VoiceThread is a video platform that lets students make audio, video, text, and visual comments on instructor-created lectures and slides. The system is meant to engage online learners, who might be bored by a static presentation and their classmates' separate and irrelevant forum posts. VoiceThread brings all these interactions into the same place to give students the power to interact naturally in the same space and time as their instructor and classmates, even though they can all view the class content at their own convenience.
VoiceThread’s video and audio comments are an improvement over written text and give students a more personal experience with their classmates and instructor. This "face-to-face" type of video interaction has been shown to be the most engaging style for online students. VoiceThread also makes an effort to be accessible. Users can watch and comment on videos using computers, tablets, or phones, and it’s compatible with closed captioning for audio and video files as well as screen readers and refreshable braille. The system also works with all major learning management systems and is able to recognize when users are coming from a pre-approved classroom group and automatically create accounts for them.
This flexibility comes at a cost, but the payment options are highly customizable and VoiceThread offers rate options for individual teachers, schools, districts, and states. The system connects to LMS systems including Blackboard, Moodle, and D2L, but schools may not be willing to invest in this product in addition to their existing LMS. VoiceThread also offers the option for videos to be stored in a customizable homepage, but this does not seem like an appropriate replacement for a full scale learning management system. It seems like VoiceThread would work best as part of an existing learning support structure and their system is so intriguing that it would not be surprising if they were snapped up an LMS vendor.
VoiceThread adds a synchronous feel to asynchronous learning. While students watch videos on their own time, they are able to see their classmate’s video comments in what feels like real time and add their own comments so that classmates will hear their ideas about the video at the time and in the way they intended. VoiceThread feels like the next best thing to live discussion and might be a great improvement for virtual classrooms using text commenting.
Image: via VoiceThread