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Oral feedback with VoiceThread

by Tom Wigham, European Languages and Cultures
Dana Mustata
Dana Mustata

Voice comments with precision

Marije Michel, Cicilia Putri and Tom Wigham used VoiceThread as a way to deliver feedback on oral debates. VoiceThread allows users to upload video or audio files and to comment on those files in a variety of ways, including simple text, audio clips, and even videos. Comments are given a timestamp and can be recorded at the precise point in the video when the reviewer wants to intervene. This makes it an ideal tool for giving feedback in real-time. For example, students can record a video and upload it to the platform, after which their peers (and instructors) can comment on the video. Once the comments have been uploaded, the students can review the feedback they have received and know exactly where in the video the comment has been made.

VoiceThread allows other file types to be uploaded, including PowerPoint presentations and Word files. However, since the platform’s main strength is the ability to apply comments with timestamps, VoiceThread is most likely to be useful for video and audio files, and to a lesser extent for PowerPoint presentations.

Real-time comments on oral assignments

There are two main advantages to the use of audio and video comments. The first is that no writing is needed: the reviewer can just click ‘record’ and speak into the computer microphone. This makes feedback quicker, more straightforward, and more enjoyable. The students may feel a greater sense of connection with their reviewers because they are able to hear the reviewers’ own voice, which is particularly valuable for helping students to feel connected with their instructors.

The second advantage is the use of timestamping. This feature means that no time is wasted in describing which part of the video the feedback refers to. More importantly, it means that remote feedback on oral assignments is similar in quality to what students might expect to receive in the classroom. To some extent VoiceThread allows even more precise feedback than could be given in the classroom because the video can be paused and rewound.

Flipped classroom possibilities

Marije, Cicilia and Tom used the VoiceThread platform primarily for feedback on oral assignments, such as debates. It could also be used for feedback on individual presentations, group presentations, mock trials, podcasts, vlogs, or any other type of oral performance.

But VoiceThread is not limited to giving students feedback. Students could also use the platform to ask questions about a recorded lecture, for example. In this scenario, the instructor uploads the lecture to the platform, after which students watch the video and add their questions as timestamped comments. Students can also comment on comments, meaning that students can answer each other’s questions. The instructor can then use the unanswered questions and problematic answers as the starting point for seminar work. In this way the platform can be used to start conversations about media files.

Another option is for instructors to use the platform to create instructional videos. If an existing instructional video is not sufficient, for example, the instructor could upload this to VoiceThread and supplement it with her/his own comments.

In brief

Possible use cases:

  1. Oral feedback on oral assignments, including presentations, podcasts, vlogs, mock trials, debates, mini-lectures, and instructional videos,
  2. Question forum for instructor’s video content, such as recorded lectures, instructional videos, debates, documentaries, and presentations.
  3. Instructional videos by instructors.

Advantages: Oral feedback with timestamps. This allows students to hear the voices of their reviewers, whether peers or instructors. Comments can be given at the exact moments when they are most relevant. Instructor accounts allow groups to be made, making it easy to divide up seminar groups or smaller groups in the platform.

Disadvantages: free account only allows uploads up to 25MB, which allows only uploads of only very short videos.

Keywords: voice comments; oral assignments; timestamping; feedback; collaborative learning

Costs:a free account is available, but file uploads are limited to 25 MB. A UG site license has been applied for.

Available via UWP: no

Learning curve: about 1 hour to learn the basics of VoiceThread, 30 minutes to prepare groups for students. 15-20 minutes to explain the platform to students; 30 minutes to create instructions in Nestor course.

Additional information

Read more on the Voicethread website.

Last modified:18 December 2020 5.08 p.m.
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