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Using VoiceThread to Enhance Presence

Fashion Institute of Technology

Description:

FIT is committed to using the Blackboard LMS for delivery of all online and blended learning courses. The LMS constrains faculty-student interactions to text-based communication inhibiting them from projecting their presence in way that interactive audio and video tools provide. Without sound, inflection and presence the online space remains a silent text based space where words define the impressions that are created in the minds of the students and faculty, denying them a more fully formed presence. VoiceThread offers a solution that we have effectively explored at FIT.

Additional Metrics:

Problem/Need/Desire: FIT is committed to using the Blackboard LMS for delivery of all online and blended learning courses. The LMS has a specific point of view that constrains faculty-student interactions to text-based communication--- primarily with discussion forums, inhibiting them from projecting the more rounded presence that audio and video tools could provide. Without sound, inflection and presence the online space remains a silent text based space where words define the impressions that are created in the minds of the students and faculty, denying them a more fully formed. There are other media-based options available to faculty that are more complex to use and involve substantial investments in licensing and training costs. Options like Camtasia, Animoto and Jing are not symmetrically interactive. While they provide multimedia delivery, they are in fact one-sided non-interactive products that do not allow for direct interaction of any kind. With the emphasis on creative and dynamic delivery of content that is easily adaptable to a wide variety of subject matter
VoiceThread is an option that has served our faculty well in several essential ways.
1) It is highly adaptable to the diverse curriculum offered at FIT where it is used for History of Art, Fashion Design, Textile Development and Marketing.
2) Simple video is readily created for delivery of comments by students and/or faculty or for lecture.
3) It readily accepts presentation and image files making it easy for FIT faculty to incorporate presentations and images.
4) Audio only options are available for those who prefer not use video.
5) Text commenting and captioning are also available.
6) Doodling (or annotation) of images concurrent with audio or video content gives any interaction a cognitive boost greatly enhancing retention.
7) Fully ADA compliant options are easily engaged.
In Practice:
Periodic live training sessions are provided to small groups where faculty bring their ideas and share prior practice and experience exploring ways to convert conventional discussions into interactive experiences by sharing ideas and testing them in an open lab environment where we explore Voicethread tools and how they might be used in course design. New features like direct and private reply increase opportunities for faculty and students to engage directly and privately (when needed). Most interactions are open asynchronous exchanges abetted by the use of image, video and sound.
Self Navigating Online Training Located inside a Blackboard Faculty Development Resource: Using Voicethread and supporting documentation, faculty are encouraged to engage and explore at their own pace.
Integration: VoiceThread is fully integrated into Blackboard via an LTI link that provides instant authentication to all users. Objects can be created using the Blackboard “add content” tools and faculty have the option of linking their VoiceThread assignments any location within a course.

What is gained/achieved? Why Should Others do it too.
The value of interactive content in teaching in learning is well documented as outlined long ago in the often cited writing of Weiss and McGrath who measured retention comparing simple 5 lecture (oral) methodologies and visual stimuli with the process of seeing and hearing simultaneously. Considering the time (1963) and the technologies and techniques available at this time was overwhelming evidence that there needed to be more active engagement in the learning space.

In VoiceThread the combination of seeing, hearing and doodling increases both engagement and retention as opposed to watching a video and then commenting on it using text. Everyone benefits through these multi-modal interactions as long as they are used prudently and with purpose. If everyone used VoiceThread indiscriminately its impact would diminish quickly.

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