VoiceThread allows teachers and students to upload, share, and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files, and videos. Teachers and students can leave video, audio, and text comments and use annotation tools to mark up the presented material.

Some examples of using VoiceThread in a class are:

  • Displaying work for feedback - student work can be displayed for feedback, such as in a graphic design or art class.
  • Discussing techniques, approaches, readings - media (images, text, audio) can be posted and discussed.
  • Interacting with classmates - students can dialogue with each other in an asynchronous format.
  • Illustrating difficult topics - teachers can use VoiceThread to explore difficult concepts in more detail. They can use voice comments and the doodle tool to explain complex concepts.
  • "Live" VoiceThread examples
  • Here's a link to the VoiceThread documentation that you can peruse as you're familiarizing yourself with this new tool: https://voicethread.com/howto-categories/web-application/ 

    If you wish for all of your students to annotate the same VoiceThread, you may wish to use the Assignment Builder  option so that the VoiceThread integration can add a column to your Grades tool, and also allow you to use the Assignment Grading area in VoiceThread. Here are the steps for using the VoiceThread Assignment Builder in Canvas: https://uknowit.uwgb.edu/109504 

    Here are guides you can provide to your students so they know how to use the interface, leave comments, submit their work, etc.: https://voicethread.com/howto/canvas-2/

    Here are guides for how to grade work in VoiceThread, reuse VoiceThread projects, and share VoiceThreads with other instructors: https://voicethread.com/howto/canvas/

    Note that if you wish to use VoiceThread in a similar manner that you've used Canvas Group Discussions for in the past–there are a few different approaches for how you might do this, but none of them include creating one VoiceThread and having students only see the posts of their small group members. 

Taking steps to avoid technical difficulties

  • Provide a test VoiceThread, or make sure that the first VoiceThread assignment is low-stakes, and to be more flexible and understanding the first time around
  • Providing introductory or orientation material to the tool, such as this VoiceThread guide for students.
  • Be flexible and let students reply with text or audio comments, if they prefer.
  • DO NOT attempt to log in manually at VoiceThread.com. Instead, first access a VoiceThread from within a Canvas course to be automatically logged in. 
  • Once you have been logged into VoiceThread, you can edit or create new VoiceThreads with the full-size VoiceThread editor by going to https://voicethread.com/myvoice/. If that page asks you to log in, instead, first access a VoiceThread from Canvas to refresh your login and then go back to https://voicethread.com/myvoice .
  • Only add VoiceThreads to your Canvas courses by using the Canvas integration as described in the "Adding VT to Canvas" section of this guide. DO NOT use the "share" or "embed" links that can be obtained from within VoiceThread. Those links do not contain the necessary information for automatically logging your students into their UWGB VoiceThread accounts. VoiceThread account creation is automatic when using the Canvas integration to add or access a VoiceThread.

VoiceThread Mobile App Advisory

  • VoiceThreads added to Canvas courses do not play nicely with the Canvas Student and Canvas Teacher mobile apps. If a student must access a VoiceThread on a mobile device, they should open the Canvas course in Chrome or Safari instead of using the Canvas apps.
  • To view and contribute to VoiceThreads on a mobile device, the VoiceThread app must be first be installed on the mobile device. After installation, users should not attempt to manually log in to the VoiceThread mobile app. Instead, they should first access a VoiceThread from within a Canvas course to be automatically logged in to their UWGB VoiceThread account. Attempting to manually log in to VoiceThread or manually create a VoiceThread account can lead to duplicate accounts and other headaches.

VoiceThread versus Canvas Discussions; why use VoiceThread?

  • It is difficult to students to embed an image in Canvas discussions; students quickly run out of storage space. VoiceThread allows students to share content without running out of storage space.
  • VoiceThread includes a doodle tool, so that users can annotate the media they are discussing.
  • VoiceThead includes an option for students to leave comments by calling on their phone. Canvas discussions require audio comments be recorded and then uploaded.
  • VoiceThread allows comments to be left on each slide of the presentation, so you can have multiple threads within a single VoiceThread.

If you'd like your VoiceThread activity to be graded, it must be an Assignment. You can add a non-graded VoiceThread activity in the Home or Modules area of your course, or just make an Assignment that does not count towards the final grade. You can also embed links to VoiceThreads into Pages by using the external tool in Canvas's Rich Content Editor (i.e. text editor).

Graded VoiceThreads

  1. Navigate to the “Assignments” area of your course.
  2. Create a new assignment.
  3. Name the assignment and write a description if you choose.
  4. Under Submission Type, select “External Tool”.
  5. Click on the “Find” button.
  6. Click on “VoiceThread.
  7. Jump down to the SETTING UP YOUR VOICETHREAD LINK, below.

Non-graded VoiceThreads created in Home or Modules

  1. Navigate to the “Modules” area of your course.
  2. Find the module to which you’d like to add VoiceThread, and click the “Add Content” button.
  3. Select “External Tool” from the menu.
  4. Select “VoiceThread” from the list of tools.
  5. Jump down to the SETTING UP YOUR VOICETHREAD LINK, below.

Adding Non-graded VoiceThread links in a Canvas Page

  1. Open or create the Canvas page to which you wish to add a VoiceThread link.
  2. Click the Edit button.
  3. In the Rich Content Editor, place your text cursor where you would like to insert the VoiceThread link.
  4. Click the Apps icon in the editor's toolbar then click View All. The Apps icon looks like a power plug.
  5. Click VoiceThread.

Setting up your VoiceThread Link

After you have added VoiceThread to your course, you’ll need to indicate what type of VoiceThread activity you'd like to use. Please note, if you'd like VoiceThread integrated with your Canvas gradebook, you must select Assignment Builder, and you must be creating a Canvas External Tool Assignment.

Activity Types

Setup options for VoiceThread in Canvas

  • Assignment Builder - Create a graded assignment for students to complete. You can require them to Create a VoiceThread of their own, to Submit a Comment or comments on a VoiceThread you’ve created, or simply to Watch a VoiceThread start to finish.
  • Individual VoiceThread - Display any VoiceThread that you have created. When students click on the link, they’ll see just this one VoiceThread. This activity type would be useful for sharing lecture-like content and for ungraded discussion.
  • Course View - Display the collection of VoiceThreads that have been shared with your course. This might be useful if you had many learning resources in VoiceThread and wanted students to be able to browse that collection of resources.
  • VT Home Page - Display all of a student’s VoiceThread content in a single view. This includes all VoiceThreads and all courses that belong to them. Use this if you want to create a simple portal into VoiceThread without directing students to any specific content.

When you're ready to begin grading, enter your Canvas course and click on the VoiceThread link again. This will display the grader.

Click on a student’s name on the right to see that student’s submission. You can click on each comment below his or her name individually to jump directly to it. Enter a grade on a percentage scale (0-100), and hit “Enter” on your keyboard. This grade will immediately be entered into your Canvas course gradebook.


* Note: If you have set the assignment to be worth less than 100 points, still grade it on a scale of 0-100, and the score will be adjusted accordingly in your gradebook.

If you have students who have not yet submitted their assignments, click on the “Remind” button to send them an email reminder. Click “Remind all students” to send an email to everyone who has not yet submitted.

Please note that grading VoiceThread assignments is not supported on mobile devices.

Re-using VoiceThread Assignments that you've already created

If you're copying your course to a new semester, or re-using an assignment in a similar course, you'll need to copy the Assignment in VoiceThread, in addition to having the link in Canvas to the VoiceThread Assignment.

  1. If you're re-using the Assignment in a new class, follow whichever steps are appropriate under the Adding VoiceThread to your Canvas course heading, above, but stop before the Setting up your VoiceThread Link heading.
  2. On the VoiceThread link set up page, you can choose what type of activity to do. If you'd like to do the same kind of activity (e.g. Assignment Builder), select that type of activity again.
  3. When you've selected your Activity type, instead of clicking on Create a new VoiceThread, select your pre-existing VoiceThread from the list.
  4. Once the pre-existing VoiceThread is selected, click on Make a new copy to share.
  5. Enter a new name for the Assignment in VoiceThread and select which comments in the VoiceThread to preserve. You'll likely want to select either "Include only my comments" or "Don't include any comments." Removing comments only impacts the copy of the VoiceThread Assignment, not the original in your other course.
  6. Your newly created copy will now appear on the top of your existing VoiceThread activities. Select it once again and complete the Assignment set up (entering any requirements) and click on Create Assignment.

If you're teaching a larger course, and are wondering about how you can use VoiceThread to build community into your courses, we have a few suggestions. 

Caveat: VoiceThread doesn't currently have the functionality similar to Canvas, where you can split students into smaller groups and then have them only see their group mate's responses/posts. This means that if you are grappling with this issue in a large enrolling course, you might need to do some creative maneuvering and provide very clear instructions for students if you want to limit how many student responses they'll feel the need to respond to.

Learning Outcome & Pedagogy Considerations

If you're using VoiceThread to encourage deeper discussion using different mediums, then you might want to consider these strategies to decrease the volume of student postings throughout the course–after all, you're going to have to listen/view/read all of these if it's a graded assignment:

  1. Have rotating groups or a sub-set of student "posters" so that not everyone in the class is posting at once. 
  2. Have multiple versions of slides that have student names on them directing them to the slide for which they'll be required to comment/respond.
  3. Ask a group representative to post a summary from the rest of the group members drafts from a Canvas discussion, and have this group representative rotate throughout the semester. This would be more of a summary/synthesis of group members ideas rather than representative of individual student ideas.

If you're using VoiceThread to provide some flexibility in the way students can respond to a public reflection prompt, then it may not be as important to manage how many responses a student is seeing–especially if it's not important for them to respond to one another. If this is the case, then be transparent with students that this is a large class, and that they'll end up seeing everyone else's posts. 

If you're hoping to use VoiceThread to create small-group community and to foster a sense of belonging in your courses, you'll have to be purposeful and intentional about directing students to slides where their small group members are going to be "gathering." You could do this by creating a VoiceThread with multiple versions of the same slides and then tell them which slide to look at and respond to:

  1. Use Canvas Groups to signal who's in each group;
  2. You could post a Word Document in the course with students names so that they know who's in their group;
  3. You could have your first slide in VoiceThread be a Word Document (as a picture/PDF) and then label which slides you wish students to comment on with names/group numbers; 
  4. If you don't plan to use small groups within Canvas, set a number of maximum "initial" student posts on each slide until everyone has posted once, or tell students that if they notice there are a lot of people posting on one slide, to respond to other slides.