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.
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:
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.
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: