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.
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
- Interactive presentations (ask viewers questions mid-lecture, and allow responses)
- Student introductions
- Field placement introductions
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.
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.
Go to https://jhu.voicethread.com
. This will direct you to the JHU logon page, where you will enter your JHED ID and password.
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.
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
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.
4. You're now ready to create a VoiceThread!
For instructions on creating a new VoiceThread, see below.
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:
- 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.)
- Log into your VoiceThread account
- 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.
- Once your slides are uploaded, then add a comment to each page with the audio that should be included on that slide.
- If your group members need to add slides or comments, share and give them edit abilities. (For more information, see section on sharing.)
- 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.
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).
comment, you simply click on the (+) comment button at the bottom center of the
and then decide which type of comment you want to
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 save, cancel 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, 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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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:
- Correct the slide in PowerPoint
- Click File menu and pull down to: "Save as pictures"
- Click "Options"
- At the bottom, select "Save current slide only"
- Click OK
- Select a Format (the default, JPEG will work fine.)
- 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
- Note "Where" it is saving. (We recommend the desktop.)
- Click "Save".
- Repeat for any slides you wish to update
Now, to VoiceThread:
- Log in at jhu.voicethread.com with your JHED ID
- 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.)
- Mouse over the VT and select "Edit"
- Mouse over the slide you wish to update and click the Pencil icon
- Click "Replace" at the top of the image in the center of your screen
- Click Yes to upload a new slide but keep the comments. (You can always replace comments later)
- 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:
- 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.
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.
- Choose a Share option for your VoiceThread from one of the 3 ways below:
- From VT Home tab, mouse over a thread and click on Share
- From the Edit view click the Share icon
- From the Comment view, click the 3 lines in the upper left and choose Share. (see image below)
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the left search box, start typing a name for the person or group you want to share with.
- 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.
- TIP: We suggest you keep "Notify by email" checked, so that your contact receives an email notification with a link to the VoiceThread.
- Click "Share"
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.
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.
- From Secure Mode: Click on "Get a link" (see image under #1 above)
- Choose whether you want anyone with the link to be able to View and/or Comment on the thread using the check boxes.
- OR - Click on the Basic tab, check the boxes and click "Copy 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.
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.
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.
How to create a group:
- Go to the VoiceThread Home tab.
- Click on your email address in the top-right corner of the page.
- Select Groups and Contacts from the list.
- When the Groups and Contacts window appears, you'll see two columns: Orgs & Groups on the left and My Contacts on the right.
At the top of the Orgs & Groups column on the left, click New.
- Once you have entered a name for your Group, click Save. The Group will appear under your Groups & Orgs column heading.
- To add members to your group, mouse over the group on the VoiceThread Home tab and click the gear wheel next to the group.
- You can click the Group Sign-Up Link icon to copy the group sign-up URL. Email that to your group members, and once they click and authenticate, they can join the group. Alternatively, you can search your contacts and drag and drop them onto the Group.
- Again, you will need to monitor what type of access the others in the group have: read, comment, or edit. Giving Edit rights could allow others in the group to delete the Voicethread inadvertently.
- More information on how to remove a thread from a Group.
For more information on groups, see the VoiceThread help page
on groups and sharing.
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
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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