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VoiceThread allows teachers to upload, share, and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files, and videos. Teachers and students can leave comments and use annotation tools to mark up the presented material. With VoiceThread, teachers and students can comment on the material at their convenience.


VoiceThread Word Cloud

VoiceThread Feedback Word Cloud,

created with


My department recently conducted a workshop on VoiceThread. The workshop included a panel of three faculty from diverse disciplines who discussed how they use VoiceThread in their courses. This post is going to highlight some of the important takeaways. It's not a how to for implementing VoiceThread into your online course. For information on how to use VoiceThread in Canvas, check out these resources:

Using VoiceThread in your Online Class

Using VoiceThread for Students

How To: Using VoiceThread LTIOne with Canvas

How is VoiceThread Used

VoiceThread can be used in so many different ways, as evidenced by the examples provided by faculty, including:

  • Displaying work for feedback - student work can be displayed for feedback, such as in a graphic design or art class.
  • Discussing techniques, approaches, readings - media (images, text, audio) can be posted and discussed.
  • Interacting with classmates - students can dialogue with each other in an asynchronous format.
  • Improving comprehension - teachers can use VoiceThread to explore difficult concepts in more detail. They can use voice comments and the doodle tool to explain complex concepts.
  • Homework, quizzes, or answering questions from a prompt - comments can be moderated, so that no one sees them, except the teacher. That way, students can't see what their peers said in response to a teacher prompt.

To see VoiceThread in action, check out some featured VoiceThreads in higher education.


What's to like about VoiceThread?

One of the major benefits of VoiceThread is that it can be integrated with Canvas, so that students and instructors don't have to log in to the platform separately. Also, the VoiceThread gradebook can be integrated with the Canvas gradebook.


Another major pro is that the tools allows for asynchronous interactions. VoiceThread offers flexibility in terms of when and how users can reply to comments. Other pros include:

  • Easier and faster to explain using video
  • Users have multiple takes and are able to redo a video reply, if they don't like the way the first one turned out
  • Users can read and revise comments as much as necessary
  • Students have more time to organize their thoughts
  • Different viewpoints can be shared
  • Users have the flexibility to type/record comments


What are some difficulties of using VoiceThread?

The major cons that I've heard primarily have to do with software of technology issues. To mitigate this, I suggest to faculty using VoiceThread to provide a test VoiceThread, or make sure that the first VoiceThread assignment is low-stakes, and to be more flexible and understanding the first time around.


Aside from technical difficulties, the issue I hear most often in terms of the interface is that students don't initially recognize how to navigate through the slides, so providing introductory or orientation material to the tool is helpful.


Finally some students feel uncomfortable in front of the camera or they have trouble finding a quiet place to record their video or audio comments. Modeling naturalness or imperfection is a great way to help students feel more comfortable. If it isn't necessary to require audio or video, be flexible and let students reply with text comments, if they prefer.


Why use VoiceThread?

Another question I hear a lot is why use VoiceThread, when you can just use a discussion board, especially since, in Canvas, the discussion board allows students to reply with audio or video comments. Here are a few reasons:

  • It is difficult to students to embed an image in Canvas discussions, and even if they do, students who are critiquing the image don't have an easy way to zoom in on the details. VoiceThread allows users to zoom in.
  • VoiceThread includes a doodle tool, so that users can annotate the media they are discussing.
  • VoiceThead includes an option for students to leave comments by calling on their phone. Canvas discussions require audio comments be recorded and then uploaded.
  • VoiceThread allows comments to be moderated.
  • VoiceThread allows comments to be left on each slide of the presentation, so you can have multiple threads within a single VoiceThread.


VoiceThread and Accessibility

Many people voice accessibility concerns as they learn about or use VoiceThread. Because VoiceThread comments can be in video or audio format, this can be problematic for students with visual or hearing impairments.


VoiceThread Universal, an accessible alternative to the VoiceThread platform, can be enabled for students who use a screen reader. The universal platform optimized for use with screen reader technology.


While VoiceThread Universal addresses webpage accessibility, it doesn't address the need for captions on video and audio comments and alt text on images. For a resource that discusses how to address this concern, see Penn State's Tips for making VoiceThread accessible.


To learn even more about VoiceThread and accessibility, check out some of these resources:



VoiceThread is an excellent way to bring the human element into your online and hybrid courses.


Happy VoiceThreading! If you have any VoiceThread resources, please share them in the comments!


Additional VoiceThread Resources

CI VoiceThread Faculty Toolkit

I posted a couple of questions regarding grading MyLab content in Canvas the other day to a thread called What are your experiences with Pearson MyLab LTI?:


Can I change the points to 0 points after the grade sync, so that the assignment is extra credit?

Do anyone have any tips for making the MyLab assignments extra credit without using weighted grading?


I didn't wait for a response to before seeking advice from our Pearson contact, who shared some useful information that I wanted to share with any one who might be interested:


"Canvas has not been equipped to read gradebook schematics from MyLab. It only imports raw points. In the past, point values could not be manipulated when integrating to the Canvas gradebook. It was purely the value of the number of questions. 


And, what I've seen is that changing the point value for integrated publisher assignments won't hold... Canvas could have made updates this summer & there may be improvements that I'm not yet aware of. 


The only way to manipulate value in the Canvas gradebook that I'm aware of is through the weights."


As suspected, it looks like we'll have to use weighted grading. As the term progresses, I'll update this post with new information as we discover it.

How does one effectively train faculty on a new LMS?


Training faculty, especially in a large organization with diverse faculty needs is challenging to say the least. I work at a community college with full-time, part-time, and adjunct faculty who teach online, hybrid, and web-enhanced face-to-face courses. LMS usage runs the gamut here as does experience level and training and support preferences.


So, how does one meet everyone's training needs and do an effective job?


We focused on making our training fully online (with optional workshop and appointment hours), self-paced, and asynchronous. We all know that faculty have busy schedules with many demands on their time.


Some other features of our course:

  • It follows universal design (UDL) best practices. For example, we offer multiple ways to learn the training content – video, reading, etc. 
  • It's visually pleasing.
  • The material is chunked and meaningfully organized.
  • The course allows for self-directed consumption of learning materials, while also using requirements, so that learners can track their progress.
  • It offers authentic assessment opportunities. Participants are evaluated on their ability to build out parts of a course.
  • The content dynamically updates when embedded webpages are changed. Canvas Community webpages are embedded and update in our course when they are updated by Instructure, which means less maintenance for the course developers and more time to support faculty.
  • It demonstrates good design and pedagogy.
  • It uses badging to reward faculty who complete the course. Certified Canvas users can share their badge on their social media networks.


How do we know it's working?


Ninety-five percent of faculty surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with their training on Canvas. Participants have been able to access the level of support they need to complete the course. For example, novice users supplement the online course with a workshop or one-on-one appointment with online learning staff. Participants who have used Canvas elsewhere can demonstrate their skills with an existing or practice site. Some participants complete the course in a day; others complete the course slowly over a period of months.


We don't attempt to teach course participants everything about building a course in Canvas. We show them the basics and empower them with the tools the need to learn more when they're ready.


Are you working on a Canvas training course and looking for inspiration?


Our Canvas Certification course can be found in Canvas Commons. Please check it out and leave us a review. We're always looking for ways to improve.


Canvas Certification course in commons

I had an instructor ask me recently whether it was possible to create an assignment in the Grade Book via an Excel upload. I couldn't find an answer by searching the community, so I tested it out myself. I figured that I should share the results of my testing and the steps for anyone who might be interested.



This is probably best for an on-ground or hybrid course since the assignment is created in Canvas as a "no submission" assignment by default.



  1. Export current gradebook
  2. Add a column to your file
  3. Add a title for the assignment and points possible in the appropriate fields
  4. Input student grades for assignment (if you don't have grades available yet, type a space into the field; you'll get an error message if you don't put anything in the field)
  5. Save your file as a .CSV
  6. Import file into grade book (note: you will be prompted to confirm that you are creating a new assignment)


Good luck!

Heather Garcia

Groups Decoded

Posted by Heather Garcia Sep 28, 2015

While I love working on Canvas and teaching others how to use the platform, one thing that I found confusing that also seems to regularly confuse the new users I work with is that the term "Group" is used in a lot of different circumstances.


I recently created an infographic to help "decode" all of the different types of groups in Canvas. If you can relate to our struggle, feel free to check it out below.


Here's my summary of each type of group:


Quiz Question Groups

Quiz question groups contain questions and can be used to randomize the question set each student encounters on an exam.

How do I create a quiz with a question group to randomize quiz questions?

How do I create a quiz with a question group linked to a question bank?


Assignment Groups

Assignment groups contain tasks or assessments, such as discussions and quizzes. Assignment groups are used to organize content, control how each group is weighted, and to set up other rules.

How do I add an assignment group in a course?


Outcome Groups

Outcome groups are used to organize multiple related outcomes.

How do I create outcome groups for a course?


Student (People) Groups

Student groups can be created for projects, discussions, or other collaborative activities.

What are Groups?


Appointment Groups

Appointment groups are created in the calendar and allow you to block off time when students can sign up for an appointment with you.

How do I add a Scheduler appointment group in the Scheduler page?


Groups Infographic Final.png

An accessible PDF version of the infographic is attached.

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