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Yellowdig's New and Improved Instructor Certification Course

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

At Yellowdig, we don’t claim for our technology to be magic. The real magic happens when you combine our technology with our data-backed pedagogical approach. We are an education company first, and we believe in the power of humans to power learning, with the enablement of thoughtfully designed technology. Our Instructor Certification Course is designed to educate the faculty who will be leading the Communities primarily on Yellowdig's game-changing pedagogy and secondarily on the functionality of our technology.

Earlier this week, we sat down with two of the core contributors to the Instructor Certification Course to ask some very important questions about the course.

Start the Yellowdig Instructor Certification Course

Samuel Kampa Ph.D., Client Success Lead (on left) and Brian Verdine, Ph.D., Head of Client Success (on right)

What is the value of the ICC?

Yellowdig is not a technology company, not fundamentally, Yellowdig is an education company. Yellowdig is equal parts, technology, and pedagogy. So if you're not following our pedagogy, you're not really using Yellowdig. So the value of the ICC is not merely as an enhancement, or a how to guide, it's actually part and parcel of the Yellowdig experience itself, because that is how you learn the Yellowdig pedagogy.” ~ Samuel Kampa, Ph.D.

"We understand how important the role of the instructor is in their decisions about how to use the platform and how to interact in the community, so the ICC is designed to inform the instructor of how Yellowdig is intended to be used and why it is designed that way. We have seen that instructors who have taken the course and understand our pedagogy, tend to have a more positive experience. The reason we believe this happens is because the practices that we share in the ICC are highly researched and have evolved with input from the faculty users. When instructors go through the ICC and subsequently follow our pedagogy, we have seen better community health results. Yet, even when instructors choose to modify our pedagogy, they do so in a way that is more informed and tend to make better decisions for their community after taking the course. There are also many things professors may not have much experience with like implementing gameful learning strategies or properly setting up assignments for Yellowdig in their LMS, which we cover as well." ~ Brian Verdine, Ph.D.

Why did we update the course?

The original certification was released about a year ago. We put out the course right after COVID, when there was clearly a need to get a certification course up quickly. Now that we've had time to learn more from our users and digest some feedback and insights, we thought it would be a great opportunity to share that knowledge with our users. Below, Brian and Sam share some more details about the importance of the update.

“We try to update all of our instructional materials on a pretty regular basis. We're constantly analyzing data and collecting student and instructor reactions. We use that data to thoughtfully change a lot of our suggestions. So, people may notice that some of the defaults in the platform change. That's usually based on data we've analyzed. A lot of the directions that we have in the course now are based on things that we've talked to instructors about in the last year, trying to build a little more nuance around recommendations. Also,we’ve definitely made huge updates in the Yellowdig Engage platform that we needed to cover new features and things like that as well.” ~ Brian Verdine, Ph.D.

“There were a few things that are addressed in the new course that weren't in the old course. One is data analytics: we now have a section of the course dedicated to using data to enhance your course outcomes. A year ago, we didn't have nearly as many data analytics offerings as we have now.

Yellowdig's community health dashboard for education analytics

Another thing was, we didn't have as many hands on guides for using the platform with pedagogy in mind. Our academic lead, has been spearheading a lot of those efforts to get faculty using specific platform functions in pedagogically informed ways. So, that was something that we needed for the new certification course.

And then in general, we've replaced a lot of the large blocks of text with videos, because we want this course to be a fun experience for our instructors and we want it to be relaxing. We want instructors to also be able to go back to videos and even hyperlink to different parts of the video so that they can see for themselves what pedagogy looks like, in action.

Another thing is our team has grown a lot over the past year, and we wanted to showcase the the broader Yellowdig family. Now that our team has grown, we thought it was important to showcase our diverse and fun team.” ~ Samuel Kampa, Ph.D.

Yellowdig's Team, plus some Yellowdig Pets

How is it set up right now?

“We have a new platform called Yellowdig Learn that is going to be the storehouse for not just the instructor certification course, but also future specialization courses in data analytics, co-curricular and STEM use cases, etc. So you go to to access any of those courses, including the instructor certification course.

It's open enrollment, so it's free, you just click on begin course, and you'll create Yellowdig Learn credentials. Once you're in, you can log back in at any time. You can also access the Yellowdig Instructor Support Community from that course. So, it's also your first gateway into Yellowdig if you're a new Yellowdig user, and it should be pretty straightforward.

At the end of the course, you get a certificate. If you are taking the course as a part of the free pilot, you will be required to get that certificate in order to continue with your free pilot. It's super easy. There are a few quizzes, but nothing too onerous. And you can also bounce back and forth between different videos in the course so it's a bit less rigid than our original certification course.” ~ Samuel Kampa, Ph.D.

A sneak peak into the course - an introduction from Yellowdig's founder and CEO, Shaunak Roy

How long is it?

It is about 1 hour long. It can be faster if you play the videos at faster speeds or slower if you take your time and go in depth through all of the optional material.

“We understand that everybody's busy during course design time, and just stressed out from trying to handle all the things related to the pandemic, and that it may sound like a lot to ask for an additional hour of time. But we're so confident that it will save a lot of headaches in the long run that we would recommend it to anybody, even people that have been using Yellowdig from day one.” ~ Brian Verdine, Ph.D.

I’ve used Yellowdig (Classic) before and haven’t taken it, should I? Why?

“The biggest reason that people should take it, even if they've used the platform before, is that we've found that some of our long time users are still not quite thinking about a lot of the feature development in Yellowdig the way that it was intended to be used in designing the courses and the way that it helps students the most to get engaged and to get good conversations going. So, Some of the suggestions that are in the course are still really helpful to people that might really like Yellowdig and be fairly happy with the outcomes that they've been getting in Classic. They can still pick up a lot of tips.” ~ Brian Verdine, Ph.D.

“The pedagogy has changed and updated over time and the pedagogy and the technology are not cleanly separable in Yellowdig. That's one of the things that makes our company and our product unique.

Our pedagogy develops because our pedagogy is founded on evidence and on data. And just like, evidence changes in science, it changes for us and our university partners too. I've done studies that while it hasn't transformed our recommendations, it’s honed them in ways that matter for on the ground implementation. So if you were familiar with the state of Yellowdig's pedagogy two years ago, things might look a little bit differently because we have a fuller picture. We have more feedback from clients, and we have data from university partners who have done rigorous studies. So if you're used to Yellowdig from two years ago, now, you're going to want to be up to the state of the art, just like in an academic journal, you'd want to know the latest articles that have come out, not just what was published 10 years ago.” ~ Samuel Kampa, Ph.D.

A few examples of concrete changes from Yellowdig Classic to Engage in Technology and Pedagogy:

  • Specifically, the point system is based on almost the same background with the same concepts, but the way that great passes back is something that we definitely recommend that everybody think about

  • In Yellowdig Classic, you could put individual boards associated with individual assignments within a course. And our research on allowing some allowing some of our clients to use that kind of strategy versus others that we saw, we found a difference in student posting and commenting of, like 50% less when communities were sort of fractured across separate assignments. So one of the things that is different about Engage is the idea of putting everything into a single community for the course.

  • The need for intelligent instructor presence. We knew that the micromanagement strategy was detrimental to the community and bad for achieving good educational outcomes. But now, we've focused on giving instructors tips for engaging with their community in ways that don't destroy the experience.

What value will I get out of the course as an administrator?

“You don't know how important the instructor certification course is for your instructors to take until you actually take it yourself and see how different Yellowdig is from the discussion, pedagogy status quo.” ~ Samuel Kampa, Ph.D.

“I do think that it's important that administrators understand that Yellowdig is a tool that their instructors are going to be using, and that the choices that their instructors make, are going to influence whether that tool is having the sorts of positive impacts that they want it to have on their students. So for that reason, I think it's important that administrators understand the difference that they're getting when they're adding Yellowdig into their tech stack, and that they understand the opportunities and how they can help their instructors achieve those goals. We've definitely seen across partners that administrators that really help us educate their instructors or help them understand the concepts that build good communities have had massive impacts on the overall organization's success.” ~ Brian Verdine, Ph.D.

I’m already an expert in technology and pedagogy - do I have to take it to start a pilot?

Pedagogy is a broad domain of inquiry, and as a company, we have spent the past 5 and a half years doing nothing but focusing on community pedagogy. You would be hard-pressed to find a team with as much expertise in getting students to interact meaningfully as ours. We acknowledge that there are many instructors and faculty out there who are experts in their field and that it may be technology or pedagogy, but we ask that they respect our years of research and data in this aspect of education and see this as an opportunity to learn something new, or at least reinforce something they may not have thought much about.


Brian Verdine, Ph.D. is the Head of Client Success at Yellowdig. Brian received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. He went on to a postdoctoral position in the Education department at the University of Delaware, where he later became, and continues to be, an Affiliated Assistant Professor. His academic research and his now primary career in educational technology has focused on understanding and improving learning outside of classrooms, in less formal learning situations. At Yellowdig, he manages all aspects of Client Success with a strong focus on how implementation in classes influences instructor and student outcomes.

Samuel Kampa, Ph.D. is the Client Success Lead at Yellowdig. Samuel received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University. He taught seven classes and nearly 200 undergraduate students at Fordham. He brings to Yellowdig that teaching experience, an enduring interest in improving pedagogy, and data science training that has helped expand Yellowdig’s data analysis capabilities and develop instructor training materials.

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