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VoiceThread Tips and How-To (Faculty & TA)

Why VoiceThread

Why would you use VoiceThread in a course?  Well, there are several reasons. It's relatively easy to use, and you don't need any special software or tools.  It's fun to use, and allows you to inject a bit of "personality" into some of your content and assignments.  You can post a variety of media (slides, images, videos), and can comment on/narrate them using voice, video, or text.  It's collaborative, so you can your colleagues, or groups of students can all participate in the creation of a single presentation. 

NOTE: The Teaching Toolkit has a comprehensive overview of all recording options available to faculty, including professionally produced recordings, available on the Recording Options page.

Use Cases

Here are some of the use cases we've thought of for VoiceThread in courses at JHSPH:
  • Individual student presentations
  • Group student presentations
  • Discussion of a journal article (or other new/relevant research)
  • Last-minute lecture additions
  • Mini-lectures
  • Interactive presentations (ask viewers questions mid-lecture, and allow responses)
  • Student introductions
  • Field placement introductions
For specific techniques related to using VoiceThread as a tool for assessment, see our Best Practices (below).

Of course, the only limits are those of your imagination!  If you want to brainstorm to determine if VoiceThread is the best way to accomplish your educational goal in a course, please talk to an Instructional Designer. 

Here is a page with some examples of the above listed use cases.

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Getting Started

General instructions for using and navigating VoiceThread are available on the tool's website. It’s important to note that some VoiceThread features are incompatible with accessibility success criteria, however the application is available to JHU in its “Universal” version made for screen readers: http://jhu.voicethread.com/universal. In addition, VoiceThread allows for closed captioning. Below are instructions for the standard version of VoiceThread with JHU faculty and students in mind.

Getting Started with VoiceThread

Everyone with a JHED Id automatically has a VoiceThread account.  You will need to log into VoiceThread on our licensed site (jhu.voicethread.com) using your JHED ID.  If a guest lecturer does not have a JHED ID, a faculty, TA, or CTL ID member can create an "empty" VoiceThread on the enterprise site & share the VoiceThread using the guest lecturer's private email address. After the guest is added as a contact to the VoiceThread, they can be assigned editing access. See "Secure Sharing", below.

1.
Go to https://jhu.voicethread.com.  This will direct you to the JHU logon page, where you will enter your JHED ID and password.

2a.
If you do not already have a VoiceThread account associated with your Johns Hopkins (jhsph.edu, jhmi.edu, etc) email, you will be directed immediately to VoiceThread.

2b.
If you already have a VoiceThread account, you will see a notification that you need to merge your old account into the new JHU account.  Simply enter your email address to continue.  You will then be directed to the VoiceThread home page, where you should see any VoiceThreads you previously created or subscribed to.

3. Set up your microphone. You will be required to record audio narration to your presentation, so please be sure that you have a working microphone.  To do this, we highly suggest you use a USB headset microphone. If you have ever participated in a LiveTalk session, the same mic will work for this. Please see the instructions below to set up a microphone on your Mac or PC.

Microphone setup for Windows

Microphone setup for Mac

 http://voicethread.com/share/415/

 http://voicethread.com/share/416/


4. You're now ready to create a VoiceThread! 
For instructions on creating a new VoiceThread, see below.

5.  If you're using VoiceThread as an assignment, create a group for your class (essentially, this is like a folder that you and your students will post presentations in).  See instructions below for creating a group.

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Creating a VoiceThread

Here's how you create a VoiceThread:
  1. First, gather the materials that you will be presenting (presentation, pictures, videos)
    TIP: While you can use a PowerPoint file as your presentation, we have found that saving the presentation as a .pdf file before uploading to VoiceThread often works better. (Also - if you plan to record audio narration/comments for your VoiceThread, we recommend keeping each slide's narration to no longer than a few minutes - so keep this in mind when designing your slides.)
  2. Log into your VoiceThread account
  3. Drag PDFs, slides, photos, videos, etc. onto the "Add Media" icon, or Click on the Add Media icon to see other options, such as adding by URL, webcam photo or video, or other sources. Normally, click "My Computer" and browse to find the files. 
  4. Once your slides are uploaded, then add a comment to each page with the audio that should be included on that slide. 
  5. If your group members need to add slides or comments, share and give them edit abilities. (For more information, see section on sharing.)
  6. If you want to moderate the comments that are contributed to your slides, make certain to "Enable Comment Moderation" in the thread settings. Learn more about comment moderation.
  7. When your presentation is ready, share it with the class. To share, from your "My Voice" page, click and hold on your presentation, and drag it to the group for your course in the left side menu. You should then get a confirmation that the presentation has been shared. 

Video instructions for creating a VoiceThread are available on their website.

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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:
 text (ABC), telephone,  audio (microphone), video (camera), or the up arrow (Pro accounts only) to upload an audio file as an audio comment

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 savecancel  or "record more" which adds to the comment.

Some very important audio tips:

  • To select or change the microphone input and set the volume level for your microphone, control-click or right-click in the VoiceThread box and select "Settings" to pull up the Adobe Flash Settings - then click on the Microphone icon and set the input volume level so that it is an appropriate volume (about 80% on the meter).

  • Test, test, and test: record a couple comments and play them back to see if the audio is an appropriate volume. It would be a good idea to also listen to something else on your computer, such as another lecture, VoiceThread or video to see if the audio in the VoiceThread comment is at about the same volume level.
  • Also - get a good feeling for starting and stopping: are there words cut off at the beginning or end? Too long of a pause before or after speaking? Get a rhythm going for starting and stopping so that you don't have these issues.
  • You can delete and re-record audio or video comments whenever needed - so feel free to do a couple tests before you settle on the final comments.
  • When using a headset, make sure your microphone is a bit off to the side of your mouth, not directly in front of it. This will prevent too many popping P's and hissing S's. Again, do a test and listen to the recorded comment to see if you are getting popping P's or if the microphone sounds too close to your mouth (and you hear too much breathing, etc.)
  • Since you can upload an audio file as a comment, you could also record using Audacity and edit/perfect your recording for each slide before uploading. (Note: Only Pro accounts can upload audio files. Speak with your ID if you need Pro account access.)
  • Plan to not speak more than about a minute or three at a time when narrating. If you seek perfection and mess up 2 minutes into the comment, you will need to delete and start over. Note that you can always save a comment, and add another one. You can add as many comments to a slide as you need.

For detailed instructions on each of these commenting methods, see the help article:
http://voicethread.com/support/howto/VoiceThreads/Commenting/How_do_I_leave_comments_on_a_VoiceThread/

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.

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Updating a VoiceThread Slide

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:

Preparing the updated slides:

  1. Correct the slide in PowerPoint
  2. Click File menu and pull down to: "Save as pictures"
  3. Click "Options"
  4. At the bottom, select "Save current slide only"
  5. Click OK
  6. Select a Format (the default, JPEG will work fine.)
  7. The Save as field may still have the original name of your slide set - we recommend you append the number of the slide to the end of that name. For example: courseintroduction-slide15
  8. Note "Where" it is saving. (We recommend the desktop.)
  9. Click "Save".
  10. Repeat for any slides you wish to update

Now, to VoiceThread:

  1. Log in at jhu.voicethread.com with your JHED ID
  2. Click "VT Home" and locate the thread you wish to update. (It may show up under "Shared with Me" if your ID set up the VoiceThread, or you may need to search for it using the box in the upper left.)
  3. Mouse over the VT and select "Edit"
  4. Mouse over the slide you wish to update and click the Pencil icon
  5. Click "Replace" at the top of the image in the center of your screen
  6. Click Yes to upload a new slide but keep the comments. (You can always replace comments later)
  7. Select the individual updated slide file you saved above.

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Sharing a Voicethread

Collaborating? By default, a VoiceThread is private until an editor chooses to share it. To share threads you have created:
  1. Decide the Playback Options for your VoiceThread. From the Edit view of the VoiceThread you want to share, select the "Playback Settings" from the Options drop-down menu at the top right corner.
    Options menu - Playback Settings

    On the Playback Options list that opens, decide whether or not you want to start playing the tread automatically when someone visits it or whether or not you want to enable comment moderation. Be aware that if comment moderation is on, each comment will have to be reviewed by you (or someone with editing rights) before it can be made visible to everyone.
    Playback Options

  2. Choose a Share option for your VoiceThread from one of the 3 ways below:
    1. From VT Home tab, mouse over a thread and click on Share

    2. From the Edit view click the Share icon

    3. From the Comment view, click the 3 lines in the upper left and choose Share. (see image below)

  3. There are 2 main share modes: Secure and Basic. Decide which you want to use and invite others to visit and even participate in your VoiceThread!
    1. Secure: only works for sharing with people who have VoiceThread accounts, and for whom you have added Contacts. This option is best when you are collaborating with someone to build a VoiceThread, to give them editing rights.
    2. Basic: can generate a link to share with anyone, with the option for them to view only, or to comment on the thread. If you only want to share with people who have the link, follow the directions for Posting your VoiceThread to your course page. You also have the option to make your VoiceThread public by Publishing your VoiceThread.

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Secure Sharing

  1. You can share with selected individual contacts, or with groups. Click "Contacts" or "Groups" accordingly. To add contacts or groups, use the plus (+) icon. 
    Please note about Contacts: it is possible to add a contact for someone who does not even have a VoiceThread account, by simply adding in an email address and name. It is also possible for JHU students, faculty and staff to set up a VoiceThread free account that is actually outside the domain of the jhu.voicethread.com server. You should always encourage first timers to go to jhu.voicethread.com and log in with their JHED ID the very first time they connect to VoiceThread. This will ensure their JHU account is set up, and, once logged in, they will then be able to see their official email address associated with their account in the upper right. It is important that you share with the correct email address, associated with the correct VoiceThread account. Be sure to ask for the correct email address before adding contacts. 

  2. In the left search box, start typing a name for the person or group you want to share with.
  3. Once you have the person or group selected they will appear on the right side.  Then click the icons under "Allow them to..." to toggle: "view, comment, or edit" the thread. (View only = eye, Comment = word bubble, Edit = pencil)
    NOTE: "Edit" gives the person the full ability to edit, update, delete or move slides and comments in the thread. Be very careful to whom you give edit rights. Anyone with edit rights can DELETE A VOICETHREAD entirely, and it is not recoverable.
    Also note: we have unlimited VoiceThreads, so deleting them should not be necessary. 
  4. TIP: We suggest you keep "Notify by email" checked, so that your contact receives an email notification with a link to the VoiceThread.

  5. Click "Share" 

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Posting a VoiceThread to CoursePlus

Another way to share is by simply posting a link to your CoursePlus site or via email. Begin by clicking Share (as noted above) to get the link.
  1. From Secure Mode: Click on "Get a link" (see image under #1 above)
  2. Choose whether you want anyone with the link to be able to View and/or Comment on the thread using the check boxes.

  3. OR - Click on the Basic tab, check the boxes and click "Copy Link"
     
Note that any link with jhu.voicethread.com/ at the beginning will require all viewers to log in with a JHED ID. If you'd rather make it more easily accessible to students (for viewing only) - replace the jhu. with www.  If you plan to have students comment on the thread, it is recommended to stick with the jhu.voicethread link.

Under Basic, you also see Embed. This allows you to get code to embed your thread into a web page. You also see Post - to enable posting on Facebook or Twitter.

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Exporting a VoiceThread

Exporting a VoiceThread is an option to anyone with editing rights. The export creates a video archive of the medium. This video could be used as a lecture or a supplemental resource to a class. Beyond creating the valuable static resource, another benefit of exporting a VoiceThread is that the video can be placed alongside a transcript that might serve to further engage students both in regards to accessibility and in reaching a broader set of learning styles.
 
All VoiceThread users who have edit rights have the ability to export a VoiceThread to an MP4 video file. However, it takes a VoiceThread “credit” to do each export. Be default, all JHU users have a few export credits. For anyone teaching a JHSPH course who needs more export credits, contact CTL Help or your CTL Instructional Designer. Instructions for performing an export are available on the VoiceThread help site.

You can then check the status of the exports and, once ready, download the MP4 file. (We recommend you download the HQ option.) You can then upload the MP4 file to your CoursePlus online library for sharing with students. Or, better yet, ask your Instructional Designer to load the VoiceThread video in your lectures section so we can get a transcript. The transcript will be placed alongside the video plus, if you've provided the ID the original PowerPoint, a PDF of the presentation.

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Groups in VoiceThread

Groups are a bit like folders.  Groups are a quick and easy way to securely share VoiceThreads with many people at once, and using Groups gives you more control over who can see your VoiceThreads.  To create a group, you must have a Pro account.  If you are faculty or TA and need but do not have a Pro account, contact CTL, and we'll upgrade your account.  

VoiceThread has created a thorough step-by-step guide on Creating Groups from both the Groups and Contacts window (accessed under your login identity) and the Sharing window (accessed from an individual VoiceThread). To set up a group initially without being attached to a single VoiceThread, we recommend the following:

  1. Go to the VoiceThread Home tab. 
  2. Click on your email address in the top-right corner of the page.
  3. Select Groups and Contacts from the list.
  4. When the Groups and Contacts window appears, you'll see  Groups and Contacts listed on the left. (Click on any group name to see its members listed on the right.)
  5. At the top of the Groups and Contacts column on the left, click the + Group button,
  6. Once you have entered a name for your Group (a description is optional), click Create Group. You will be prompted to select a banner image for that group before clicking OK. The Group will appear in your list of Groups and Contacts.
    (To edit or delete a group, click on its name in the list first, then click on the "Overview" tab under its banner. Make any necessary edits before selecting Save at the bottom right of the window OR select Delete at the bottom right.)
  7. With the Groups and Contacts window still open, click on the group name under the Groups and Contacts list. To add members to your group, you can give out a link for individuals to enroll themselves OR add members manually. We recommend giving out the link through your course communications. (See VoiceThread's step-by-step instructions on how to add users manually.)
  8. There are two places where you can get this link.  Click on the "Overview" tab (under its banner on the right side) for the selected group.  Click on the "Share the Sign-Up Link" on the right. (This is visible only to the group owner.) This opens another window where you can copy the group sign-up URL.
    OR under the "Members" tab (under the group banner on the right side of the window), click on the "Add Members" button at the bottom right and select "Copy link" to copy the URL.
  9. Paste this link (URL) in an email, an Announcement in your CoursePlus site, or as part of a text written alongside an individual lecture or activity. (Encourage users to make certain they can login to http://jhu.voicethread.com with their JHED ID before clicking on the link!) Once an individual clicks on that link, it will navigate them to the group (after forcing a login to jhu.VoiceThread.com if necessary) and enroll them automatically.
  10. You will need to monitor what type of access the others in the group have to the VoiceThreads you share: read, comment, or edit. Giving Edit rights could allow others in the group to delete a Voicethread inadvertently.
  11. Here is more information on how to remove a single thread from a Group. 

For more information on groups, see the VoiceThread help page on groups and sharing.

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Best Practices

Here are some best practices we've discovered while implementing VoiceThread in courses at JHSPH:

Allow Students to Practice

Since this may be a new tool for many of your students, you don't want their first experience to be a graded one.  We strongly suggest faculty include an introductory practice VoiceThread in any course intending to use VoiceThread for an assignment. 

Practice VoiceThreads should be fun, interactive, and low-stakes.

Here's an example introductory VoiceThread:

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Publicize the use of VoiceThread in advance

Even if VoiceThread will not be used until the end of the course, make sure students are aware at the beginning that they'll be using this new technology.  VoiceThread can be included in the syllabus - the new syllabus tool has a section for "Instructional Technologies Used in this Course" which is a great place to describe your planned use of VoiceThread (or any other technology tool). 

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Make it Fun

VoiceThread is an engaging, interactive tool, but that's only valuable if you use it in ways that are engaging and interactive.  While it can be used to record lectures, you also have the ability to ask questions, post interesting photos and videos, solicit feedback, and foster discussion.  Students have the chance to see pictures and video of each other, and to hear each others' voices, which can create a stronger sense of community, in both online and face-to-face classes. 

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Consider VT as a Tool for Assessment

If students will be submitting their own VoiceThreads as part of an assignment, expectations should be clearly laid out in the instructions. A rubric is a good place to start. Beyond the topic and objective of the assignment, consider specifying the details of specific to the tool you've selected: should there be specific images/artifacts, a minimum number of slides, a minimum number of comments, should the VT be shared with a group or privately, etc. Faculty must also consider how they will keep track of individual students' VoiceThreads, including how they will give students their evaluation of the assignment or allow for peer assessment of the activity.

Here are some options for how students could share their VoiceThreads and receive faculty or peer evaluation:
  • Private VoiceThreads - Student Submission: One option is for the student's to share the VoiceThread directly with only the faculty & TA (and not the entire class). Sharing a VoiceThread with an individual sends the VT link (URL) in an email from VoiceThread to the faculty & TA.
  • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Student Submission: If the student gets a "share link" to their VoiceThread, this share link could be emailed to the faculty or placed in CoursePlus tool. They could copy and paste the link into the course:
    • as an answer to an essay question in a Quiz (private);
    • as a post in a Discussion Forum (visible to other students by default);
    • as a contribution to a wiki (visible to other students by default); or
    • inside a document's text uploaded to a Drop Box (private).
  • Faculty Evaluation of VoiceThreads: Faculty and TA can grade a VoiceThread with feedback in a number of ways.
    • Private VoiceThreads - Feedback could be left as a comments on the VT itself.
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can email each student individually (from CoursePlus), with the feedback and, optionally, an attached completed rubric.
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can create a Quiz with a single, open-ended (essay) question that requests the "share link" (URL) of the student's VoiceThread. Faculty can provide an evaluation and feedback when grading ("Responses and Grades") the individual students. 
      When setting up the quiz, make certain to go into the  Results options for the Quiz Setup and select "Email all correct answers" so that students will get the faculty feedback as a part of their emailed communication. The Results email can be sent to the students after grading is complete.
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can respond inside private Discussion Forums with feedback. This may be particularly useful for group VoiceThread assignments, where the students are asked to post their "share link" as a post in their group's private forum.
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can link a Discussion Forum post to the Gradebook, providing feedback in the item's grade and comments section. (A completed rubric can be uploaded by faculty as part of the grading process.)
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can link a Drop Box assignment to their Gradebook. The Drop Box assignment will already be set up with instructions to submit a text or other document that has the "share link" (URL) of the student's VoiceThread. Feedback can be provided in the item's grade and comments section.
    • Private or Shared VoiceThreads - Faculty can select "Create Graded Item" in their Gradebook to have a "stand-alone" option that doesn't link (or pull from) any other CoursePlus tool. As long as the faculty has received the student's VoiceThread share link elsewhere (e.g., email, wiki, etc.), they can provide a grade and feedback, along with the completed rubric, when entering grades.
  • Peer Evaluation of Shared VoiceThreads: If you are considering peer assessment, please first review our Overview of Peer Assessment.  A rubric for the peer assessment could be uploaded to the Online Library. And presuming the VoiceThreads are shared and/or a "share link" (URL) is available, peer evaluation could be considered by:
    • allowing comments (visible to others) on the VoiceThread directly
    • allowing posts in an open Discussion Forum, where perhaps each student is required to post their VoiceThread link inside a topic before replying with feedback (visible to others) to a certain number of their classmates' posts;
    • setting up one wiki for the entire class or group wikis where students share their VoiceThread link and provide constructive feedback (visible to others);
    • creating a Drop Box where completed rubrics (private) could be uploaded. Make clear your expectations of how many or which VoiceThreads each student should be reviewing and also include a spot in the rubric that identifies the individual whose project is being reviewed.

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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Mar 20, 2014, 11:34 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Mar 20, 2014, 11:34 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 8:42 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 12:42 PM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Mar 21, 2014, 7:00 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 8:21 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Aug 4, 2014, 11:35 AM
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Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 12:38 PM
ą
Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Aug 4, 2014, 11:35 AM
ą
Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 8:42 AM
ą
Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 12:42 PM
ą
Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 8:42 AM
ą
Clark Shah-Nelson JHU,
Jan 22, 2015, 12:38 PM
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