VoiceThread is an online platform that allows you to put digital media such as images, videos, and documents at the center of an asynchronous conversation. VoiceThread allows people to contribute to discussions using a keyboard, microphone, web cam, telephone, or uploaded audio file.

VoiceThread is not free. A license for an instructor and 50 students is about $90. Other pricing models are available

Have a look at this VoiceThread as an example. You'll notice that in the middle of the screen is the media which is being commented on. Around that media are icons of the instructor and students. Click the icons, and you will either hear or see that person's comment. Click the arrow at the bottom right of the media, and it will advance to the next media, with new comments surrounding it. You can also write or draw on an image or video, as demonstrated here

Benefits

As this issue of Faculty Focus suggests, VoiceThread provides these benefits: 

  • Students feel a greater sense of being part of a community. This is especially important in large or online courses. 
  • Students' are more aware that the instructor is present in their learning experience.
  • Students enjoy having a variety of options for commenting (text, audio, phone, web cam).
  • Students become more actively involved through an ongoing interactions with instructional content and their peers. 
  • Discussions feel less hierarchical and linear, and more free and open.
  • Discussions can be more nuanced: audio-based contributions allow for tone of voice to be communicated. 

Evidence of Efficacy

A study of VoiceThread funded by the Sloan Consortioum found the following: 

  • 98% of students strongly agreed or agreed that seeing and hearing their instructor through video comments increased the sense that she was more actively present in their learning experience.
  • 88% strongly agreed or agreed that VoiceThread enhanced their ability to understand visual concepts (as opposed to learning in an LMS alone).
  • 80% strongly agreed or agreed that VoiceThread contributed to establishing a sense of community in the class. 

You can hear and read comments made by students about VoiceThread here

"I love VoiceThread. It is very user-friendly. I felt like this was an assignment that the students enjoyed doing." -- Jenny Vojtko, Modern Foreign Languages, North Carolina Central University. 

Best Practices

Use VoiceThread for purposes such as the following:

  • Use VoiceThread to create opportunities for students to have a discussion that takes place around a digital artifact or series of digital artifacts: for example, an image, a video, a piece of text, and so on. You could also do this with a discussion forum in a learning management system, but the advantage of VoiceThread is that it keeps the object of discussion front and centre. Here's one example, and here's another and another
  • Use VoiceThread to deliver an online lecture that features slides with text. Students can ask questions (asynchronously) throughout the presentation, via microphone or text. Here's an example
  • Use VoiceThread to feature video clips which students comment on. As the videos play, comments that have already been added appear at the appropriate time in the video; that is, if a student comments on something that is said in the video at, say, 2:35, then his or her comment appears at that moment. Here's an example
  • In online courses, use VoiceThread to have students introduce themselves to one another. Here's an example
  • Faculty members can also use VoiceThread to generate discussion pertaining to committee work or at conferences. Here's an example

Guidelines for Comments

  • Provide your students with a tutorial that shows them how to use VoiceThread.
  • Make your course VoiceThreads private so only your students can access them. 
  • Provide your students with specific guidelines about what you expect regarding their contributions to VoiceThread. How many comments should they add? How often should they post? Would you like them to include personal anecdotes or dry facts? Should they simply respond to the prompt your provide, or would you like them to propose further questions to their peers?
  • Check in on your course VoiceThreads while they are still in progress, and give formative feedback on what the students have contributed. If needed, redirect the discussion or offer counter-arguments to students’ ideas.
  • At the end of each VoiceThread assignment, ask your students to synthesize what they have learned from the discussions or what perspectives they have gained from their peers' comments. They can email you this synthesis or they can post it in a discussion forum in the learning management system. 

More Resources

Related Tools

At present, there appears to be no other online tools that emulate the functionality of VoiceThread. 

Questions?

Contact Dr. Mark Morton

 

teaching tipsThis Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: VoiceThread. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.