The following is a guest blog post from Julia DeViney. Julia completed an Instructional Design internship with OSU Ecampus during the Spring of 2023.
What are student perceptions of Voice Thread? I observed the pros and cons of Voice Thread (VT) as both a student in my final term of a cohort-structured program, and on the instructor side as an Ecampus intern. The purpose of this post is to synthesize my experiences with research on VT. Integrated with Canvas as a cloud-based external web tool, VT is an interactive platform that allows instructors and students to create video, audio, and text posts and responses asynchronously. It is used widely at OSU and available for use in all Ecampus courses.
My unique role as both current student using the tool and intern seeing the tool from the instructor’s perspective allowed me to get a thorough understanding of VT. While I was challenged by time requirements and experienced diminishing value with more frequent discussions, used strategically, VT can be a worthwhile tool for instructors and students.
The strengths of VT include fostering dense interaction and strong social presence, and ease of use; drawbacks can be avoided by considering the audience, use frequency, and purpose of using VT in a learning environment.
VT allows users to upload premade slides or images and record text, audio, or video comments to their own and peers’ slides, allowing for a rich back and forth dialogue that fosters dense social presence and interaction in a learning environment.
In my course, students used this video feature exclusively for initial posts, and occasionally used audio recordings for peer responses. Hearing vocal inflection and seeing each other on screen in natural environments helped us witness emotions, interact authentically, and build on each other’s ideas to create richer learning. Delmas (2017) and Ching and Hsu (2012) found similar results in their respective studies of using VT to build online community and support collaborative learning.
Another strength of VT is ease of use. Brief VT navigation instructions provided by the instructor abbreviated the learning curve for students new to this tool. Making a video slide or commenting on peer’s slides was straightforward and simple. VT automatically previews submitter-created slides or comments prior to saving, and this allows students to redo their slide or comment if they are not satisfied with their first attempt. I found this feature particularly helpful.
Students’ prior interactions and frequency of use are considerations for instructors’ use of VT. As a student who already intensely engaged with most of the peers in my cohort through discussions, group projects, presentations, and peer feedback assignments, dense social presence was not as valuable to me in my final term. However, this course included a few students from other disciplines, and I appreciated quickly getting to know them through their posts and responses. This class utilized VT intermittently; in later-term posts, I found myself less motivated to respond as robustly as in the beginning of the term. Chen and Bogachenko (2022) echoed my experience: mandated minimum posting requirements and prompt frequency may influence social presence density results.
Student connection may not increase student engagement and is best-suited for certain types of knowledge construction. Responding to the minimum required number of students was common practice among graduate students in a 2013 study by Ching and Hsu; this differs from findings from a study by Kidd (2012), which focused on student-instructor interactions. Student obligations outside of school are cited as the primary reason for meeting minimum requirements only (Ching & Hsu, 2012). In my experience, a few classmates responded to more than the minimum required responses, as time allowed. Students tended to develop a stronger consensus of ideas shared in video-based interactions than in text-based interactions; future research is needed to evaluate the degree of critical or summarizing skills developed in video-based forums (Guo et al., 2022). In my course, VT discussion prompts were largely reflective, and that maximized the strengths of the tool.
Time may be another drawback for some students. While many of my classmates created unscripted video posts and responses to discussion prompts, a few of us spent extra time scripting posts and responses, which added time to assignments. Ching and Hsu (2013) found that for contemplative or anxious students who “structure their ideas prior to making their ideas public,” the time requirement is a disadvantage (p. 309). I did not experience technological glitches, but that has been mentioned as an additional time consideration.
For instructors, time needed to learn to set up and use VT themselves was cited as a major drawback (Salas & Miller, 2015). However, the instructors studied used VT outside of their institution’s learning management system. At OSU, VT is seamlessly integrated into Canvas and SpeedGrader. Easy-to-follow guides and Ecampus support significantly reduce the risk of use for faculty. VT is a superb tool for creating dense social presence in hybrid or online courses for collaborative assignments or consensus-building discussions.
From the instructor side, I recommend carefully considering the pros and cons of assignment type: a) create, b) comment, or c) watch. Remember that “create” assignments require students to post at least one comment and create a slide. The “comment” assignment type still allows students to create a slide, and instructors have more flexibility in establishing minimum slide and/or comment requirements, provided those minimums match the Canvas assignments. “Watch” assignments could work well for crucial announcements or video-based instruction. For all assignments, I also recommend communicating in both Canvas and VT that clicking the “Submit Assignment” button is a very important step (for continuity with SpeedGrader). Setting up assignments in VT was simple and straightforward once I understood the assignment types.
In short, VT powerfully facilitates dense social presence and community using asynchronous video, audio, and text-based interactions among instructors and students. When used as a tool for reflection or consensus-building, students benefit from VT interactions. Overuse and time constraints may compromise use value, particularly for students with anxiety or needing extra preparation. OSU Ecampus offers support and guides to assist instructors with incorporating VT into Canvas. To reap the benefits of this fantastic tool, I recommend exploring the practical uses of VT in hybrid and online courses.
Chen, J., & Bogachenko, T. (2022). Online community building in distance education: The case of social presence in the Blackboard discussion board versus multimodal Voice Thread interaction._ Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 25_(2), 62-75. https://oregonstate.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/online-community-building-distance-education-case/docview/2652525579/se-2
Ching, Y-H., & Hsu, Y-C. (2013). Collaborative learning using Voice Thread in an online graduate course._ Knowledge Management & E-Learning, 5_(3), 298-314. https://oregonstate.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/collaborative-learning-using-Voice Thread-online/docview/1955098489/se-2
Delmas, P. M. (2017). Using Voice Thread to create community in online learning._ TechTrends, 61_(6), 595-602. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-017-0195-z
Guo, C., Shea, P., & Chen, X. (2022). Investigation on graduate students’ social presence and social knowledge construction in two online discussion settings. Education and Information Technologies, 27(2), 2751-2769. https://link-gale-com.oregonstate.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A706502995/CDB?u=s8405248&sid=bookmark-CDB&xid=7f135a22
Salas, A., & Moller, L. (2015). The value of voice thread in online learning: Faculty perceptions of usefulness. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 16(1), 11-24. https://link-gale.com.oregonstate.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/A436983171/PROF?u=s8405248&sid=bookmark-PROF&xid=2759f021