Yellowdig has overseen the development of large co-curricular communities and learned many tips and tricks from our partners along the way. We've seen what what works and what doesn't. If you follow none of our other suggestions, we urge you to follow these 5 best practices in your co-curricular Yellowdig Communities.
Top 5 Best Practices (in no particular order)
- Enable the point system. You might think students will rush to participate in a co-curricular community absent external incentives. You might be disappointed to discover otherwise. The most engaging co-curricular communities reward students for actively participating, and Yellowdig's built-in point system is an easy, automatic mechanism for rewarding students. Although points in co-curricular communities aren't tied to grades, they can easily be tied to other extrinsic rewards. Consider some examples:
- Swag bags filled with university merchandise, branded apparel, etc.
- Tickets to on-campus sporting events and performances
- Gift cards to the university bookstore
- Trophies or plaques
- Public recognition from administrators inside the community
- Keep your communities large. In most co-curricular communities, participation is strictly optional. Because of this, students' levels of participation in co-curricular communities are naturally lower than their levels of participation in class communities. If your co-curricular communities are large enough, this drop-off in average participation isn't worrisome.If 10% of students in a 1,000-student community contribute content on a regular basis, that community can still be vibrant. Community lurkers will still have plenty to read, and those driving the content will always have someone to chat with. On the other hand, small communities are often ghost towns. If 10% of students in a 10-student community actively participate, you've got one lonely student producing one-off content for a disinterested cadre. If the gathering is too small, the party will inevitably underwhelm.
- Make your co-curricular communities discoverable. Students should be empowered to seek out and join co-curricular communities that suit their interests. For this reason, we recommend that you make co-curricular communities discoverable. Discoverable communities are visible in the Discover tab and can be joined in one of two ways: by requesting permission to join (if the community is set to "Private") or by joining straightaway (if the community is set to "Public"). Only network members can discover communities inside their network; hence, you needn't worry about outsiders finding and joining your co-curricular communities even if your communities are set to "Public".
- Place your communities in the appropriate network. For reasons of accessibility and administrative efficiency, it is essential that each of your co-curricular communities is placed in the most appropriate network. The appropriateness of a network is determined by its student population, by the permissions that govern communities in that network, and by who is the "head honcho" of that network. While you can move communities between networks after the fact, it's best to give your community a proper home upon creation.
- Give students a dedicated network for student-managed co-curricular communities. One of the greatest limiting factors on admin-run co-curricular communities is the day-to-day burden of community administration. Not every institution has a large group of student life administrators who can dedicate time to creating content and conversing with students. At the same time, administrators are often reticent to hand the reins over to students, fearing that students will behave badly. But in Yellowdig, you don't have to choose between 100% admin-controlled and 100% student-controlled communities. You can create partitioned networks in Yellowdig in which students can create or manage communities that are passively monitored by college administrators, faculty members, or other relevant authorities. You can block students from creating posts with vulgar language (Settings → Moderation), and you can immediately receive notifications when students flag other students' posts as inappropriate, off-topic, plagiarized, or worrisome. Because students know that instructors and administrators are watching, abusive behavior is extremely rare. Don't let administrative limitations or overblown worries about student behavior prevent you from creating engaging co-curricular communities that connect students to each other and to your institution.