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.
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."
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:
If you have an existing personal Voicethread account with a UMB email address, you will be asked to verify your account via email. Click the VERIFY BY EMAIL button.
2. You will then need to verify the account via email. Launch Outlook and respond to the Voicethread email.
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 here. Note: 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:
First, consider removing things that will date your presentation. Remove the semester and year (Spring 2018), as that may require you to update the slide each year, which is a pain. The idea here is to create something that you can use over and over, and possibly even share with others to use as well. You do NOT need the course number, name, semester or year on your title slide. Just your name and the title of the presentation or topic is great.
Likewise, we encourage you to keep specifics about assignments, exams, and other activities that may also change over time separate from the presentation. It is easier in the long run to keep your presentation content separate from your assignment/activity content, whether that is on a slide by slide or thread by thread basis. In addition, if you DO blend this content together in one presentation, we encourage you to record separate comments (audio/video) for these items, so that you can also easily delete or re-record just those portions later as things change. Remember: down the road, you can replace a slide, or you can replace (delete/re-record) individual comments. So if you record a 5-minute long comment that is a lecture, but also discuss an assignment, if you change the assignment portion, you would need to re-record that entire comment. Just keep this in mind as you develop and plan your Voicethread recordings.
LINKS: when imported to Voicethread, links on your slides are NOT clickable. However, it is possible to create 1 link per slide in Voicethread edit mode, using these directions. Links on a slide look like this - the icon on the right is a clickable link
You can also add hyperlinks (as many as you want) in Voicethread text comments (also as many as you want) on each slide.
Ok, so now you are ready to gather the materials that you will be presenting (presentation, pictures, videos)
Please save or export the presentation as a .PDF file before uploading to VoiceThread. If you see issues with fonts and text not positioned properly in Voicethread, you must really export as PDF first to avoid this. (Also - if you plan to record audio narration/comments for your VoiceThread, we recommend keeping each slide's narration to no longer than several minutes - so keep this in mind when designing your slides.
How to Add Media to a New or Blank Thread in Edit Mode
Click Add Media (plus sign) and drag your media onto the Add Media icon. Mouse over a blank thread and click the Edit icon to go into Edit mode.
Drag PDFs, slides, photos, videos, etc. onto the Add Media icon, or click on the Add Media icon (or very large + sign) to see other options, such as adding by URL, webcam photo or webcam video, or other sources. Note: Webcam photo takes a still photo using your webcam, and the video option allows you to record a video for students using your webcam. If you just want to record a video of yourself speaking, use the webcam video option. Otherwise, to narrate on top of slides, click My Computer and browse to find the files/slides.
If you want to include other video resources, you would choose the URL option and paste in the URL to the video. If you get an error, that site or media is not supported. (Please note that VT no longer supports importing YouTube videos this way - but you can add links to them using a text comment on any slide).
Once your slides are uploaded, it will take some time to process them. The length of time to process slides varies but can take 15 minutes or more. Once complete, click Comment to enter comment mode and then add a comment to each page with the audio and/or video narration that should be included on that slide. (See more info on recording comments below.)
Keep in mind you can always come back to Edit mode to re-order, delete, add more or replace slides. This is covered below.
If your group members need to add slides or comments, share and give them edit abilities. (For more information, see the 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.
When your presentation is ready, share it with the class. (For more information, see the section on sharing.)
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.)
Go into Edit mode
Click on "+Add Media"
Select "WebCam Video" to record one on the fly and you will see a countdown before you begin recording. Play it back when finished to make sure it works well.
or select "My Computer" to locate a video you have already recorded and wish to upload as its own "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.
Mouse over a blank thread and Click the Edit icon to go into Edit mode.
Click edit next to the voice thread name.
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.)
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:
telephone (just put in your phone number and it will call you!)
or the up arrow 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.
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:
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.
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).
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: 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:
Click the Share icon
Click Copy Link
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.
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.
Anyone you give the URL link to can view the VoiceThread. You can provide it to others in a discussion forum, email, or text when submitting an assignment, or paste the link into a Word document and upload that.
If you are collaborating with someone from outside UMB, they, too can view and/or comment on the thread, but they will need to set up a free account at https://voicethread.com/register, verify the account, and be logged in to add comments.
If someone has trouble viewing your thread, check #4 above!
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:
Click the Share icon (in the far upper left 3 line hamburger) and Click the Secure tab
Click the Contacts tab
a. If an IDEA Team contact exists already, click it.
4b. If it does not exist: Click the + sign to add an IDEA Team contact : Add our name and email (ideateam@ssw....) and click Save
Tick the Edit icon to make it green
Click the Share (blue) icon to share (and the notify by email box being checked is good too!)
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:
To embed the video into a Blackboard page or item, start by clicking Share in Voicethread, then Basic and Embed.
We suggest you change the size boxes to 640 x 360 so the embed will be a bit larger on your page.
Decide if you want students to be able to add comments or not - and uncheck the Comment box if not
Click the blue Copy Embed Code button which will copy everything in the code box to your clipboard
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:
Correct the slide in PowerPoint (please use the application, not your web browser)
Click File menu and pull down to: Save as - pictures then click Options - At the bottom, select Save current slide only; Select a Format (the default, JPEG will work fine.) and click OK.
PC Powerpoint: Export > Create PDF/XPS Document > Options > put in the slides (from 1 : 1 or etc.) to select only 1 slide to export.. click OK. Click Publish.
OR if you don't see Save as > Pictures - do File > Export and change the Format pulldown menu from PDF to JPEG, then select Current Slide Only.
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.)
Repeat for any slides you wish to update
Now, to VoiceThread:
Log in to Voicethread
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
If there are already comments on the slide, 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 and click Save.
Portions of this content reproduced from JHSPH
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.
Navigate to https://voicethread.com/universal/
Click the Profile icon in the top right corner
Select Use Voicethread Universal as my default site (currently using Standard)
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.