Interview with Michael Goudzwaard of Dartmouth College
Michael Goudzwaard is an Instructional Designer at Dartmouth College and has worked with faculty teaching online courses, including The Engineering of Structures Around Us, The American Renaissance: Classic Literature of the 19th Century, and Introduction to Environmental Science.
On his experiences with Yellowdig:
The American Renaissance: Classic Literature of the 19th Century (a free course offered by Dartmouth on edx.org) had roughly 500 active learners when it was offered in early 2016. One of the challenges of offering a massive open online course (MOOC) in the humanities is giving credit for intellectual work in discussions. Yellowdig provided a scalable discussion platform that allowed students to interact with, texts, each other, and instructors. The points board allowed learners to receive points towards their progress in the course.
On engagement trends:
Several people were initially skeptical about having different tools to use in the course, however a couple of weeks into the course most learners had explored and posted on Yellowdig. An online course can be an individual experience and Yellowdig provided a social learning space for the hundreds of learners. MOOCs often have high rates of enrollment, but it can be challenging to know who is actually engaging in the course. Yellowdig discussions offered a view into the course for instructors and allowed students to track their own progress by earning points towards their course grade.
On who loves Yellowdig:
There were certainly frequent posters. We used Yellowdig a little differently than a typical course. Instructors crafted discussion prompts and questions to engage students in the readings and videos. Using Yellowdig Pins for prompts, students would reply to a particular thread. It was a different activity than going out into the web and finding something and posting it back into the course. 19th century American literature doesn’t have the same web or social media presence as say, a business or science course.
On Yellowdig in MOOCs:
One thing I noticed about Yellowdig that distinguishes it from other discussion tools is the length and substance of posts. It is easier for learners to read through a discussion thread rather than clicking to open each post, which allows conversations to develop over time. Tagging users also helps learners address a specific comment and notifies the original author.
On the pace of MOOCs:
Learners experienced this MOOC at different paces, partially since the reading was substantive and if someone had just two or three hours a week, it takes a while to read a major work like Moby Dick.
The tagging feature in Yellowdig helped bridge the gap between weeks. If someone posted several weeks ago about Ralph Waldo Emerson, a learner just starting Emerson could tag and notify the author of the earlier comment.
One reason we chose Yellowdig for this course was to build a social community for learners reading and analyzing 19th Century American Literature. Hopefully this community will persist beyond the course, but even if it falls quiet, Yellowdig will provide an archive of the conversations of learners from around the world.