Can you Increase Student Engagement?


A Beta Test of Yellowdig!

Converting to Online Teaching
A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions


By John Cable, Director

Project Management Center for Excellence
A. James Clark School of Engineering
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland, USA


Crises forces, and also creates opportunity for, change! The COVID-19 pandemic compelled campus classes online, but many faculty simply moved their lectures to online platforms.  They did not understand that teaching online is a totally different educational paradigm! The result is that, sadly, many classes are judged as unengaging and the content difficult to learn by students.

While online education is an established and growing trend, the pandemic has changed education forever, resulting in what could become a permanent shift away from classroom instruction in favor of virtual learning platforms. However, this is only the case if classes are designed using a blended model as discussed in the September[1] article “Blended Learning Classroom Guidance.” This focuses on increasing student engagement through active learning.

“Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Instructors who adopt a student-centered approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement, which then helps everyone more successfully achieve the course’s learning objectives”. [2]

For those questioning whether the continued adoption of virtual learning platforms can deliver the same educational value to students as in-person learning, I’m sharing my thoughts about an online teaching and learning platform called Yellowdig. The University of Maryland Center for Project Management launched a beta test of Yellowdig in the fall 2020 semester, to establish whether this platform could be used to promote the creation of engaged learning communities in our online courses.

What is Yellowdig?

Yellowdig is a virtual collaborative teaching and learning application that allows students to share relevant sources on class topics. It can be as dynamic and as engaging as the other social media platforms students use in their personal lives.

Students are incentivized by receiving points for their participation, based on the quality of their posted content. Peer interaction, both in and out of class time, is encouraged through Yellowdig’s community-building tools. The platform allows professors to track students’ engagement and participation plus share content.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles by the Director of the University of Maryland’s Project Management Center for Excellence provides information and advice for converting from traditional in-person classes to online teaching, based on their experience before and during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.

How to cite this paper: Cable, J. H. (2021). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions – Can you Increase Student Engagement? A Beta Test of Yellowdig! PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/pmwj102-Feb2021-Cable-increase-student-engagement-with-yellodig-FINAL.pdf

 About the Author

John Cable

Director, Project Management Center for Excellence
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


 John Cable is Director of the Project Management Center for Excellence in the A.James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, where he is also a professor and teacher of several graduate courses in project management. His program at the University of Maryland offers masters and PhD level programs focused on project management. With more than 1,300 seats filled annually with students from many countries, including more than 40 PhD students, the program is the largest graduate program in project management at a major university in the United States.

John Cable served in the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy in 1980, where he was involved with developing energy standards for buildings, methods for measuring energy consumption, and managing primary research in energy conservation.  As an architect and builder, Mr. Cable founded and led John Cable Associates in 1984, a design build firm. In 1999 he was recruited by the University of Maryland’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to create and manage a graduate program in project management. In his role as founder and director of the Project Management Center for Excellence at Maryland, the program has grown to offer an undergraduate minor, master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. Information about the Project Management Center for Project Management at the University of Maryland can be found at www.pm.umd.edu.

In 2002, PMI formed the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Educational Programs (GAC).  Mr. Cable was appointed to that inaugural board where he served as vice chair.  In 2006, he was elected as chairman, a role he held through 2012.  As Chair of the PMI GAC, John led the accreditation of 86 project management educational programs at 40 institutions in 15 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and the Asia Pacific Region. John was awarded PMI’s 2012 Distinguished Contribution Award for his leadership at the GAC.  He can be contacted at jcable@umd.edu.

To view other works by John Cable, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/john-cable/

[1] Cable, J. H. (2020). Converting to Online Teaching: A series of short guidance articles for educators and institutions – Blended Learning Classroom Guidance, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Cable-converting-to-teaching-online-5-blended-learning.pdf

[2] University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning, see https://teaching.washington.edu/topics/engaging-students-in-learning/#:~:text=Research%20has%20demonstrated%20that%20engaging,and%20promotes%20meaningful%20learning%20experiences



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