Avoid This - 02. Don’t make strict participation requirements

Most instructors have found it hard to promote discussions in class or with other online technology (e.g., LMS discussion spaces).  These experiences lead many instructors to feel like they have to create really pointed weekly discussion questions and strict participation rules.  There are certainly good reasons you might do this. However, given how Yellowdig was designed and how learners like to use it, we typically find that strict guidelines stifle community participation and the sharing of information, rather than promoting positive and informative interactions.  

We always recommend “assigning” the kinds of content you want to see by making Pins that casually suggest students contribute certain things (e.g., “This week I’d really like to see some Pins and discussion on current events related to business acquisitions!”) rather than making it a strict grading requirement (“You can only get your Yellowdig points this week by commenting on my Pin showing an article about business acquisitions.”).  “Requirements” that are less strict allow learners to follow their interests and avoid rules that force them into participating in only certain ways. Use your time to post the kind of content and comments you want learners to mirror and then reward the participation you want to see with Upvotes and Badges. The responses and engagement will be much better than using the same amount of time to script assignments.

Why?  Learners will quickly pick up on what is expected and act accordingly.  The social learning benefits of Yellowdig thrive when learners have some freedom to interact naturally and pursue their interests.

The following analogy might help for thinking about points, participation requirements, and complicated assignments.  Imagine you are building roads to drive on.  The point system and occasional instructor Badge or Comment are the lines and signs on the roads.  They help define what you want your drivers (i.e., learners) to do and will show them how to get there.  But the lines and signs don't really prevent drivers from making their own choices and, realistically, the road system will work just fine for most drivers with only some lines and signs.  The instructor and TAs should mostly think of their role as being guardrails.  Guardrails are only placed where drivers are likely to run off the road or where it is vitally important to keep them on it.  If you start placing guardrails close to the lines everywhere along your roads, then the roads are going to be expensive to build, hard to maintain, and the drivers will accidentally run into them a lot, causing traffic jams and frustration for everyone using the roads.

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