VoiceThread for Interactive Online Teaching
By: Ashley J. Holmes, Ph.D. (Department of English & CETLOE)
In recovery from 2020 technology overload, I’ve tried to slow down this semester to be more intentional with how I’m using technology in my teaching. I wanted something that would help make my online classes more interactive–something to get students turning on those webcams! I stumbled upon VoiceThread.
If you haven’t heard of or seen the program VoiceThread before, click below for a 1-minute video preview of how it works.
Pretty cool, huh? And, even better, it’s one of those programs that integrates with iCollege and that GSU’s CETLOE team can support you with.
There are lots of things you can do with VoiceThread in your teaching and for your students’ learning, but I’ll focus on two: 1) interactive online lectures, and 2) peer review of visual- or presentation-based student projects.
The first time I used VoiceThread was during a synchronous online Webex meeting with my undergraduate students. I’m teaching Visual Rhetoric this semester, so we spend a lot of time looking at images together and discussing how they work rhetorically to communicate messages to an audience. VoiceThread is perfect for this kind of thing–you upload an image or a PowerPoint presentation and then students can interact with the content, adding their comments or analyses. I actually used Webex breakout rooms to have students work in small groups, and then they uploaded typed, spoken, or video comments to the image. Each group worked on a different visual analysis step, and, by the end of class, we played the VoiceThread and could read/hear/see other groups’ work.
I was thrilled at how VoiceThread transformed my synchronous online teaching session from one-way, teacher-talking-at-students interaction to a more engaging, interactive, and immersive experience.
While I started using it as a way to make synchronous learning more interactive, I think it could actually work really well for asynchronous work–students can just add their VoiceThread contributions throughout the assignment’s open discussion period (almost like a discussion board), and then you can play through the full set at the end of the assignment. I appreciate the options for audio or video; it’s a nice change from the threaded discussion board on iCollege.
I also used VoiceThread for students to conduct peer reviews of each others’ visual analysis projects. Again, VoiceThread works particularly well with image-based or presentation-based projects, so students pre-recorded drafts of their image annotations and then shared them with each other for peer review using a series of instructor questions. Their peer reviewers could hop on the VoiceThread platform to drop their comments directly within the presentation. I organized all of this through iCollege’s platform.
While I’d like to keep experimenting with VoiceThread for peer review, I found that students needed a lot of instructions to get going with VoiceThread. Once they got the hang of it, it wasn’t too difficult for them, but it was a little challenging with a fully online class to offer the kind of support some students needed early-on.
If I were to recommend a place for an instructor to start with VoiceThread, I’d suggest starting with an interactive lecture or presentation that you create but that allows students to comment using the technology. They’ll need some practice before taking over the reigns to create a VoiceThread for themselves.
Whether for interactive lectures, peer review, or some other teaching activity, VoiceThread is one of those technologies I can actually see myself continuing to use even when we go back to teaching face-to-face.
If you’ve used VoiceThread in your classes, let us know in the comments what assignments you used it for and how things went!