LTI Integration and How it Influences Grade Passback and Setting Up Yellowdig Points


LTI Integration and What That Means for Using Yellowdig Grade Passback with Your Learning Management System

Yellowdig relies on Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards to communicate with different learning management systems (LMSs).  The power of LTI is that allows our technology to integrate with most LMSs.  The downside is that we do not control these standards or how different LMSs use the information passed to them using those standards.  As a result, we typically do provide help with the initial LMS setup, but do not regularly provide support or recommendations for other aspects of using your LMS.  Support for your LMS is usually available from your institution or directly through your LMS provider.  This is not an attempt by us to "pass the buck" but is mostly because we have no ability to control what their technology does with the LTI standards, no ability to alter the functionality of their technology, and no way to predict the scope, timing, or impact of updates that they make.
However, it can be helpful for instructors and professors to understand some of the information Yellowdig sends to LMSs via LTI integration.  Here we are explaining grade passback to help instructors and course designers to decide how to set up Yellowdig points and their gradebook in their LMS of choice.  This information can also help in understanding why there may appear to be grade passback issues, which are often actually related to LMS settings or an artifact of decisions made for the Yellowdig point systems, rather than an actual issue with the information being communicated between the LMS and Yellowdig.

Grade Passback Through LTI Standards 

The three most important things to know are:
1) Yellowdig scores are sent to your LMS as a proportion calculated from the total Yellowdig points received for the course over the total Yellowdig points possible for the course.  If you assign your students to collect 100 Yellowdig points over the semester and a student currently has 30 of those points, Yellowdig sends that student's grade to your LMS as a 0.30.  This 0.30 is then multiplied against the LMS points you have assigned to Yellowdig participation.  If a Yellowdig assignment is worth 10 course points then this students current course grade from 30 Yellowdig points would be 3 of the 10 available course points.
2) The proportion that is sent to the LMS gradebook is of the total board value set in Yellowdig, not from the weekly maximum or the total possible as of that week.  Therefore, the proportion that is passed will count up over the length of the course as learners increase their total points earned in Yellowdig.  In other words, if the student described above, who has 30 points, is only in the 3rd week of a 10-week course and the weekly maximum is set to 10 points, then they would actually have 100% of the points they could have earned to that point in the course.
3) The gradebook automatically syncs every 4 hours, so scores will not update in your LMS in real-time for you or the students.  The most accurate accounting of Yellowdig points will always be the information seen in the Yellowdig platform.  If a board owner does something like badge posts or revoke points and they want the LMS gradebook to reflect these updates sooner, they can force the grades for their class to sync by clicking the "Sync Grades Now" link (next to the points on the right-hand side).

Why does it matter that grades are sent as a proportion score?

1. Aligning Point Systems is Not Necessary and Usually Not Recommended. Because the grade is sent to your LMS as a proportion of the total points a student has earned, Yellowdig points are usually a different "currency" than your course points.  It is not at all necessary that Yellowdig points be worth the same amount as your course points.  And there are some reasons to actually avoid trying to align them.
First, Yellowdig is often used as only a part of the overall course grade, so the number of points that would be awarded in Yellowdig is typically very small when instructors align the point systems.  To account for all of the ways students should be able to earn points in Yellowdig and to make the size of those rewards appropriate in comparison to one another, it is helpful to have the flexibility that using a lot of points gets you.  In short, use Yellowdig points to modify student behavior within the platform and to motivate them to participate in specific ways, but set the actual value of Yellowdig participation for your course by changing your LMS gradebook.  
Second, rounding caused by the LMS calculation from Yellowdig's proportion score can sometimes cause minor score misalignments between the gradebook and Yellowdig.  These are not actually errors, just artifacts of how the values are calculated versus displayed by the LMS.  However, these rounding misalignments are more likely to happen, more likely to be detected, and more likely to be confusing when small numbers of points are used in Yellowdig and when the point system closely matches points given by the LMS gradebook for the course.  Some instructors worry their students will be confused by differences in points between the LMS and Yellowdig if they use different point values, but matching them usually creates more concerns.
Given the above issues we actually usually recommend making the point differences between Yellowdig and your course more extreme so that there is no way a student will mistake Yellowdig points for those earned within the rest of your course structure (e.g., multiply the default values for Yellowdig by 100 or 1000).  Besides, it's always fun to get more points!
2. Extra Credit and 0 Point Assignments.  Another issue with LTI sending grades as proportions comes up when people want to set up extra credit assignments in the LMS gradebook.  In some LMS systems the primary way instructors give extra credit is to create an assignment worth 0 points and then enter grades that are higher than 0, making the grade add into the rest of a student's course grade numerator without contributing to the full course points denominator.  The problem is, if an assignment is worth 0 points in the LMS and the Yellowdig grade is being passed through as a proportion of the assignment points, then any proportion multiplied by 0 shows up as 0 points.  A 0 point assignment in most LMSs will make it look like the grade sync is not working, because it will populate the entire Yellowdig assignment with 0's.   
If your grade sync does not appear to be working, ensure that Yellowdig has an associated point value in your LMS gradebook.

Canvas Users: Extra Credit Assignments

If you establish Yellowdig as its own assignment group, then you can alter the percent of the total grade that the assignment counts as.  For example, if you want to set the point value for an assignment group to be extra credit and award some percentage bump toward the total grade, then simply set the group total % to what you want the bonus to be.  As long as your other assignment point value percentages add up to 100% when all of your grade columns are added up, the Yellowdig assignment will increase student grades by up to the chosen percentage, given Yellowdig extra credit for participation.  
In the screenshot below we set up Yellowdig for a professor that wanted to try it out for a one-week extra credit assignment.  The instructor wanted it to be worth 5 points in the overall course structure of 1200 total points, equating to 0.4166% of the final grade (5/1200 = .004166).  We set this percentage for the Yellowdig assignment group "% of total" which Canvas shows below as 0.42%).  The "other than" assignment is a placeholder for all of other assignments adding up to 100%.  Using this setup, when you look in the grade book you would see that a student getting 100% on all other assignments and getting 100% of their Yellowdig points would have a final grade of 100.42%.
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