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VoiceThread PictureLectures in large auditoriums and books may be part of the hallowed traditions of higher learning, but some instructors at UNC understand that students of the new millennium have grown up with different traditions—ones that focus on multimedia as a format for learning.

In an effort to tailor the learning process so that it fully engages students who have grown up using their computers for research, communication (chat programs, Facebook) as well as instruction (Blackboard, YouTube how-to’s), some instructors have begun using a program called VoiceThread.

A program designed for online collaboration, VoiceThread provides a forum for interactive presentation of multimedia material. Because the program can present several different types of media— still images, documents and video—and allows for a variety of methods to provide commentary upon that media, it offers faculty new instructional possibilities and students more interactive ways of engaging with their coursework.

By logging in at the UNC VoiceThread site, students and instructors can upload media and allow commentary by a preselected group. Those invited to comment do so by leaving video, voice or text comments on the voicethread. Because there is no software to install and students can comment using the microphones, webcams, and keyboards built into their CCI laptops, participation by all students is easy and convenient and the classroom learning environment is extended beyond buildings or rooms.

So what does that mean?

Well, gone is the day of out-of-class discussions being limited to office hours, study groups and students posting to text-based on-line bulletin boards. Instead, with VoiceThread students participate in a more dynamic, asynchronous discussion using sight, sound, and text to discuss content presented by an instructoror to narrate their own worksand critique the work of their classmates.

Gone as well is the necessity to have class presentations done, well, in class. Because students can view peer presentations on-line and provide feedback outside of class, class time can now be allocated for discussion and learning new information. So, students are getting the benefit of increased instruction without forsaking the necessity of reflection and engagement with the material that presentations, semester-long projects, and peer review often provide.

Gone also is the time that instructors need to take up during their limited class schedule in order to demonstrate and reinforce a technique repeatedly. Instead, instructors can incorporate content from organizations and experts in their field, such as this demonstration of emergency medical procedures, and use class time to confirm understanding of the content and discuss student questions or concerns in depth.

The use of tools such as VoiceThread not only help to enliven presented material, but embed it in students’ minds by targeting all learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—thereby making it more engaging and thus, more memorable.

Want to see more about this program? See: