Last year when I was presented with the opportunity to develop an online Spanish course, I had before me the task of finding a tool that would allow my students to communicate asynchronously and record their voices for paired dialogues. While I had researched a number of different possibilities, including learning management systems for language learners, I was not keen on the idea that my students would have to jump back and forth between two learning management systems to complete their weekly assignments. My budget was also limited and I could not invest in any tool that would require University support since the Spanish course was being piloted for the first time. I needed to find a solution that would be both easy to manage for me and my students. That solution was VoiceThread.
What is VoiceThread?
VoiceThread is a web-based, collaborative tool that holds images, documents, and videos in a slide show format. Students can leave comments on the slides up to five different ways: text, audio with a microphone or phone, or a webcam. For the purpose of my course, my students only needed to leave audio comments so that they could record the lines of their dialogues and role plays.
Above: an example of how VoiceThread was used in my course.
One of the key features that sold me on VoiceThread for my course is the reordering comments feature. When students initially record their lines for the dialogue, their lines are out of order. The reordering comments feature allows the student to place the recordings in the correct order with a simple drag and drop process. This feature is ideal for asynchronous collaboration.
Another nice feature of VoiceThread is that it can be embedded in the learning management system. This feature makes it possible for students to make comments on the VoiceThread without ever having to leave the course shell. For students who are less comfortable with technology, having all activities in one learning space is a great advantage.
Student Privacy & Publishing Options
VoiceThread also has very complete privacy settings. With a Single Instructor account, I have access to the group feature which allows me to select which VoiceThreads my students can view, edit, and make comments on. Even though the VoiceThread is listed as private, a student who has been assigned to that particular VoiceThread will have access to it. When I create the VoiceThreads for the course, I also make sure that the Sharing page is hidden so that the VoiceThread itself cannot be shared with other students. The options I select are visible in the images below.
What Did Students Have to Say?
At the conclusion of the semester, the feedback regarding VoiceThread was overwhelmingly positive. Students found the tool easy to use and there were only two technical issues with students during the seven week course. Students told me, “Definitely keep the VoiceThreads!”
Would You Like to Use VoiceThread?
For the next two semesters, QU Online is piloting VoiceThread in online courses. VoiceThread can be used in a multitude of ways for collaborative student work and other activities such as:
- digital story telling
- student introductions
- instructor or single student presentations
- feedback and commentary on visually-based student work
My example of pair dialogues for a language course is only one example of how VoiceThread can be utilized for collaborative assignments. If you would like to use VoiceThread in your online course for a collaborative assignment or for your own presentations, please contact QU Online and we will be more than happy to talk to you about using the tool in your course.