Setting Up Yellowdig Discussions

A start-up guide authored by Dr. Tawnya Means (Assistant Dean, University of Nebraska-


Lincoln). This guide may be freely copied, modified, and distributed — with attribution to Dr. Means — for your university context and your LMS.



Yellowdig is a social learning platform designed to support student engagement in discussions around content relevant to your course. This platform allows students to share videos, articles, and other web-based content. The configurable grading supports instructor creation of automatic grading based on the number of words in pins and comments, likes, instructor badges, and even allows you to require students to participate consistently over the entire semester.

Yellowdig is available to all instructors to add to their Canvas course site. The Engage platform is accessible and approved by the University Privacy and Security team. Here are a few simple steps to set Yellowdig up (this should take less than 30 minutes).

Faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have shared their experiences using Yellowdig in a recent webinar and in a panel presentation.

To Enable Yellowdig Engage in Canvas

  1. Go to Settings in your course.

  2. Click the Navigation tab.

  3. Drag up the Yellowdig Engage tool to the course navigation or click Enable.

  4. Don’t forget to Save the settings.

To Configure Yellowdig

Yellowdig can be set to automatically grade student participation.

You will create one (and only one) Yellowdig assignment in your Canvas course. (Unlike a traditional discussion board with threads, Yellowdig is your community gathering place):

1. Go to Canvas Assignments and click to add a new assignment.

2. Name the assignment. I recommend that you name the assignment Activate Yellowdig Discussions at the beginning of the course, then edit and rename the assignment Yellowdig Discussions after the first week so it makes more sense in the grade book.

3. Follow these templates to explain your Yellowdig assignment to your students in the assignment description, an announcement, and your syllabus.

4. Set the number of points you want for the entire semester or term. I usually set it for 10% of the course grade.

5. Display the grade as Points.

6. Choose the External Tool submission type and select Yellowdig Engage.

7. Set a due date for when you want students to complete the first week of discussion. I change this due date every week to keep it on the students’ Dashboard To Do list.

8. Don’t forget to Save and Publish to make it visible to students.

9. Name your community and configure your points rules by going to Yellowdig Settings → Participation. For best results and to save yourself effort in set up, use the default settings.

  • Students appreciate large point values even if you scale them back considerably in Canvas. I set the community point goal to 10,000 points, but scale it back to 100 points in the Canvas grade book.

  • Pick a start and end date when students can earn points. Calculate your points based on the active number of course weeks * 1,000.

  • Choose a weekly point limit if you want to encourage students to participate on a regular basis throughout the course. This is necessary to get the conversations going, but after students start to engage, they usually go far beyond the “needed” points in their interaction. I usually choose 1,200 to allow students flexibility.

  • Creating a new post (pin) and commenting on another user’s post are both behaviors that students are used to doing in a traditional discussion board.

  • Receiving a comment from another user means that the student has posted something interesting that people want to discuss and therefore they should be rewarded for that behavior.

  • Receiving a reaction means that students are reading each other’s posts (otherwise they scroll past it, this is common in social media).

10. Create Topics based on the ideas you want to discuss (not the weeks of the course or chapters in the textbook) and choose whether you want the topic labels to be suggested or required. I usually choose required so that students have to consider why they are sharing the item, but this is not necessary for a successful community.



I usually hide the left navigation Yellowdig link in Canvas until after everyone has completed the Activate Yellowdig assignment, posting for the first time. This prevents errors as the system uses single sign on so that students do not have to create an account.

11. Start discussing! Model the behavior you want to see in your students. Don’t try to read or comment on everything! Look for interesting posts and participate in the conversation.

12. The discussions will now be automatically scored and passed back to the grade book in Canvas.

Additional Resources

  • The Yellowdig Instructor Getting Started Guide has information to help you set up your board guided by data-driven evidence on effectiveness.

  • You can also complete the free Yellowdig Certification Course for more useful tips.

  • Read more about How to Create a Yellowdig Community.

  • Share the information with your students on Points and Grade Passback.

  • Check out the Yellowdig Training Series on YouTube.

SCHEDULE A LIVE DEMO OF YELLOWDIG





Dr. Tawnya Means is an Assistant Dean and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this role, she provides vision, leadership, and management for a Center focused on serving the needs of students and faculty as it relates to teaching and learning. Her team develops and implements a comprehensive and effective learning support structure for students and creates faculty development programs and resources to assist faculty with instructional innovation and adoption of pedagogical best practices.

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