include in our machine learning models to identify at-risk students.

  • OES's bespoke Student Engagement Tool that relies on Yellowdig data highlights a student’s risk profile in real time, empowering academic and support staff to make direct contact to provide support.

  • Through the use of the Student Engagement Tool, an uplift in student success metrics was observed compared with a 9% increase in pass rates and a 7% increase in students progressing into their next study period, amongst the high-risk students.


OES specializes in providing online program management and tailored education solutions, such as learning analytics, to improve experiences and outcomes for students. For over a decade, they have partnered with universities to solve their online, on-campus and blended learning challenges. They utilize leading-edge technologies to improve student performance, progression, and retention. One such technology is Yellowdig; a student engagement platform. It is implemented as an alternative to traditional discussion boards and the user-experience is similar to widely adopted social media platforms. Yellowdig allows instructors to create vibrant learning communities that are more interactive, engaging, and satisfying than traditional discussion boards.

This case study documents the relationship between Yellowdig participation and student outcomes. Student pass rates and retention per study area will be explored for three teaching periods in 2020, for one of OES's university partners.

Their university partner delivers online learning for students, most of whom are mature age and studying part-time.

Students at this partner institution use Yellowdig Engage as a safe place to talk about taking an online degree, often for the first time. They find support from the other students in the Community who are in similar life stages like being a parent or being back to college after a long time.

The case study concludes by discussing one of OES’s advanced analytics solutions to improve student performance and retention. We showcase a machine learning propensity model that identifies students at risk of dropping out, using critical engagement metrics and behavioral indicators, including Yellowdig Community participation. We also share the efficacy data of a tool that has been deployed in the Learning Management System (for academic use) and surfaced as a standalone web application (for central student support).

Why does OES promote Yellowdig communities to their students?

The Yellowdig Community is a student-to-student informal learning space used to provide an engaging platform for informal discussions between students from any course or discipline, creating a sense of belonging to the learning community. It is also used to promote initiatives and provide information to support students outside of the virtual classroom environment.

How are students participating in their university partner’s Yellowdig Community?

A ‘typical’ post in this Community is a student introducing themselves. The most used word in these posts is likely “nervous,” as the students consistently share about their anxiety of being an online university student with the pressures of working full time, having kids, or many other personal challenges many of their partner’s students face.