Prospective Yellowdig users sometimes presume that platforms like Yellowdig are best suited for the humanities and ill-suited for mathematics and the hard sciences. That presumption is false. At its core, Yellowdig is a community-building platform dedicated to fostering intellectual collaboration. As anyone with a finite Erdős number will tell you, collaboration is crucial to the advancement of mathematics and science. While STEM conversations might take on a somewhat different structure than conversations in the humanities, the norms of cooperation, independent verification, and peer review are the same. While getting the most out of Yellowdig might require a STEM-specific approach, Yellowdig is neither more nor less suited to the humanities than to STEM.
These best practices are based on lessons we've learned from STEM instructors, some of whom we'll hear from later on in this module, and on some lesser known (but no less powerful) capabilities of the Yellowdig platform.
Top 5 Best Practices (in no particular order)
- Post practice sets, and allow students to collaborate. Yellowdig allows students to work together on problem sets, which is particularly helpful for online or hybrid courses where students would otherwise be isolated. Yellowdig's LaTeX functionality makes it easy to print formulas in posts and comments. You can also use Yellowdig's group function to divide students into more intimate study groups. By toggling "public visibility" on and off, you can alternate between asynchronous breakout sessions and large group discussions.
- Encourage students to ask questions. If scientists and mathematicians never asked questions, scientific advancement would cease. Yet students often demur from raising questions for fear of being marked down or looking "dumb" in front of their peers. Yellowdig Communities are ideal environments for rewarding students for raising questions, identifying difficult problems, and taking concrete steps to get "unstuck" with the help of peers, TAs, and instructors. Encouraging students to raise questions gives other students the opportunity to answer those questions, making students less dependent on each other and more committed to peer-to-peer collaboration.
- Take advantage of . LaTeX is used widely by mathematicians, scientists, logicians, and formal philosophers. It elegantly formats formulae and seamlessly integrates formulae with surrounding text. Yellowdig's formula tool converts LaTeX snippets into readable formulae. If you or your students already work in LaTeX, it's easy to take what you've already written and inline it into Yellowdig posts and comments.
- Take advantage of Draw. While LaTeX is powerful, it has a steep learning curve. If you or your students prefer a hand-drawn approach to writing formulae, use Yellowdig's Draw function. You can easily write and annotate your own formulae or others' formulae. You can also combine approaches by annotating formulae that were originally written in LaTeX.
- Allow students to relate course topics to real-world examples. Successful Yellowdig STEM instructors balance problem sets with more open-ended discussions. For example, no class on probability would be complete without a discussion of the Monty Hall problem. If a student wants to share a link to an interactive simulation, let them! They'll learn from it. One of the strengths of Yellowdig is that it allows students to learn in different ways via different mediums. Sharing relevant content, including programs and videos, facilitates learning and adds a bit of fun to your course.