Skip to main content

Three Things You Need to Know About Yellowdig


Daniel A. Gruber, Ph.D.

Yellowdig is available as part of a campus-wide pilot for the 2015-2016 Academic Year.  It is a teaching and learning application that allows students to share relevant resources on class topics within the Canvas environment. It is dynamic and engaging – resembling many of the social media platforms that students use in other aspects of their lives. Additionally, it is seamlessly integrated and does not interfere with students’ personal social networks.  These features make it a preferable alternative to traditional discussion boards and social media according to the students in my spring classes.  My reason for utilizing Yellowdig is that it helps to achieve a higher level of learning and engagement than the previous technology I was using for theory and practice integration.  In this blog post, I will share a few additional thoughts on why faculty should consider using the tool.

1. Evolving from class participation to class engagement

As part of a Digital/Online Grant at Northwestern, I was able to undertake a detailed analysis of the student experience on the platform in my spring 2015 classes.  One of the findings from this preliminary research is that students were posting articles throughout the week regardless of whether it was a class day or not.  Essentially, Yellowdig helped them engage with the class when they were thinking about it – not limiting them to the time in the classroom. Furthermore, the students were commenting and reading each other’s examples on the day of class as a way of warming up for the class and preparing to engage. This combination of findings helps to shift a framing of class contributions from participation to engagement.  A broader view allows for both a more comprehensive perspective of student learning and a more inclusive one that facilitates contribution for all students.

2. Facilitating warm calls and creating a learning community

In each of the classes I teach, there is an important part called “In the News” which is intended to address the learning goal of linking academic frameworks to current events. Previously I used Twitter for “In the News”, but now I use Yellowdig for that purpose.  The first 10-15 minutes of my classes are devoted to discussing, in depth, several examples from Yellowdig. If a student posts an article on Yellowdig and they are called on to elaborate on their example in class, they will be more prepared than a cold call on another topic which they had not thought about in advance.  This teaching technique facilitates an environment where every student has a voice in the class – both online and in person. Warm calls help students who might not feel as comfortable speaking in front of their peers to have an additional way to enter the class discussion.

3. Learning Analytics on Yellowdig – The Mechanisms of Teaching

The vast amounts of data that Yellowdig generates can be utilized in many ways from informing teaching strategies to evaluating student performance.  This includes analytics about how and when students are using Yellowdig, the way they are building on each other’s ideas, and whether the individual pins and comments are being favorably received by the class. Additionally, with the gradebook integration feature in Canvas, students can gauge their performance on the portion of their grade devoted to Yellowdig.  The learning analytics in Yellowdig are also built into a gamification platform in which students get points for their activity on the platform.  Students have found Yellowdig makes them feel more connected to the class.  Moving forward, seeing how students use the platform on mobile devices versus other technologies will be insightful as well.

Yellowdig is being used right now by faculty and programs in Schools across Northwestern, from business to medicine.  This range of utilization means that it is being used for different goals in these various contexts.  As more faculty use Yellowdig, not only do they enhance the student experience in their classes, but they help to build a culture on campus of technology experimentation. Opportunities to share a wide variety of ways of using the platform will help all of us to understand the platform in greater depth.

I have found Yellowdig to be an exciting addition to my teaching toolkit and I hope you will have a chance to decide whether it belongs in yours. In addition to being integrated into our Canvas Learning Management System, it has a mobile application which allows students to access it even more readily.  Finally, Yellowdig, like many educational technology companies is constantly updating its offerings with new features. The executives at Yellowdig have welcomed ideas and feedback about the platform and have made several improvements based on our input.
You can learn more about Yellowdig here:

Dan Gruber is an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University where he is based in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and holds an appointment at the Kellogg School of Management (Courtesy).