Interview with Professor Karin Enloe of Arizona State University.
Professor Karin Enloe teaches online courses at Arizona State University. Her research interests include the modern American West and Americana music.
On her experiences with Yellowdig:
It seems that most of the pedagogy on online courses is that you have to create a community and get people excited to be there. Most online classes have discussion boards but I found that I wasn’t looking at the discussion until the day I had to grade it. And I was was grading based on looking at how many words they wrote, if they were on topic and how many people they responded to. Yellowdig has been really great for me because it allows me to jump into the conversation and see what people are doing. And I do it every day. That’s how I use it. We just talk about the readings. And usually [Yellowdig] is about 20% to 30% of the student’s grade in the class.
On how using Yellowdig changes throughout the semester:
They are a little nervous about trying something new at first. But by the second week or so, there are some people who get really into it and I can tell that they are in there every day. There are some students who, even though it’s 20% to 30% of their grade, who never log in and don’t do well. But for the most part, 30% to 40% [of students] get 100% in their discussions.
On the students:
There was one [instance] where a student posted some information that she had probably seen in another class and we were talking about plagiarism and paraphrasing. And it was kind of a lesson using a historical document that was very racist and why you probably wouldn’t want to take that information and just put it directly in your paper because that would certainly send the wrong message. I thought that was a really cool use of [Yellowdig], that it could share this information that she had received someplace else with the students in our class.
At the end of every semester I ask students what they thought about Yellowdig, and overwhelmingly, they prefer it to the discussion board that they would be using otherwise on Blackboard. I don’t even use the discussion board on Blackboard. We only use Yellowdig in my classes.
On upvoting posts and participation:
There’s always a small percentage of people who don’t like the upvoting. They think it’s a popularity contest. And I try and tell them, “I’m not looking at the popularity contest. I only care if you participate, so that’s on you if you feel that some people are getting more points than others.”
On controversial topics and situations:
In my last class, we were looking at the second women’s liberation movement and we had a few people who might consider themselves Marxist and a lot of people who did not consider themselves Marxist. And so, [there was] a tendency to have a real political flavor to the conversations, and these were very lengthy conversations. But I thought that [the students] were always very respectful and I haven’t seen anybody be nasty or rude on Yellowdig.
I teach Women’s History first and foremost and a lot of people do get emotional about it or they like to bring up their own experiences and that’s fine.
On using Yellowdig in the future:
Yellowdig has enhanced the class certainly. I think it’s more vibrant. I’m happier being there. I don’t dread going into the discussion board and just feeling like I’m counting people’s words. And I feel like I can talk about the content and address misconceptions where they are happening, versus after something is due. And so it fits in well with the way I envisioned the class and how I taught it.
On relating to students in an online course:
On a personal level, there were definitely some students that I’ve definitely felt that I could relate to more. And especially those who were on there very often and posting information about themselves. So that’s a pretty cool feature.
On course content and sharing and relevancy:
When it comes to the sources that they use-- most students feel like they have to find that outside source, which I never tell them that they have to or they should. They like to link to videos or other sources when I ask them to discuss content related to the class. So I think that’s interesting that they immediately try and find something else-- and I don’t know if they’re trying to get ‘Likes’ or if they are truly interested in exploring other options. And that’s one of the things that I’ve found to be really cool about Yellowdig, is that it offers the course content as a starting point and then the students immediately start going other places and showing everybody what they’ve found.
It is kind of cool that we get to talk about current events. I mean I don’t always love that they are doing that, but if we were in a physical classroom, maybe at the beginning of class we would probably have an informal discussion about current events and then we would probably move into the lecture or whatever we were doing for that particular day.
I think that Yellowdig, in an online class, takes the place of that informal conversation. So that’s one of the cool things-- it doesn’t have to be just about what’s in front of them at that particular moment. I allow them to do those broader things. And I think it’s beneficial because then they start making connections. And I do start getting a little bit annoyed when they-- they post about the U.S. soccer team filing a court case wanting equal pay, and that’s a very legitimate thing to talk about but then we get the next group of people and so sometimes it can get a bit redundant. And if they do that when we talk about 18th century women, it can be a little off topic. In the end students are more aware of women's experiences and continuing struggles, so it's great that they can share them and talk about them with one another in a space like Yellowdig.