Yellowdig is a forum platform that works really well for large enrollment courses (e.g. my online 241 and 242 classes). I would not use it with fewer than 30 students.

Why use it? It's a graded forum, which means students actually participate. The grading is automatically done and synced to Moodle, so the instructor does not need to manually score students. (You will need to set up its weight in the Moodle gradebook yourself in the usual way.)

I feel it gets much more participation than Piazza, which already gets more participation than Moodle Forums. Since students get points for responding to each other, they often answer each other's math questions, taking some of the burden off of me. (Also, sometimes they seem to understand each other's questions better than I do, as they may have just struggled through the same thing as their peer.)

Grading a forum may seem harsh, but I make it a low-stakes 5% of their grade. Generally the fact that it's graded pushes students to participate for the first week or two, then participation feels more organic. (A lot of students seem to enjoy it and find it helpful for their questions; some will inevitably dislike it.)

I think the layout looks cheesy and is a bit clunky, but students don't seem to mind. It's designed to look more like social media than other academic platforms. Students mostly stay on topic, but they will occasionally discuss pets, sports, local restaurants, favorite songs, etc. You can set points for these to 0, but I generally don't as I think it's good for their sense of belonging to a community. Several students have told me that my DE calculus courses felt much more connected than other online courses because of YD.



To add a Yellowdig forum to your Moodle, please follow the steps below.

  1. Toggle Edit mode on in the top-right corner of Moodle.
  2. Go to the section where you want Yellowdig to appear and click Add an activity or resource. Find the YD tile:
  3. Name it Yellowdig, and save. Go back to Moodle and click the link to go to the program.
  4. Fill out the correct info...

    Community Organization: North Carolina State University (we have an account).
    Community Title: whatever you want
    Community Permission Level: Private
    Should this community display in the discover tab? No.
    Paste a template link: skip.
    Copy Content From (Optional): usually skip, this would bring in old forum posts.
    Copy Settings From (Optional): skip the first time, duplicate old settings once you've used it.

Okay, your Yellowdig site exists (with two default posts), but it needs modifications. You'll see a checklist of things to do on the right side of the forum:

Step 1: For Start and End Dates, I recommend going from the Monday the first week of class through the Sunday following the final exam. This will create ~16/17 full weeks. (However, you can and should merge certain weeks into others, like Spring Break and finals week, in a later step.) Continue on to Step 2.

Step 2: Create Conversation Topics. This is a way for students to label their posts, and you can use it to filter posts. In my online 241 and 242, I have WebAssign Questions, Questions about Tests, Introductions/Community, Video Lectures, General Questions, Study Groups, Miscellaneous. Be sure to require topics.

Steps 3-4: I generally skip these, although fun fact I am certified with Yellowdig.

You're not done, the more important settings need to be established. Expand the left-side menu so that you see the gear icon with Settings, then select Point System:

  • Stick with Weekly Points.
  • Point Earning Rules: I'm much more generous than the default settings--I don't want YD to be a huge commitment for the students. My numbers are 500 (30 words), 250 (15 words), 70, 55. Save. You can do whatever you want, but I recommend not making students do more than 1 post + 2 responses to get the full 1000.
  • Next, go to View/Edit Periods. Then Edit Periods (top-right). You can fuse two weeks together into one point-earning period. E.g. I merge Spring Break with the following week. That way, students do not have to post during Spring Break, but if they do, they get points for it (applied to the following week). Similarly, I merge exam week(s) with the last full week of class.
  • Participation Expectation: click View Point Summary and make sure you see "Periodic buffer (time flexibility) ... 350 (35%)", otherwise edit the settings to have that. This gives students the ability to earn 1350 each week to make up for low-scoring weeks or create a buffer for themselves. Otherwise students cannot recover from a bad week. (However, the max score in Moodle is 100%.)
  • Pass Grades to your Gradebook: make sure this is toggled on.
  • You can also edit Accolades (I have one called "WebAssign Master") and Topics on this page.

Okay, now you're basically done with the setup!

My (fall) Syllabus language:

We will use the Yellowdig platform for our course community and discussions. Yellowdig is a required part of the course, and the points you acquire on the platform will account for 5% of your course grade.

Ideally, math questions should be asked in office hours or on Yellowdig. If you have a math question you would like to send to me, please post it on Yellowdig. I will monitor and respond to questions on Yellowdig.

As you create posts and make comments, and as other students react to or comment on your posts, you will automatically receive participation points. The points you earn in Yellowdig are passed to the Moodle gradebook for your discussion credit.

To get 100% for your recitation score, you will need to earn a total of 14000 points spread out over the course of 14 periods. Here is how it works:

  • There are 14 “weekly periods” in the course. As the course and forum open early, the week before class is merged with the first week of class to create a 14-day period. Similarly, the week of Thanksgiving is merged with the preceding week, and the week of final exams is merged with the last full week of class.
  • To stay on pace, you may earn 1000 points for each of the 14 periods. However, you can actually earn up to 1350 points per week. Therefore, you can create a buffer one week in case you fall short in a different week.
  • At 11:59 pm every Sunday, the weekly points will reset and you will again have until the following Sunday to get up to the weekly maximum of 1350. You can keep posting even after you have reached the weekly maximum; you just will stop earning additional credit toward your grade until the next reset.
  • You may exceed the point total of 14000 in Yellowdig, but the maximum score in Moodle is 100%.

To start, please use the “Introductions/Community” Topic and share a bit about who you are and what you are hoping to get out of taking this class. Please feel welcome to share pictures, videos, or interesting links about you and your accomplishments!


N.B.: Moodle grades drop at the start of each new period. I send out this message at the start of Week 2:

Many of you currently have 100% in Yellowdig in the Gradebook. However, on Monday this score will drop to 50% when the new week starts--that's normal! What happens is that score in Moodle is calculated via (total points earned)/(total points possible based on the number of weeks). So a score of 1000/1000 after Week 1 will instantly become 1000/2000 when Week 2 starts. This adjustment will happen every week, although the drop will be less dramatic as weeks go by.