Voicethread

Introduction

Voicethread is an online tool that works through the web browser, for uploading images, slides, videos or PDFs and annotating, recording, or having asynchronous audio, video or text-based discussions about them. 

Here are some examples: a demonstration of interactive Voicethread, a class lecture, a video-based announcement, and a student group activity

You can even provide an introduction, insert text comments with a link to a YouTube video. Here's an example. (Note: importing YouTube videos is no longer supported, but you can link out to them via text comments)

It is possible using Voicethread to have asynchronous role-playing, debate, dialog, group presentations, analysis of images or other media, and Q&A.

As you can see from the examples, Voicethreads play in a browser window by link (much like a YouTube video), and they do not require downloading, exporting, or re-uploading after you make further changes. The links you create to Voicethread presentations can persist from semester to semester, year to year. 

UMB has an enterprise site-license so getting started is easy. 

SSW Faculty Quote

"It was surprisingly SO easy! I couldn’t believe I was able to do it all in the very first pass, and better yet, I did it all from my phone! Thank you, the tutorial was fantastic."

Getting Started

To get started: go to https://umaryland.voicethread.com and log in with your UMID and Duo. (It's possible if you are already logged in to other campus systems, you will be logged right in.) If you have a previous account associated with your @ssw email address then you will need to complete the following:

2. You will then need to verify the account via email. Launch Outlook and respond to the Voicethread email.

Blackboard Integration

There is also a Blackboard integration, which allows you to do create course groups, add voice threads directly into your course, and do grade Voicethread assignments. More information on that is hereNote: this website is still being implemented and in development. Please note: if you use the Blackboard integration, it may limit access to your threads to ONLY the people enrolled in the Blackboard course, and they may access them only from within the course. You may want to bypass that and use the info below to create your threads and share them with students instead. The Blackboard integration is wonky and we are not recommending it at this time

Creating a VoiceThread

The 4 basic steps of Voicethread presentations are: Create > Add Media > Comment > and Share.

Click Create to create a new VoiceThread presentation. Before you add media, we have some recommendations for slides you may add below:

Preparing Your Slides for Voicethread

If you are going to add slides into a blank thread that we created for you, here's how:

You can also add hyperlinks (as many as you want) in Voicethread text comments (also as many as you want) on each slide.

How to Add Media to a New or Blank Thread in Edit Mode

Record or Upload a WebCam Video

You can record or upload a webcam video (rather than comments on a slide) in Voicethread. (Keep in mind, this is different than adding a video comment onto a slide, which is normally smaller and off to the side of a slide.)

Renaming a Thread

When there are blank voice threads in your account, it is a good idea to rename them to something that matches the content. 

3. The Thread Settings window appears. Click the Title field and type in a new name.

4. When complete, click Save.

Importing Slides from Google Slides

Once your slides are complete, you will want to download them as a PDF for uploading into Voicethread. (Note: animations, videos, and transitions will not work in Voicethread.) 

To download: 

Click on File menu> Download as…  and choose  PDF Document (.pdf)

Take note of where you save it and what it is named!

Commenting on a VoiceThread

In VoiceThread, you can comment in several ways: using voice (with a microphone, telephone or, on pro accounts, uploaded audio file), text, or video (via a webcam).

To comment, you simply click on the (+) comment button at the bottom center of the VoiceThread page,

and then decide which type of comment you want to leave:

Click on the appropriate icon, and then follow the prompts to leave your comment. *You will need to Allow Flash to access your microphone and/or your camera. Once your comment is recorded, you will have an option to either save, cancel or record more which adds to the comment.

Note

We highly recommend against continuing from slide to slide while you continue to record. Simply record 1 or more comments per slide and save them without moving on to the next slide while recording. Also, we recommend more short comments, rather than fewer longer comments. The reason is because if you need to update something, it is far easier to delete and re-record shorter comments. Likewise, we encourage you to keep information about specifics like assignments, activities, discussion questions, etc. in separate comments from "lecture content" whenever possible. These tend to need to be updated more frequently, and having them as separate slides and/or comments will make this far easier in the long run. 

Some very important audio tips:

For detailed instructions on each of these commenting methods, see the help article: https://voicethread.com/howto/category/commenting-web-application/ (We also have a video available to demonstrate commenting on a VoiceThread. )

If your students will be commenting on your VoiceThread, you have the option to moderate their contributions, but understand this requires someone with editing rights to review each comment before it is visible to everyone.

Deleting or Moving Comments

Comments can be deleted by clicking the trash can icon while viewing a comment.

Comments can be moved (reordered) by dragging and dropping the comment icon.

Sharing a VoiceThread

Time to get the link to share your voicethread! Whenever you need students or colleagues to view and/or add comments to your thread, you can get a link to share with them. Here's how:

4. VERY IMPORTANT STEP: Click Who has access and select Anyone can view  (or Anyone can comment if you want someone to add comments) using the pulldown menu, and click Save changes

Note

If you fail to change this permission setting, people will be unable to view and/or comment on your presentation. They will receive an error box and will have to request access to your presentation.

If you want to test that the link is available to students, open a new/different browser, in which you are NOT logged into Voicethread, and paste the URL into that browser to see if it plays when not logged in. You will see "sign in" in the upper right corner, rather than your email address. If you see your email address, you are already logged into Voicethread:

Sharing Securely with Edit Rights

It is possible to share with other instructors or the IDEA Team with Edit rights by doing the following:

Sharing a Thread with a Group

Another way to share a thread with a particular group is simply to drag a thread from the right side of your screen over the name of a group in the left column. 

You will then be presented with the option to share and/or make a copy of the thread, as well as what type of access you want to give the group: view, comment and/or edit.

If you create a thread on your own, the easiest way to share it with IDEA Team is to share or copy it to a group that we are in, and click Edit, to make sure we have Edit access to help you and your students. 

Copying a thread will also reset all the dates for attached comments to the current date.

Post into Blackboard:

First, see "Sharing a Voicethread" above, to get the link that you need to share with your students. You can add the link to your thread as a content item in a Blackboard folder known as a "web link" and paste the URL (from Sharing a Voicethread above) into that link for students to access. They do not need any special software or accounts if you have done all of the above - it should just open in their web browser like any video. Use the Build Content menu to choose "Web Link" and paste in the share URL to your thread:

OR you can embed it as a hyperlink in any text field in Blackboard: 

Another (different) way to provide the link is to just insert a hypertext link in a Blackboard item. To do this, go to the discussion forum, announcement, email tool, or item in Blackboard where you want to link to the thread. 

To insert a simple hypertext link, type the text to click on or paste the link in and highlight it, and use the link icon in the toolbar: 

You can add the link to your thread as a content item in a Blackboard folder known as a "web link" and paste the URL into that link for students to access. They do not need any special software or accounts if you have done all of the above - it should just open in their web browser like any video. Use the Build Content menu to choose "Web Link" and paste in the share URL to your thread:


Embedding Voicethread into Blackboard pages:

Now, back in Blackboard, Edit or create the item where you want to embed the thread. 

Type in the intro text to introduce students to the presentation/concepts. This will help you locate where to paste the embed code.

Click the < > icon in the toolbar to open the HTML editor.

Now, in the HTML editor, locate the intro text you typed, and in the line below it, paste the Voicethread embed code you copied and click Save to finish.

You will then see the thread embedded in your page, and click Submit to finalize this process. 

Using Voicethread for Student Projects

Many instructors use Voicethread for student presentation individual or group-based projects. If you do so, please include something like this message with your instructions to students, so that students have the information they will need to successfully navigate to and use UMB Voicethread:

Be sure to read and use the tutorials for students on using Voicethread: (https://sites.google.com/site/sswideateam/students/voicethread-for-students)

Updating a VoiceThread Slide

Note: The below function requires EDIT access to the Voicethread. If you created it yourself, you have this. If IDEA Team created the thread for you, we may need to provide Edit access instead of just Comment access for you to be able to do this. Please email us for Edit access! Be be careful! Anything you delete is gone - there's no versioning! 

With EDIT access, you can update either the slides or the comments on VoiceThreads at any time. Let's say you have a narrated slide with a typo and want to only replace the slide, but keep the audio comment. Here's how:

Part 1: Preparing the updated slides:

Repeat for any slides you wish to update

Atrributions

Portions of this content reproduced from JHSPH 

https://sites.google.com/site/ctltteachingtoolkit/resources/voicethread/voicethread-how-to-faculty-ta


Voicethread and Screen Readers: Universal Voicethread

Voicethread has released a Universal tool that allows users who require screen reader support to have easier access to Voicethreads.

Previously, the Instructor had to provide a separate link to the Universal Voicethread, however now the onus is on the student to choose whether they wish to receive all Voicethreads via the Universal tool or via the Standard Voicethread tool.

To learn more about Voicethread Universal, visit the Universal Support page.

Student Introductions and Comments: Copying for Each Semester

Many instructors use Voicethread as an ice breaker and great way to have students introduce themselves to each other asynchronously, because they can do so on their own time, BUT can use audio and video so you can hear their voice and see their face/body language. This also makes VT a great tool for asynchronous role playing, scenario responses or simulated cases. 

However, it is not possible to re-use the same student introduction threads from year to year, they need to be Copied and reset with a new link for each semester or year. You cannot simply delete old comments from students and re-use the same link each semester, because students from previous semesters will both receive email notifications of the new messages AND be able to see new student responses in classes in which the old students are not enrolled. Therefore, we ask all instructors who use VT for student introductions or student comment interaction, to copy/duplicate and replace all such VT links with new ones, each semester. The IDEA Team will assist you with this process. Please reach out at least 2-3 weeks prior to the semester to have this set up. 

Please note that threads which are "view only" and which do not include student comments (such as lecture recordings, video recordings, or other media that students only view) do NOT need to be copied and reset each semester, and can continue to be re-used with the same links in your Blackboard course.