Last year’s shift to online learning inspired creative innovations in teaching and bringing learning to the students in more engaging ways. Teaching staff featured in the Spotlight on Practice series said they came to realise the true power and functionality of some of the learning technologies that they had previously taken for granted, recognising they had not been using them to their full capability. So this is the second post in a new Teche series where we take a closer look at the learning technologies available at Macquarie. Each tool featured in this series has an associated Guide for further information and reference.

What is VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is an interactive collaboration and sharing tool that enables users to add images, documents, and videos to which other users can add voice, text, audio file or video comments – all asynchronously. You can even draw right on the screen!

Four basic activities you can create using VoiceThread:

1. Welcome videos/student introductions for community building.

Create an ‘individual’ VoiceThread to record a video welcome message for your unit and post in the iLearn forum. Invite students to post a video response (comment) introducing themselves. Great for community building and reducing anxiety for students, particularly if you have online or external students. This feature uses what’s called Individual VoiceThread – it’s an ungraded activity.

2. Students comment on your VoiceThread

Ask students to engage with VoiceThreads you have created (eg documents, images, videos, slides) by posting their recorded comments (as text, audio or video). The Unit Convenor retains control over this activity. This feature uses Comment assignment and is graded.

3. Students create their own VoiceThread assignment for feedback and marking

Students can use any of the available file types– video, image, document, presentation to create an assignment. For example, students might submit an elevator pitch, a video or a presentation. Teachers can provide individual feedback and mark it at the same time and it’s synchronised to gradebook. This is called Create assignment and it can be graded.

4. Create a collaborative student space for peer review and feedback

Students create a VoiceThread assignment and have their peers view their work and make comments. Like with the other types of VoiceThread commenting, peers can provide text, audio or video comments. This function is particularly powerful for enhancing the experience of off-campus students who rarely or never come on campus and do not get a chance to interact with their peers. This is another application of the Individual VoiceThread feature.

Easily view which VoiceThread assignments you have already graded

How to get started with using VoiceThread

The VoiceThread interface is easy for both staff and students to use, and seamlessly integrates with iLearn and the iLearn Gradebook. You can add it yourself as an activity in iLearn. There are guides for staff and students on recording voice or webcam, adding powerpoint slides and video clips.

Refer to the step-by-step guide on how to add VoiceThread to your unit by finding and clicking on VoiceThread in the list on the website.

View the workshop Basics 1: Upload, comment and share where you will learn how to upload media, comment and annotate on that media, and share it with others.

New VoiceThread features available from S2

If you’re already a VoiceThread convert, then you’ll be interested in these new assignment features being turned on for session 2 which includes a streamlined interface, more control for unit convenors (e.g. you can set start and due dates) and a ‘student gallery’ where students can easily see and comment (if allowed) on each other’s VoiceThread’s.

View this overview of the new features or you can view this workshop recording which explores the new assignment features.

Here’s some ideas to incorporate VoiceThread in your unit:

  • Post an image or video (e.g. medical scans of a skeleton) and invite students to label the anatomy using VoiceThread’s annotation tool.
  • Post a unit reading and invite students to use VoiceThread’s audio/video (comment) to summarise and evaluate the reading.
  • Post a thought-provoking or a controversial statement and ask students to respond to it. It can be a big or a hot topic in your discipline or something that students can provide examples to from their experience.
  • Students use VoiceThread to record a presentation then upload it. The marker then provides feedback by making comments using VoiceThread.
  • Post a foreign language text or resource and invite students to use VoiceThread’s audio/video (comment) to respond to the text in that language with the correct pronunciation. For example, read the text and summarise orally, listen to an audio and reply using voice comment, look at pictures and name the items in an audio comment, find words in a word search and pronounce them, post a Where’s Wally picture and ask students to describe what characters are doing in a voice comment.
  • Use it for open discussions and invite voice comments (audio or video) instead of just text.

For inspiration on ways students could share advice and information using VoiceThread, see the ‘Wisdom Wall’ and ‘Student Story’ examples in this Teche post about humanising online teaching.

More ideas for using VoiceThread for language teaching and in higher education.

VoiceThread in practice @ MQ:

In a language teaching methodology unit in the Linguistics Department improvements in student engagement, learner autonomy, reflective practice, feedback and IT literacy were discovered when they developed a series of assessment tasks using VoiceThread. Read their approach ‘Learning design that fosters student engagement and autonomy‘.

VoiceThread is a great tool indeed. I have been using it for years for introduction tasks in week 1: I upload a slide with pics and explain what those pics are, post 3 statements (two truths, one lie) in a comment and the students guess which one is the lie; they then do the same. It’s a lovely way to get to know your students and the online students feel part of the class too.  And as students are introduced to VoiceThread right from the start, the technology is not an issue for them when they come to do their microteaching task using VoiceThread in another unit later in the session. At the end of the session, we have a VoiceThread summative assessment in that unit where students upload videos of themselves teaching.

Agi Bodis, Linguistics

The Department of Media, Communication, Creative Arts, Language and Literature were early adopters of VoiceThread in their Languages and Cultures units. Here are some of the creative ways they have found to incorporate VoiceThread into their units: 

  • As a practice tool for students to discuss and respond to language material posted by the Convenor, improving pronunciation skills and boosting confidence. 
  • Using a VoiceThread activity as an oral test. 
  • Students create powerpoint slides and add voiceovers to each slide (or could speak face to camera), as if they were presenting their slideshow in class. The whole class can then access the presentation. Because the student is able to pre-record it, presentations nerves and anxiety are reduced for the student. They also have the opportunity to play it before it’s submitted and re-record if necessary (but note VoiceThread itself is not an editing tool). 
  • Make student presentations open for comments by student peers and teaching staff, students then take the comments on board as feedback and use that to improve their final submission.  
  • Use it as a learning experience in demonstrating how to give and receive feedback. 
  • Use the annotation tool to highlight and emphasise important content on the screen. 

The discipline of Languages and Cultures has used VoiceThread for language learning to great effect for several years. It offers such a rich online experience, which is why we embraced this tool. There is a massive need for this kind of asynchronous tool, especially with more students studying online. I have seen this tool really develop in the past few years and certainly the new assignment features and interface make it even more user friendly. I would recommend students be given a practice or non-graded VoiceThread activity before introducing any graded activity. This helps students to be familiar and comfortable with the tool while in a low-risk space.

Cathy Mewes, Faculty of Arts Learning and Teaching

Key resources for staff and students: 

VoiceThread for iLearn– step by step instructions, ideas, guides for staff and students.

VoiceThread for Instructors

Student guide for submitting new assignments in VoiceThread


This post was created with contributions from Cathy Mewes, Alper Yuceozsoy, Agi Bodis and Alison Hayward.

Previous posts in this series:

Beyond the basics: Echo360

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email with questions or requests.

One Comment

  1. […] format that was accessible for the whole class. Students then watched each other’s videos on VoiceThread and discussed the experiences in a timetabled seminar, which facilitated peer-led and incidental […]


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