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Increasing Engagement in a Fully Online Course [Learner Engagement Summit]

Brianna Bannach 0:04
I'm excited to introduce you to Dr. Arlene Garcia. She is a three time graduate of Florida International University where she works as an assistant teaching professor. Let's get started in her presentation called increasing engagement in a fully online course. Thank you, Dr. Garcia. Hi, Brianna, thank

Dr. Arlene Garcia 0:21
you so much for that introduction. So today, I'm going to be talking to all of you about some of the ways in which I've used Yellowdig to increase engagement in a fully online internet psychology course, that I teach over at Florida International University. So first of all, you know, feel free to write any questions that you might have in the chat. You know, I'm more than happy to answer them as we're moving through the presentation. So some of the things that I want to highlight throughout the water conversation today is how to create a Yellowdig theme for your course or what are some of the advantages that I've noted, at least, when creating a theme for my course, how to model student behaviors, in your yellow dig activity, the use of learning assistants to bolster participation, using accolades. And I'm also going to review some of the data that I've collected in my own Intro to Psychology course, throughout the last year or so. So, first of all, I wanted to dive a little deeper into this idea of creating a Yellowdig theme. So in my course, my Intro to Psychology course, one thing that I have found that has been very successful is this move from a prompt style discussion to more of a conversation, right, so I've integrated Yellowdig as a way of doing all of our class discussions. And I created a theme that kind of links, all of these, you know, all of all of these conversations that we're having together. And what I've noticed is that creating a theme kind of has eased some of the integration of Yellowdig into the course. Right? So before I used Yellowdig, I had the traditional discussion posts. So every week, the students would log in, I would have a prompt posted, they would answer the prompt. And then they would also reply to a classmate. So the traditional, you know, Yellowdig, the traditional discussion posts that most classes used, the way that I've transitioned into Yellowdig is that I created this theme of psychology in your life. So you know, this is intro to psych. And the idea here is every week, the students have to pick at least one concept that we're learning about in class, and create, you know, facilitate the Creator a Yellowdig conversation regarding how they see this concept at play in their everyday life. So they can create videos, they can share memes, they can share news articles that they have found, or, you know, they can simply kind of journal about how they see, you know, how they see this topic at play, how they've seen it applied, you know, anything that it reminds them of? So, you know, we've really moved from this idea of answering a question and then give somebody feedback to more of a conversation. And at least what I've noticed, in my class is that this is kind of allowed for more creativity. So, you know, I'm sure many of you use the traditional discussion posts, I still use them in some of my other classes. And, you know, it almost seems like sometimes once you read one, you've read them all right, everybody's kind of seeing the same thing. I'm seeing a lot less of that. Now that you know, people thought that students actually have to apply it to their own lives. So, here are some examples that I pulled from from my class last semester of you know, where you can kind of see how the conversations have changed, right. So, this first one here and this has taken you know, screenshots from from my Yellowdig for my class, you can see that that this one was on the The Learning chapter, right, so this student posted about primary and secondary reinforcers. So, you know, she says Hi, y'all. When it comes to their learning chapter, there's so much we can see and apply in our everyday lives. One of the concepts I apply in my day to day is secondary and primary reinforcers. Secondary reinforcers are stimuli that have gained the reinforcement power from their association with primary reinforcers. primary reinforcers are biologically relevant stimuli that have value without us having to learn to learn what they do, like water and food. During my undergrad grad days at FIU, I worked a lot the money I earned from working these jobs served as secondary reinforcers. Money has value because we are taught it does, if we didn't give it any meaning, it would just be a bunch of paper, I used it to buy my favorite food and other essential and other essentials primary reinforcers. It's interesting to see how primary and secondary reinforcers are at play all around us. And we don't seem to notice them at all. Can you all name primary and secondary reinforcer combos that you might have seen in your own life. So you can start to see how this is a little bit different from that traditional discussion post where somebody is, you know, answering a prompt you gave them and then just giving somebody else feedback. So in this case, you know, the student is asking their classmates to list other examples similar to what they came up with. And here we have one on sensation and perception. So, you know, this student pulled the FedEx logo, as an example of, you know, just thought principles. And, you know, they highlighted the arrow, which, you know, similarly to this student who replied, You know, this student who replied says, Hi, I enjoyed reading your post, you were able to explain and show examples of, of the Gestalt principle that were very straightforward and easy to understand. I would also like to point out that I was 20 years old when I realized there was an arrow in between the end x. So I felt the same way. I, you know, maybe everyone else knew this, but I never realized that there was an arrow between this E and the x. So you can see how the posts, um, they tend to be a little more creative, right, a little more applicable. And especially in an introductory course, like this one, this is something that that I really value, right, I value the them sort of making these connections back to their everyday lives, especially because a lot of the students in the course, are not psych majors. So Intro to Psychology is one of our, you know, university core classes, that students from many majors and taking.

And I see more shots than Browns book out of symbols pointed that out to them. So I was completely unaware. Until until I read this post, that the arrow was was even a thing. Right? So what are some of the things that I've also that I learned throughout this process? It is really important, if you want this to be effective to model student behavior, and what what do I mean by this? In my experience, things run better if if the professor models the kind of behavior that they want from the student. So for example, every week, I'm the first one to post alright, I go on there kind of early, I create a post, I answer the same question that the students are answering. So I also find something that applies to my life and you know, I create a meme or I share a video. So, you know, I try I think that this sort of starts to set the expectation. Um, you know, I also try to model the variety of different tools that are available. I will post a video I will create a video, I will use polling, and this helps students realize all the different tools that are available. I also actively comment on posts. And, you know, I think that this might sound like a lot of work. But in reality, the poll grade themselves. So you don't actually get to you don't have to spend any time grading. So instead, what I did was I shifted all that grading time into being more active in the classroom. Alright, so instead of just instead of just I'm grading and giving feedback, and we all know, the feedback becomes very repetitive, right? You didn't reply to a classmate, make sure you use citations. Instead of doing that, I, you know, I've kind of reinvested that time into modeling the behavior, using accolades. And you know, actively commenting on on the student posts. So, you know, here you can see one of my posts, for example. So this was the learning chapter. And you know, I won't make you all read the whole thing. But to summarize, you know, I recorded my dogs so these are OB and Max OB as the the big furry doodle and Max's, you know, the small Yorkie, so I recorded them doing some tricks. And then I asked the students, what would you do to strengthen all these responses? Right, so, um, you know, based on what we're learning in the class, um, you know, what would you do to increase all these responses? What are your thoughts on max? Right? What do you suggest, based on what we're learning? I do with Max, he seems to be, you know, engaging in some of this. But, you know, but, but give me what suggestions? Or what do you all think is going on here? Right. So, you know, it, it takes, it takes us going a little further, right. Um, you know, here I am recording my dogs took me it took me a bunch of shots, you know, to get them to cooperate. But, you know, I think sometimes this goes beyond the classroom, especially in an online class, the kind of feedback that I'm getting from students is that this helps to get to know us a little bit better. Alright, so I'm not just you know, Dr. Garcia, on a screen or in a picture, you know, I'm it, it helps to kind of make us seem more human, you know, so here I am, I have two dogs, and I'm, you know, recording this silly video of them doing tricks. And beyond that, it applies to what we're learning that week, which is learning so OB, ob sit down with a father, I apologize for the Spanish ahead of time. Good job OB. So, you know, so that was, you know, that was the silly video there. Um, another thing that I've incorporated in this class that has that has been pretty successful is the use of learning assistants. So, you know, I'm over in Miami, most of my students speak what we call, you know, what we refer to what Spanglish. Um, so, so something else that we've incorporated are the use of of learning assistants. And what are learning assistants, learning assistants are undergraduate, or recently graduated undergrad students. And their role is to help us facilitate instruction, increase engagement, and work one on one to increase student success. So think of these students as TAs that do not create, that are heavily involved with the students. So you know, these students do things like they provide study sessions, they, you know, they in a face to face class, they walk around and they interact with the students who seem like they're having trouble. They hope within class assignments. So something that I started thinking about was, how can I incorporate these students into my online class? So in this case, what I've done is I've added them, you know, not only their, their hosting their study sessions and all that, but they're also part of our Yellowdig assignment. And their responsibility on Yellowdig is to also model the desired behavior. Alright, so you know, I, like I said, I'm the first to post but my learning assistants also keep it going. They also, you know, respond with these awesome posts. They reply to the students posts. And, you know, most of all, I think that it's really helped because they understand what this is. But it's like, you're right, probably more than what I do. So you know, here's an example of my awesome learning assistant who is SpongeBob. Obsessed, right. And she's kind of talking about the self and personality. One of the things that we talk about in that chapter are personality tests. And, you know, you can see her post where she kind of links things back to SpongeBob. And I have to say that the kinds of posts that my learning assistants post are usually the most popular. So you know, even even though I may record my dogs, they usually don't get as many replies as the posts that they post. Because they I think they're very relatable. Alright, there's students who just graduated. So, yes, so going on to what Britney Britney asks, Is it a requirement that the learning assistants completed that particular class in the past that yes, so they have to have completed the class in the past, they are required to apply. And then they are hired as learning assistants. So we have, we have a whole learning assistant program at our university. And they are hired through there. And they have to take a course their first semester, where they learn

about, you know, how to be a good learning assistant, how to engage students how to work on active learning, all that good stuff. So, you know, typically, these are, these are students who, you know, are very involved and who really, really want to help other students. And, you know, beyond all that, they've also been really helpful on when it comes to picking up on any concerns or any problems that the students are having, you know, sometimes they'll reach out and they'll say, Hey, Dr. Garcia, you know, I just wanted to highlight that I've seen several posts that describe this concept the wrong way. Um, you know, you might want to send something out to the class clarifying what this concept really means. So, you know, it's, it's a, it's a second and third pair of eyes kind of reviewing what everyone is talking about. My classes typically have anywhere from 80 to 100 students in them. Alright, so So these things don't, we're doing. They're not, they're not gigantic classes, but they're also you know, they're it's not a class of 25 or 30. So they are relatively big classes, that that we're working with here. Um, accolades. So I will say, if you're interested in trying this, if you're using Yellowdig. One thing that I think has worked well in my class, is tailoring the accolades to the kind of behavior that I want to see. Alright, so for example, in my class, I created an original video accolade, which goes to the best original video created by a student each week. So I really want to encourage students to create videos to create their own content, not to just you know, regurgitate something that they find online. So you know, it's fine to post and write about it too. But for those students that kind of go above and beyond, you know, I do want to reward that that behavior. Another really popular one, you know, that I use a lot is the the earlybird, I want to encourage them to post early, we also set a rubric, explaining to students how accolades work, so we let them know that each week, it's me and the toilets, right. So the three of us will award, one of each accolade. And it doesn't mean we're going to award them all right, you have to work hard. So I have seen, I do see, every semester, the behavior starts to occur, right? People started to post earlier, people will go above and beyond and you know, record a video. I had a student a couple semesters ago, who when we were talking about kinesthetic motion, right, she recorded her daughter doing gymnastics. So you know, the point here is kind of thinking about what what kind of behavior do you want the students to show? And how do I encourage it? How do I make them realize that if they engage in some of these behaviors, they're gonna get their points quicker, right, they're gonna have to do less work to to get their their points. So I also wanted to share some of the some of the The data that I've collected throughout the last few semesters, and I know that the sample sizes are not big, but I did want to share, you know, some of the things that I'm finding so far. So I implemented, I switch from the traditional discussion posts to Yellowdig. A year ago. So I've been doing this now for this is going to be my fifth semester, how many summers right that I've been using it. So in the I think university, we have a survey that's distributed to our classes, it's an optional survey that the university can distribute. And one of the questions that it asks is, I felt isolated in this course. Um, so you know, about a year ago, I, you know, I was I was looking through my survey, I felt the need, especially, oh, you know, in the middle of everything that was going on with COVID. And all that, you know, this this question kind of caught my eye, right, I felt isolated in this course. So what was going on? You know, what could I do, to kind of decrease the number of students in my course that were feeling isolated? So, you know, I, originally I piloted the school as a way to attempt to kind of see if it would make a change, right? Would it would would anything change, if I tried to kind of add something different?

So I think that one of so going back, so Bridget has a great question. Which, where she asks, what are the top features of Yellowdig, in contrast to a typical LMS discussion board that you think lead to greater engagement with this forum? And I think it's, there's two parts to this to my answer. I think, first of all, at least in the feedback that I've collected from students, they're getting to know each other better. Alright, so some students, you know, are saying, you know, I feel like I get to know my classmates better. They also seem to like the fact that it's more, it's more of something that they're used to. Right. It's more social media, like, but I think beyond that, the same way that it's that it curves, that it's curved, some of my students behaviors, it's also curved that my behaviors and my learning assistant behaviors, I think, when we were using the traditional discussion posts, we would go on, and, you know, we would comment on some discussion posts. But this has made us much more active. You know, I would focus a lot before on the grading, and on giving people feedback on how they did or didn't meet, you know, my discussion board rubric. Now, I feel like I'm giving people feedback more regarding what it is that they're, they're expressing, right. Um, and regarding the learning assistants, so the learning assistants, at least at our university, they have to take a one credit course for a semester, which is almost, it's all about active learning, you know, they spent the whole semester doing active learning, and, you know, they go over things like how to identify a student who is struggling, you know, how can you increase participation in courses, you know, they end up they read articles, actually, and a lot of the resources are also posted online, if you go to Florida International University, and, you know, or Google Florida International University Learning System Program, you know, they have tons of resources that you can, that you can look through, pretty much it's it's a course tailored to how to increase, you know, student success, how to help their peers, and all that good stuff. So what I found in my, in my class, was that I'm 24% of students, I'm sorry, I realize now that I stated this backwards. So, before I implemented Yellowdig 24% of students said that they agreed or somewhat agreed that they felt isolated compared to 16%. In in the current semester, right, so that was Only although it was only an 8% Decrease in isolation, it was still something to consider. Great. So I've seen about an 8% decrease in the number of students who are saying that they feel isolated. And obviously, I can't attribute this to Yellowdig alone. But, you know, I do think like I said before, that it's it's made the allays more active, it's made, you know, it's made me share things that I typically wouldn't share. And some of the feedback that that we are getting, is that it helps, you know, it helps to get to know the professor better, it helps to get to know the LA's better. You know, I'm also getting about 49 replies per member over a 10 week period. So this is about 4.9 replies per week, which is different from, you know, the one main post and then one or two replies to a classmate that many of us use in our in a traditional discussion post. I also conducted my own survey within the class, where I asked students, you know, how much did they agree with the following statements, right, so those statements were Yellowdig helped me to get to know my classmates. So about, you know, 70% of them, agreed that Yellowdig helped them to get to know their classmates, I asked them if they preferred Yellowdig over a traditional online post, about 75% said they did Yellowdig helped contribute to my learning about 71% did. So you know, this, and this was a sample size of about 50 students. So I realized it wasn't super large. You know, there wasn't a large sample size. But you know, at least it's giving me some information about how it is that students are feeling in the course, whether they feel like it's benefiting them. I also asked them, What did you like most about Yellowdig. And about 25% of the replies mentioned interactions and meaningful conversations. About 19% of the replies said that they liked the social media like features and their ability to post memes or be creative. You know, one student in particular said, it allows me to do more in depth learning about my weekly topic, through helpful links from my classmates and start meaningful conversations about our lessons. I also asked them what they didn't like, about Yellowdig. And about 10% This was the comp most common replied said that the cost, right, so they have to pay for it online on on, like, you know, the traditional discussion post. So what did I learn, right? Um, you, if you're planning on, you know, on integrating this, you really do want to use accolades to curb student behavior, you want to make sure that you model student behavior to demonstrate the kind of post that you want to see, edit the system to fit your needs. Um, so for us, I want to say it's about I don't, I don't want to give a wrong number, but I want to say it's like about $13 to add Yellowdig. And Briana can, you know, can can let me know if I got the wrong number there. But it's somewhere between 10 and $13. To for them to have Yellowdig added. Which doesn't, you know, might not seem like a lot to us, but it's, it's a lot, at least for our students. Um, and like any other change, it takes time to adapt, it likely won't be perfect the first semester. So, you know, every semester I make a tweak, I figure out something that might work better I change up some posts, you know, that that maybe didn't quite go the way that I envisioned them. You'll definitely invest your time. Um, but you know, you'll save time grading. Um, so. So that's, that's, you know, the, the main point here any questions, any comments? You know, I know that we still have a just a few minutes. So I have not looked at other scores. But that's but that's a great point to make. Um, wow, I

Brianna Bannach 29:39
didn't unmute if there are any more questions. Definitely. I'm excited to announce the raffle winner so during this session, we are raffling off a Yellowdig swag box. And the winner is David Meo em ee oh, I have your email from your registration. So I will follow up with you. Congratulations. You will probably be getting one of these in the mail. And along with some other things. Yeah, thank you so much Dr. Garcia for joining. I learned a lot. Even being on the Yellowdig team. I thought it was really interesting to hear your perspective and and see what you're doing in your class. So thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking your time out of your busy day. I know you were teaching all morning and then came right here. So thank you. Any closing words? Dr. Garcia. Thanks, everyone.

Dr. Arlene Garcia 30:29
Thank you all for joining. Thank you.

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