As you may know by now, a majority of our courses at Silberman are considered “hybrid” courses. This means that a portion of your course, one hour a week or about 15 hours in total, must be taught online.
This can be daunting for those of you who have little to no experience teaching or learning in the online environment. The general practice has been to engage students via weekly online discussions. While this is a good option for addressing the online portion, it’s not the only option. There are other ways of teaching your students online that can be more dynamic and interactive.
Enter VoiceThread. VoiceThread is a software tool that promotes interactivity for otherwise static content. Instead of passively watching recorded lectures or reading through PowerPoint slides, students can post audio, video, or written questions or comments, within the presentation, rather than at the end of the presentation. They can also respond to their classmates’ questions and comments.
VoiceThread is built into Blackboard, CUNY’s Learning Management System (LMS). In addition to PowerPoint slides, you can upload images, Word documents, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, and even some audio and video files. You can also use your computer’s webcam to just record yourself talking. So, you have other options besides recording narrated PowerPoint presentations. Consider narrating the key points of a journal article or asking students to reflect on a variety of images. Better yet, enable students to add their own “slide” and ask them to share and reflect on an image that connects with a particular course concept.
The recording process in VoiceThread is simple. Once your files have been uploaded, select webcam or audio and start talking. Stop recording when you are done. If you like it, save it. If not, re-record it. Then, move on to the next slide and do it again. When you have finished, share it with your students. Recording VoiceThread presentations is time-consuming, however, the upfront work pays off in the end. Next semester, just copy those presentations over to your new course.
VoiceThread is a great option for the online portion of your hybrid course but if you are not ready for that level of commitment, consider using it for the occasional snow day when the school is closed or when a outside professional commitment prevents you from holding class. Your students will appreciate you not cramming missed content into the next class.
Ready to get started? Log into the SSSW EdTech site in Blackboard for more detailed instructions on creating VoiceThread presentations.