The Evolution of Gameful Learning Webinar
Presenter: Shaunak Roy, Founder and CEO, and Brian Hurlow, Director of Technology
Shaunak Roy 1:28
My name is Shaunak Roy, I'm the CEO of yellow day. In a little bit of background about this webinar, you know, we were discussing, you know, what, you know, what we should be talking about in this webinar, and one of the things we realized is that, you know, you know, rather than talking about Yellowdig, in detail, which we hopefully have talked in various other webinars, in this one, we want to kind of go a little bit, you know, in the journey of building of Yellowdig. You know, we have been added since 2014, as a company, when we first launched our what I would call is our alpha website, you know, a very initial MVP, which stands for like minimum viable product, and we have been building it over the years to come to this point. And we realize that it might be helpful for our audience.
You know, as you may be professors, instructors, instructional designers, as you are thinking about launching new type of technologies like yesterday, or other technologies that you're thinking about, or you're building yourself, some of the things that we ran into as a company, as we have gone through our own ups and downs, and building Yellowdig might be worthwhile for you to, you know, you know, kind of hear about and maybe you'll something you'll pick out of this journey. So that's the goal out of this webinar. So just to kind of set some context. The other thing, as Brian said, is, we are planning to keep it fairly informal.
So we have a few slides that we want to take you through. But if you have questions, we would love to hear your questions. And we may take those questions as we are going through it. Or we may kind of wait till the end of the webinar to kind of, you know, take your questions and answer your question. So as you're hearing things, we will love that if you can kind of think about questions that you may have for us. And we would want to address them. With that, Brian, should we go to the next slide?
Brian Hurlow 3:27
Yeah, let's go for it! I thought I was, uh, I don't have any data. That was a great recap.
Shaunak Roy 3:35
Right, so Okay, so these are some pictures from our early days. You know, these are the two pictures I found from, I believe, from 2015. From wonderful offices, we changed office quite quite frequently, as a lot of startups do early in the days. And that's where it comes from. So the picture on the right, it's myself, I'm showing off my ping pong skills. And on the left side is our awesome Brian Harlow, our head of technology, who is the brain behind I would say the architecture of the platform. Hopefully, we are going to share some things that you find interesting today. Before I pass it on to Brian, he has a wonderful story that we all would love. I love it. I think you will love it as well.
A little bit about myself. So I, you know, I came through a very unique path in starting the company back in 2014. And in my background is I grew up in India, and then moved to the US about 20 years back. You know, I would say I was one of those fortunate ones where I fortunately was born in a family which values education that I know all of us do in this webinar. And I kind of you know, took the path of going to the right schools in India and then came to the US, you know, when I went to a wonderful school where I kind of learned about various things that I was excited about, and came to the point in my life and I feel that, you know, the best way for me to kind of progress my own career is to build something that I'm passionate about.
And one thing that I am passionate about is, which is what I've realized over the years is, you know, this whole idea that, you know, we all go to the right schools, and we have been like myself, I've been fortunate to go to the right schools, but the real reason I feel that I have come to this point is by really kind of igniting my interest in learning. You know, as a result, what I've done in my life is I have learned a variety of things as well as and enjoyed learning, you know, as I have kind of found a passion in learning. And this is something I felt that if I could build a product that does that is, is one of my motivation of studying Yellowdig 2014. And I'm going to share more about it as we go through. But let me pass it on to Brian Hurlow, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brian Hurlow 5:56
Yeah, thanks, Shaunak. So, my name is Brian Harlow. I'm the technology director here at yellowdig. And I've been working with tronics, since the early days of the company. And so really excited to share kind of what our journey has been from a really initial prototype and where we are now and also discuss kind of where we're going to go in the future. So a little bit about my background, I identify as primarily a technology builder. I studied political science at Macalester College. But around my senior year, I was just cutting class to like write code all day, and eventually started building a lot of technology right after I graduated. But I think some many I had many formative experiences in my education journey that definitely left me with the feeling that, you know, the things could be better than the status quo, especially when it came to online education tools.
So we'll get into a little bit of this is the slides continue. But we use some software tools in my undergrad experience, which were painfully lacking, and actually went on to also teach visual design and coding through Blackboard. So I could also experience the pain and challenges of using technology from under the construction side, as well as from the student and learning side. And, you know, we're coming at this with really a genuine desire of trying to build technology tools that we think will improve education. So with that in mind, it's just been a really, you know, it's building this type of thing is a mission that really resonates a lot with I think both of us as people. So excited to show you all more about that.
Shaunak Roy 7:34
And, Brian, as you're going to this, this story of yours, one thing I would say is that, you know, you know, two of us are speaking today, but we have a wonderful team. And I think one common theme in all of us is that we are excited about, you know, making learning better in some way, shape, or fashion. And I think that's one thing that kind of binds us together as a team. And I know that many of you in almost all of you in the webinar today are excited with that topic. So So that's kind of something I wanted to share.
Brian Hurlow 8:03
So when Sean and I were discussing the topic for the webinar, we were reflecting a little bit on our early education experiences. And I the image that I couldn't get out of my head was a goldfish snack cracker. And the reason that was stuck in my head was when I was in high school, I had a teacher who was teaching rote algebra two from the textbook, and he would always snack on goldfish crackers, as he was giving us the redundant lectures with no context of how to apply the math equations that we're working on to the outside real world. It was only when I started to study physics, and realize that calculus had practical applications that I realized that we had just been doing exercises, you know, with no contextual meaning at all.
And that was an early memory of mine as to how things I think could have been better in the education system. But more specifically, in this algebra two course, it just so happened that the course aligned at the lunch hour, and I assume this to be maybe a little bit of a clerical mistake by the high school. But we would have 45 minutes of class a lunch break, and then 45 minutes of class, which meant when we would have a test or type of assessment or exam, ours crafty algebra, two students could hide the textbook in one of the bushes outside of the class. So when we would leave for lunch, we pull the textbook out, all gather around a table and discuss what the answers to you know, question for question seven could be based on the curriculum that we had. And I realized from taking that class that I learned a lot more by discussing the subject matter with my peers in a mid test environment than I ever did by preparing solo, doing the test, submitting it to the teacher, and then repeating the exercise again so early on in my high school experience.
I had a A little bit of evidence or the seed was planted that maybe group learning with my peers was was potentially a better model for, for learning in general than just submitting, submitting, submitting. But now when I think of education, I think of the goldfish snack crackers. And I don't know why he was eating them during the lecture, but it stuck in my head. So now it's stuck in your head too. So, like Sean mentioned, we got started building yellowdig. Well, tronics started a little bit before I joined that company, but started building things in 2014. So to sort of set the stage, we wanted to talk a little bit about what education tools looked like, in 2014. You know, when I remember, you know, using Moodle, in my undergrad experience, you know, what comes to mind, for me is a really administrative focused piece of software, a piece of software with very little sense of humor and delight and extreme emphasis on solving the immediate utility of, you know, registrar level things, submitting assignments, that sort of category.
But I recall also doing on Moodle, a timed assignment that had a start and end submission. At the time, we thought that was extremely high tech use of the Moodle platform. But I definitely remember a palpable feeling that these platforms were not designed necessarily to delight us or really to enhance our learning in any way other than simply moving the information from student to instructor. So what was the status of discussions in particular online during that, that time period, a lot of these tools then and I think, arguably, still now have an emphasis on you know, submission cadence. So, you know, what a discussion means, is doing the act of discussing which is creating content and submitting that on a weekly cadence. And we commonly come back this notion of one post and two comments a week equals discussion, which of course, you say it out loud, that it's not what the content discussion really means.
You know, also, what was expected in those discussion boards is that the instructor had a touch point on every single post, and that their job was essentially to come through and qualitatively grade, each one of those submission points. There was no structures in the discussion boards to encourage peer to peer communication, it was really about the student fulfilling the quota of submission. And what was particularly resonant to me was procap, procrastinating until Sunday night, probably having interacted with a bunch of my smart peers during the weekend, and sort of cramming in a bunch of submission posts. What's worse is that if all my peers are doing that, none of us have time or availability to read each other's posts. And then we start the whole cycle over for week two. That's what I remember about online discussions, and I could definitely get a little bit of a feeling that there was something missing in this model. So Shaunak, do you want to talk a little bit about this concept of active learning how that came about? For you?
Shaunak Roy 13:37
Yeah, so you know, this picture on the left side, which I think is one of the teaching halls in Penn State, which is Brian Medina, and he said that he actually one of our team members was in this class. And what it reminds me is my undergrad experience, which was in India, then I came to the US and I was also in this kind of lecture halls. And, you know, one of the things that strikes me in this picture is the experience of students, you know, we all have seen this kind of lecture halls, you know, smaller, maybe some cases smaller than this, but from an from a student standpoint, you know, the whole experience is about, you know, kind of listening to your instructor, right. And then you know, basically taking the notes that I have today, if I have any questions, I probably will write it down and maybe ask somebody one of the people the hundreds of people in this class, so maybe sometime later on, and very likely, they may forget about it, and you know, resort to this idea that okay, I may just do the bare minimum to pass this particular class.
And, and that's kind of sounds like a little odd, but that seems like the most logical scenario a lot of students including myself was into and if I if I think about from a from an instructor standpoint, then I have not met a single instructor who is not excited about engaging the students. Because that's what they think. And that's why they take the professional they take. But it's it's almost like a superhuman job to be able to engage a classroom where each student has their own questions and mindsets and, you know, things that they're excited about or not excited about? And how do you really navigate that? It's almost impossible. So we have this system where, you know, what I feel is that is a design for failure. In some sense, it worked probably 1020 years back when it was primarily like delivery of knowledge or information, but the the world that we live in right now, where everything is almost dynamic, and and people are interested in learning skills that are relevant in the in the modern world, this kind of a system doesn't work.
So, the question is that okay, what is the better solution to this? So, you know, this is something I would say that we started the journey in 2014. So we understood the problem, we had a conceptual idea of the solution, and we are going to talk it through that how we build it out. But, but the idea is that, how do we turn this, you know, this classroom into a community where students are engaged with one another so that if somebody has a question, they don't have to wait till the next class to ask the professor they can ask whenever they want to. And and the instructor Professor can respond to them whenever they have the time. What if they don't have the time and other students can jump in and respond to that question, so that they don't have to wait too long for the next class to happen. Another example is, you know, imagine I'm in a finance class, which is most business school, every business schools has that and what kind of topics I've been discussing, like, you know, students, for example, wants to talk about things that they're reading in the popular press.
Like, I'll give an example, crypto cryptocurrency is in the news these days. And if we if they don't discuss crypto or anything that's which is trending in the real world, they almost feel like disconnected to why they're even taking that particular course. So there are those kinds of issues as well. So long story short, the graph that you see on the right side is a visualization of an example yellowdig classroom, where what we're looking at is four things, and I'll kind of quickly point them out. The first thing is the connectedness. So essentially, the whole idea is that, to what extent the students are connected to one another, right, whether they are talking to only a few students, or they are talking to almost a vast majority of the classroom, or they're completely unconnected, they're on the fringes, then the content is what type of content that they're discussing in the classroom, right? I mean, I gave you the example of Bitcoin or other articles, or blogs or videos, things that they're finding exciting and interesting.
Are they able to talk about that? Third thing I would say is context, which is essentially around? What's the discussion happening? Like, what are the different points of views that are emerging out of the discussion is the context that is being said, and finally is the at risk students, so students who are not at all participating? So our vision, when we started the company, our vision was to build a system by which the students can interact and engage with one another and actually have those engaging conversations that typically cannot happen in the in the picture that you see the left side. So that's how we started 2014. And we have been on this journey, we have learned a lot and we are going to share some of those with you. And kind of hopefully, we also going to share some things with you that didn't work. Like as we were kind of going through the process of building the game for learning environment.
This, by the way, for this webinar, we were trying to dig out some of the old screenshots that we had when we first launched this platform. And this is the this is one example, use case or pilot we did in 2014. And this is how young we used to look like, you know, nothing, nothing out of ordinary that he would have expected in 2014. And that was the early days in social media. doesn't look as fancy as yellow it looks today. But you know, this was good enough, I would say. And we had this idea about, you know, having points and you'll see on the top right, we had something called points. So the idea was that if somebody shares a piece of content, they will get points for that. And that will be the motivation for them to actually share it and maybe somebody else might interact with a piece or part. So we have evolved that system over the years. We'll talk a little bit about it, but this you know, hope you know, hopefully this is interesting enough to see what it looked like back In the days when we started.
Brian Hurlow 20:03
yeah, not very much yellow in there, the yellow came and then we took it out. So when when Shaunak and I were discussing, you know, showing our story to all, but one of the key, I think themes that came up was this concept of iterative development. Sometimes in the tech communities, this can be called continuous delivery. But when we look back on on our journey from 2014, to now, you know, one thing really stands out, which is that we had adopted an iterative development model, which really meant for us kind of more taking, taking a strategy of building things, you know, in really small increments piece by piece, rather than going into a room and trying to come up with, you know, the ultimate and best platform and then working hard to deliver that, instead, we take a much more agile approach where we can deliver small changes to our software, measure those changes, gather feedback, and then course correct.
And we've been doing that for a pretty long run so far, and we continue to learn more about why we like that as a model. So a good analogy would be, you know, when you if you want to make a really good sword, that you know, you can't make a mold and pour the molten metal into the mold, you have to actually bang it out and little pieces. And same thing goes with a surfboard, you know, the best surfboard, shapers are actually taking like layer by layer down and injecting it with their own kind of special sauce that way, instead of saying, Okay, this is gonna be the build, and then filling that with with foam. So from 2014, to now we released a prototype, we started with many pilots, we built analytics, dashboards, features and improvements, we re architected many parts of our application, we rewrote a bunch of code, we shipped micro services, we deleted those micro services.
And then once we kind of distilled some of those lessons, we got started working on the engage product. and engage, we were able to take some of the things that we learned along the journey, and were able to build out the code from scratch, which was was, you know, both a bold and ultimately really fulfilling decision. And I've had the distinct, you know, perspective of having pretty much read every line of code that went into engaged from from the first commit. And so, so I have this, you know, a really interesting vantage point on building those things out. And now that we've transitioned our customer base over to the engaged platform, and it's starting to grow, we're going to be focused on on more, building more features, and iteratively developing this thing. So one key point of iterative development is this idea of having visibility into the software as we ship it. So we've we've put in a bunch of effort in instrumenting, our software, so that we can ask questions about it. So what might those questions be?
Well, for example, how many users have viewed this one back page in the application on Wednesday? Well, if no one's viewing it, why, you know how to users come to our site more often a certain time than other times, or in that small release that released on Wednesday morning, where there's something wrong in the code that maybe made it perform worse, or started causing errors. That sort of visibility and instrumentation into our software and into our process has really helped us, you know, be able to ship things as fast as we can and gather that feedback. And I think a couple of other, you know, important points about it, or development is, one is the acknowledgement of our own internal biases. So, you know, we have visions about what our software can be, but oftentimes, those are, don't match with what the reality is, and what instructors or students need from our platform.
So instead of taking the hubris of designing the perfect thing, working hours and hours to develop the correctly and then ship it, we're taking the approach of shipping a prototype, bringing you all into that process, giving us feedback on on the you know if it meets the need or doesn't. And then of course, correcting from there, and using those visibility tools that I mentioned earlier. So this is kind of just a little bit of philosophy around how we've been developing. Then there's another note in the slide that talks about feature flagging, which is also something we're doing more where we can release a feature behind a configuration setting, so that we can enable that for a given community for a given institution or for a set of institutions.
That allows us, you know, the ability AB compare, you know if it's a good change, and also give us the ability to turn it off if people are not getting the benefit that we thought they might from the tools. So I just wanted to include these two slides to give you all just a little bit of sense about how we think about building our software and really driving home the point that we're really interested in gathering feedback as we develop these things, to ultimately arrive on that perfectly shaped surfboard over time as we work together. So one of those outcomes of the iterative development process has been this idea of gainful learning, and I'll let Shawn talk a little bit more about the value of gainful learning, and there's other folks on our team, we're also very knowledgeable on the topic. So if you have additional questions on the value of gainful learning, don't hesitate to ask, because we have, we have other resources and other webinars that can help you understand that too.
Shaunak Roy 25:55
Great, you know, in terms of gameful learning, which I know is part of the topic of this, this webinar, you know, it started with this idea when we started yellowdig and solving the problem. And the problem, if I can phrase that is, if you have a classroom of let's say, 5200, or even more than more students, it's really hard to engage, I would say the bottom 25 to 30% of the students who probably are new to the subject area, they don't have enough context for them to get excited about all the things that I was talking about in terms of like bringing in examples, sharing, answering each other's questions, bringing a new perspective to the learning. And the and the instructors, you know, might end up spending a huge amount of time to engage them, if they have to do it manually. So for example, to reach out to those students, it's always not obvious who is not engaged, right, so can really pour into data or their submissions or their posts or comments, to be able to identify them.
So our approach to game four was to be able to identify a system that can solve that problem without creating more work for the instructors. Because, you know, they, if we can free up their time for them, so that they can focus on more of their time to actual teaching or learning than trying to get to identify who is not engaging is valuable addition in their workflow. So one thing to point out is that, you know, when we talk about gamification, you know, sometimes there is this feeling that you know, gamification is to kind of in a manner populating student behavior. And, you know, an example of that, which sometimes we, you know, it may not strike that way, but I'll just give you the example where, let's say we have a discussion assignment for a student that they have to do, as Brian was saying, one post to comment by the end of the week. And the typical behavior is that they will wait till Sunday, because there is a timeline, and there's no incentive for them to come early to actually, you know, post some things that are discussion, action against start, but wait till the deadline to make a post.
And when a student is actually posting that post, their entire focus is to get to the minimum to get the grade that they need for them to give there is a great associated right something so that they can make the instructor happy, as opposed to truly starting a discussion or really asking a question that is meaningful to them. That is an example where there is a gamification in play in terms of the deadline, but it doesn't really drive the right behavior for the students. So we have focused on trying to drive the right behavior for the students by creating incentives in the platform that's going to help them change their behavior. And some of the things that we realized as part of the process is, you know, the critical principle for gainful is to have more freedom for the students so that they can self drive they're learning as opposed to being told what to do.
Creating an environment which is delightful, right, I mean, we have never engaged in a game which is not feeling good for ourselves like we will have to do it. But if unless it feels that that I if I as a player, gaining more value from the system, there is no incentive for me to participate. So creating that environment, which is positively rightful is quite important as we think rewarding the right behavior, right compounding value, if you know if 50 students are together and they're actually discussing with one another, that creates a lot of opportunities for the students to discuss a variety of topics based on their own interest so that it becomes more valuable as the community takes shape, and goals. And finally, as I said that reducing administrative work. So these are some of the principles that we had in mind as we were building the gamification system.
But you know, one thing to point out here, I think that might be valuable to you is, you know, there is no one way to build a system because, you know, given we are trying to change behavior, the only way to build it is to build something, put it in the real world, see how the students behave, take the information, come back, and you know, change some of the knobs or some of the parameters of the game and try to drive them towards the right behavior. This is exactly what we have done. I mean, that has been our evolution over the last five years to kind of think about how our tools earning points, think about how much points they're earning for various activities, and try to come to a point where that optimizes those inputs so that we get the right behavior from the students. And, and that might be a learning for those of you who are thinking about building education systems. So the thing not to do based on what we have learned is that not to design the perfect game, because it's very hard to read human behavior. But to build something, launch it, read it, see the behavior, come back and tune it, and over time, try to get to the right game that drives them right kind of behavior. If that makes sense. Brian, do you want to add something that I may have missed?
Brian Hurlow 31:14
No, it seems like based from the questions that we're gonna get a lot more going on this topic, I did want to add one way to make this concept kind of concrete. So when when we look at the yellowdig point system, and the incentives that are in place, there, a really easy way to gain points during your, your discussion, board tenure is to post early, so that other people read it and comment, and react and post on your post. Because in our point system, there's actually incentives, you know, not always even incentives, but there's still incentives for forgetting activity on the content that you share. So, you know, that's just like a concrete example, if you post on a Tuesday or Wednesday, or even Monday in the, you know, whatever the sort of implicit week cadence might be, that post has more time to garner you know, interest, rather than posting at the end of the day. And that's a that's a rewarding Positive Behavior incentive. We don't punish you for posting late. But we give you the opportunity to gain points more easily early, just by a simple sort of point wait rule.
And there's, there's a lot more that we want to do in this space. Right now, what's gamified. And in the yellowdig, context is the the point earning rules which you can customize, but we do have, you know, best practice recommendations and how those ought to be designed. But there's definitely more especially in the delightfulness category that we're excited to, to start working on it and unveil to users. So they can get a little bit of positive feedback and affirmation as they're using the game system.
Shaunak Roy 33:02
I mean, this is, you know, we don't have to spend too much time on slide. This is essentially, you know, the latest version of yesterday, gallery engage. And, you know, if you want to think about what are the four key elements of the platform, the first is social, what it means is that it's easy to use, so that students can easily get into the platform and get used to it and interact with one another, the learning curve is very small. The second part is the gainful learning piece, which is essentially, you know, what we talked about is to encourage students to participate in the right way, as well as reduce instructor time spent with the students. The third is the relevant piece, which is essentially making it relevant for any type, of course offering yellowdig is relevant for it's an online hybrid or in person course. Because engagement doesn't have to stop, you know, within the four walls or within the synchronous time session.
At the same time, students have the opportunity to actually bring in their own experience own examples into the learning process. And we have a variety of mechanisms in the platform by which students can do that, which makes it more valuable for the students. So going back to the game for learning principle. And finally, it's data driven. We have a slide on it to talk about it, like what are we doing from a data analysis standpoint? In the some of the things to point out is, you know, I know adea compliance is a is a is a really important issue in education. We want to have all our students participate in these communities. So the platform is ADA compliant, and it's an area that we are continuously tracking and building around. It's FAPA compliant, it has LTI compliance that it works with within any other learning management system. environment. We have API's so that you can pull the data and do your own analysis, it can also link up to other types of systems, outside our learning management system through our sample integration, and we have a few other offerings around the platform to help institutions be successful with offering.
Brian Hurlow 35:22
And before we move slideshow on one little piece of information I did want to add, what we commonly see when this type of game of application or gameful learning design is deployed in the classroom is that many learners go above and beyond the assignment. So they are asked, you know, or they're prompted to meet a certain criteria of activity throughout the course. But we overwhelmingly see, you know, students producing way more than they simply need to, to meet the point goal. So that's one of the many, you know, feedback points that we're looking at that, that give us a bit of confidence that we think that this game system is actually encouraging folks to to participate, you know, because they're, they're not just meeting the criteria, they're really sometimes going back into post, because they're legitimately engaged and interested, not because, you know, they're just trying to check the box. So, I think this point, we're gonna move into some, some talk about what we're looking at in the future and touch a little bit on how we see the platform evolving. So we've we've gone in the past, now we're at the present, we're looking at the beyond. But before we get into that, we wanted to specially highlight some opportunities around data and analytics that we're particularly excited about.
So, you know, if you do a back of the envelope calculation on an active yellowdig community, and there is no right size, I'm sure other folks on our team would have recommendations about size. But if you take a little bit of a larger use case, like 500 learners, and of course, if you're running a let's say, it's a 12 week course, and each learner is expected to submit, let's be generous and say they make four posts per week, you're all of a sudden looking at 12,000 data points that have been submitted over the tenure of the course. But we also track data around passive activity. So if if a user looks or reads another person's post, by leaving it open in the viewport for 30 seconds or more, we track that as a view from one student, to another student. If every learner in the course views, every post, then we're already in the millions of data points for just a single individual course.
So we feel like there's a lot of opportunities in the data science arena. And, you know, I'd be remiss to mention this is not only is it a future engagement, it's something you can do now. So yellowdig has the public API, you're able to use that API to download the data points. And each one of those data points is not only marked with what the activity was, who did it, but also which user was affected by the action. So take, for example, if you create a an emoji reaction in the data set, you'll also see who's the recipient of the emoji reaction so that linking data is kind of a shortcut for you to be able to analyze things like the connectedness, or the centrality of the graph of the learning community. And so we've pre baked a little bit of that data for you, which you can you can download it this time. But we also think there's there's other big questions we can we can answer with some of this data, you know, one of those what's driving engagement, we make a change, we see, you know, engagement go up, we could maybe use the data to figure out why, such as different point configurations or, or even other types of intervention in the community. But we can also analyze the context and content, you know, what are students talking about today or this week, that's particularly current or relevant?
can we predict the behaviors of a student that's most likely to drop off? After that first two weeks by lack of engagement? And if we can identify that from the data, you know, can we prompts instructors with the ability to reach out to those students if they need to. So that's just a taste of some of the things that we're we're looking at on the data side. And we're really excited about some of these possibilities. And we're really eager to work with institutions to, you know, give you this data to analyze according to, you know, your own practices. And even in the future. We're looking at you know, potentially ways of standardizing the interaction data so that if your team has a machine learning model, you could write that model and share it with other institutions, you know, without actually compromising the data so that they'd be able to use that model against their own yellowdig data. So, you know, we're really excited in this space. And if you have questions or comments on the data area, you know, feel free to mention those because this is something we're gonna be looking at heavily in the future, and more future things. Shauna, can you think of anything? and Donna mentioned?
Shaunak Roy 40:31
Yeah, I mean, I think you know, the data side of the thing, so something we are very excited about, because the potential is so vague. You know, one thing to point out there is we have our team internally, you know, Brian, but I was rather quiet on the webinar today. So he heads up our internal analysis, where we are partnering with institutions on some of these data projects, where, you know, we share our best practices based on the learnings that we are getting across the our client base, but at the same time, what we end up finding is that every institution has its own uniqueness in terms of how they organize their courses, or the kinds of courses they're teaching on their particular demography of learners. So we can also think about like thinking about your particular environments, and how our data can help you to make the right decision. So So there are two of both opportunities here, which is we can look at it broadly, which is our team is doing it and we can share the insights with you, which we do periodically, but at the same time, you can also engage with your very particular data science project that you're working on. On a future side, I just wanted to a few other things I wanted to point out.
One is, you know, building feature sets. One of the things we have seen, as you know, it goes back to the same philosophy around iterative development is, we try, we tend to find problems that our institutions our client bases having in terms of engaging the students, and then we can come back and build a feature sets around them. And then we then we measure those teachers, whether they're actually solving the problem, you know, sometimes there's a difference between theory and practice. So we try to kind of really work hard to make sure that whatever new features we are adding is actually having the right impact. We have an advisory council now, of members, I believe about 15 institutions were part of that counsel, who gives us feedback as we build those feature sets and something that we are looking to expand and add new members in as we scale the company on the AI, which is artificial intelligence or machine learning. As we all know, there is a lot of interest in higher education, how, you know, data models, or machine learning models can help.
And we are looking into those those areas, in partnership with institutions to see how we can help our instructors, our students, providing real time feedback through these models, something that we are excited about we are we are working on those areas that would love to collaborate with people, if you have expertise or if you have interest in those areas, we would love to hear from you. And finally, our one of our equal what our strategy is, is to be a flexible platform such that customers, clients, users who are working with us do not get boxed into one platform. So as a strategy, we are not building features to get the entire student lifecycle in terms of the learning management system plus yesterday. But our strategy is to integrate with best of breed platforms that you're already using. So for example, if you're already using zoom for your synchronous sessions, and you want that to be seamlessly integrated within your yellowdig ecosystem, that those kind of integrations we are working on, and we plan to work on as we scale. Such that you have the optionality that using the best of breed software based on your needs. I think that's about it from a kind of future standpoint. Right? Unless you had anything specific to talk about on this topic?
Brian Hurlow 44:17
No, I would, I probably prefer to spend a little time answering some of the questions or letting people ask more of them.
Shaunak Roy 44:20
Great, Great. So, I see there are some questions in the chat. Brian, do you want to pick up any of these? I see Brian hallways already.
Brian Hurlow 44:39
Yeah, so our our colleague and head of customer success and you know, research expert is is answering some of those questions. So I think vidiians answers are great, but I'll read them back to the audience in case you don't have access to the QA tools and zoom but Ryan Nichols asked the question, do you think novice learners always have the ability to be autonomous and self directed. And my personal take on that would be, I would think it would be a really big win for a new learner to take ownership over the subject matter in any way. I think that would be early. Now those I think, are the educational experiences that really stick with some of those, those novice learners. But I'll let you read Brian's answer, which is definitely more built out than mine.
Brian Verdine 45:32
Yeah, I mean, I answered him in the q&a. But I do tend to think that novice learners need a little bit more modeling around what the expectations are, if you're going to give them some of that autonomy, and every student likes a lot of feedback, that they're sort of doing the right things and sort of meeting expectations were, you know, saying the right things that other people so I think feedback is an important part of the whole process. And and maybe Brian furloughs point, if if students are not able to be autonomous and self directed, that is absolutely a skill they need to learn in order to be able to enter that sort of adult workforce, right. So if they can't do that, that's actually a really important thing that they need to be learning would be another part of my argument.
Brian Hurlow 46:24
Yeah, and you know, when borrowing a piece of feedback from a previous webinar, one way to handle that is make the directive to the student to attempt to do open and self directed learning. So for folks who are interested in knowing exactly what to do the ask, could we specifically to try being involved in a more open learning context?
Shaunak Roy 46:52
Right. So I see, there's a new question by Nicky Golub, how does this enhance student centered learning? How could yellowdig promote differentiated learning? was reading that?
Brian Verdine 47:15
I mean, I think the answer, you know, in terms of enhancing student centered learning, you know, it gives, it gives students more like one thing about our point system, and the gainful approach that we have is one tenant of gainful learning in general is that you give students more pathways to success. And in exercising some of those pathways, they, you know, do the things that end up actually being best for them specifically, or they have more options for participating in ways that truly work for them. And, you know, I think that that's one thing that the flexibility of our point system is trying to allow for, if the student is uncomfortable, sort of standing up in a classroom, um, you know, they would have the option of participating in yellowdig, in some discussions, and we see, a lot of our instructors say things like, Oh, this student that's really quiet in class, I kind of assumed, you know, didn't know that much, but they're the most active person, you know, in the LGBT communities. So it's also sort of giving students more pathways to success, and even within our own technology, more options for contributing, where they can really add value.
Shaunak Roy 48:36
And one thing to add to that, Nikki is that, you know, this also offers students to bring in examples from the real world that they would want to share with their peers or discuss in the classroom. And, you know, typically what we find is that, you know, instructors have the responsibility to start the discussion, so that they have to find an example that they have to talk about, which can, of course, work in yellowdig. So instructors have the has the ability to kind of bring those examples in. But it also offers a forum for the students to especially students, as they're finding interesting articles, blogs, videos, as they're doing the different projects, to bring those examples into the classroom and share their point of view. And they own points for that. That's one of the reasons they do that. And other students actually find it quite interesting that they are responding to one of their fellow students as opposed to the instructor because from a psychology standpoint, if you're responding to a student, it's more of a conversation. If I'm responding to my instructor, it's more of an assessment. So we are kind of changing the mindset from an assessment mindset to a conversation mindset through this peer to peer interaction, which leads to the student centered learning because they're taking more ownership of what they learn if that's helpful.
Brian Verdine 49:58
And one thing we also see in a lot of Sort of like higher level courses, maybe especially or professional or, you know, returning students. advanced degrees are people bringing in expertise in really interesting ways. And in some cases, you know, the students in the class might be really more of an expert on a specific topic than even the instructor is. And, you know, part of the approach and the, you know, the autonomy we're giving allows the community really benefit from those contributions, you know, from, from people really, you know, talking about their own experiences and expertise.
Brian Hurlow 50:52
somebody posted in the chat that they're running a MOOC with 848 students and piloting the platform there. So kudos for taking that on. And that's that we're really excited to hear that.
Shaunak Roy 51:07
You know, one thing it might be helpful to hear is that I think the question might come up is, is there a size of a class, you know, beyond which yellowdig may not work? You know, 848 seems like a big number, right? Can you have a community where people are actually engaging in a productive way? One of the design principles in yellowdig, is that we have this feed designed, where as soon as you get into your community, you see a feed of posts and comments. What What do you see on the top is the one which has the latest activity on. So for example, if I am in a class, and I go to yellowdig, at 2pm, and I go back in 5pm, in three R's, there's a bunch of activity that has happened, the thing that I see on the top is different. What I see at 2pm, is what is gaining traction at 2pm.
What I see a 5pm is what I'm gaining traction at 5pm. So through this design principle, what we have done is essentially is that irrespective of the size of the community, every time you're interested, you're going back to yellow, you're seeing what is gaining traction by the community by various users in the community, which by design reduces the noise so that you engage with what you while others are finding engaging, and you're engaging at that point. And those losing engagement, they can drop drop down in priority and other things will take out. And that's it, but you can change the feet, you know, filtering style in yellowdig. If you want to see things by chronologically or some other ways you can do that. But that's the default design that helps with logic classes, when we launch.
Brian Verdine 52:46
Um, there's a there's a question that I don't think has been addressed yet. But I want to make sure that you guys speak through well, research over the years on learning communities, generally shows substantial benefits for students are greater learning, engagement, persistence, etc. Can you talk about how you think young builds on that work to create a 21st century learning community? And can you talk about how that might create a better system for accessibility and sort of students who are able to take advantage of that? Even if they're not lucky enough to be attending an elite university?
Brian Hurlow 53:32
That's an awesome question. Yeah, I think there's, there's two parts of that is like, our company can can advance on the equity agenda side. And then also, we know how our product is promoting a 21st century, you know, connected learning environment. You know, I think on the equity agenda side, it's definitely something that's important to us. And we're working pretty actively to try to build those inroads, some of that has to do more with like, distributing our software to the right institutions and, and opening up options for people to use it. So there's just kind of a business development case there that we're working through. And as far as structuring the community, I mean, I think a lot of the things we talked about are, hopefully point to that. I mean, I can say that, at least in the research that we've looked at that there's a strong correlation between connectedness of students with each other, and their retention, staying in those courses for longer. So we I think we agree with that research premise that you you mentioned, I don't know if we're dying, if you have any, any ideas on how, especially the 21st century part, I mean, I think the extending into mobile app, you know, being able to link in news sources, and those I would think are examples of ways that we're embracing the current technology ecosystem, but there's really more we can do.
Shaunak Roy 54:57
Now, one of the things I can add there is it's a great Question is, you know, if you think about other technologies that have been very successful, right, the similar technology the students are using, I would example, Instagram or Facebook or other tools that are available. One of the challenges though technologies have from a learning standpoint is that the data is not available to the instructor or the institution. So the for the for them to learn what's working and what's not working. So for example, in yellowdig, if a class is using us, and for whatever reason, they're not seeing the engagement level, we can tell from the data, it's not working, or client success team might have a conversation with instructors, and we can improve on that practice. Whereas other technologies from a, you know, purely from a user experience standpoint, they're probably as good because you know, everybody's trying to use the best, the best tool available out there. But I think the database is a tremendously valuable piece, which we are using to interact with our client base and our user base. And I think more and more tech companies like ours are using to better create the 21st century technologies that are really going to impact learning, because a lot of the tools that were being used in the past had probably good experience, but never leverage data to the point we couldn't use. Now, as we build out new features and functionalities.
Brian Verdine 56:25
I think I'm an equity front, one thing we also see is that the point system is motivating for students to sort of get into the community and start interacting, once we can build up a certain amount of value we are pulling students in and sort of pulling them along and interacting with other students in ways that are positive for them. And then a lot of cases, the impacts that we're having on, you know, course grades or retention are because we're, you know, specifically engaging those students that would otherwise be really falling off, right, the good students will sort of do anything and get through any kind of experience, just by virtue of being well prepared, and, you know, highly motivated already probably. So, you know, there's a sense in which some of the gamification aspects I think, are really servicing and pulling along and helping out students that probably the most.
Brian Hurlow 57:28
And those students can contribute to the community by asking a question about an assignment or, or being forthcoming about the challenges that they're having. And maybe there's other folks in the community who also thought that reading was super hard, right? Like there's other ways of interacting that aren't even just, you know, meeting the teachers expectation, approving the knowledge that is germane to the course. Looks like Bri is answering the anonymous question.
Shaunak Roy 58:01
Yeah. And I think Tony had a point around the bookmark or the save feature, which is, I think, is a great idea. That's rad bag we have we had that in the classic platform, but we probably haven't bought it to engage platform yet. I think, yeah. James is making a point around, you know, drop off of black students in college? And how can we essentially help in that, including first generation, low income, I mean, one of the things that I, you know, we hear from my instructors, is, you know, what we thought was what we believe in is that one of the biggest challenges with first generation students or students who doesn't have the same level of resources to be successful in college or class, whichever level they're in, is this whole idea that they don't sometimes lack the confidence to be able to participate in discussions. It could be language barrier, it could be a barrier because of cultural reasons.
You know, when I immigrated to the US, for the first time from India, I had those challenges as well, for my Masters when I was sitting in those classrooms. It wasn't easy for me to, you know, have the confidence to be speaking up in front of the entire class. And having giving them a forum where they can, you know, students like who are having those challenges to be able to interact at their own time, they can take as much time needed as possible to, you know, frame a question, or write a response without being under the time pressure in the classroom is actually quite helpful. So, I think one area we could impact or we are impacting, I would say, students were disadvantaged in some way As to kind of give them the time and the space, they need to be able to communicate and interact with other students in an asynchronous environment. Right. So we are at the top of hour. So I think we, I mean, if there are any questions, by the way, I mean, this is something we truly enjoy, you know, answering questions or engaging in discussion.
So, any of you listening, have questions that we haven't been able to get to, please reach out to us? I think it's quite easy to reach out to us through the website. Or, you know, or any other means. I'm sure there are, I think there is a email that we can give out, which is it a lot more at yellowdig is that the one, you can email us there, and we would love to get to continue the conversations. But hopefully, what I hope is that this was helpful. This was designed to give you a little bit of flavor about the people behind the company, and how we have been thinking about building technology in education. We are very fortunate to work with many of you and having a great time, I think we are super excited to dive in to really build a future with you guys. With that, Brian, I don't know if you wanted to add anything else.
Brian Hurlow 61:26
I just really appreciate all the great questions. And we're gonna take some of these questions offline after the call and, and even discuss them further. So hopefully we'll have even better answers next time.
Shaunak Roy 61:39
I see there is a slide here in terms of our upcoming webinar on June 17, at 1pm, which is for corporate learning in the virtual world. If you are interested in using yellowdig in a corporate learning setting, I think this would be a very valuable webinar we are doing with Curt Hayes was the chief learning officer at Dignity Health, who has been using yellow D for a number of years now. So if this is a topic of interest, you know, please take down the link which I think you can scan, and you can save when and we will see see you there. Is there anything else you wanted to add? No, that's perfect. I think we're good to end the webinar now. Thank you. Thanks, everybody.