In a study regarding student perceptions of high-quality online learning findings revealed:
“students’ perceptions of a high-quality course were dependent upon continual communication with the instruction, a predetermined method of connecting students with one another and students’ ability to express their opinions. Different group activities and the use of technology allowed online learners to make humanistic connections with other students and the instructor.Bickle, Rucker, & Burnsed, 2019, para. 1
Online learning provides the platform for learning, interaction, and accessibility outside of restricted times or locations. While this is true, “the students’ ability to learn, regardless of course content delivery method (i.e. traditional face-to-face or distance education), is dependent in part on a concept known as social presence” (Bickle, Rucker & Burnsed, 2019, para. 7). There have been different definitions of social presence; however, the most recent and appropriate to learning was developed n 2003 by Garrison and Anderson, “the ability of learners to project themselves socially and emotionally as “real” people into a community of learners” (Bickle, Rucker & Burnsed, 2019, para. 9). Online learning is isolating in nature as learners sit behind a computer or mobile device and a higher importance needs to be placed on the social presence within the online learning curriculum.
One way to accomplish this is by utilizing the learning tools interoperability (LTI) within learning management systems (LMS). For example, Blackboard Learn has several LTI available for instructors to add on to their course. With LTI integrations students do not have to use a second set of login information but are able to seamlessly connect to the add on within their LMS. One LTI that brings a social presence is VoiceThread. “VoiceThread is an interactive, cloud-based, multimedia slideshow tool designed to stimulate student-learning engagement” (Bickle, Rucker, & Burnsed, 2019, para. 12). VoiceThread is free and easy to use. Students can create slides in PowerPoint, Google Slides or Canva and upload them into VoiceThread. Students will share the URL link within a discussion forum and other students can leave voice comments instead of text comments. VoiceThread addresses the problem with online discussion which has been lack of participation, engagement and depth of thinking (Weigel, 2019). By using VoiceThread students can perceive and express emotion giving the communication a more realistic interaction. Additionally, “the enhanced expression and sense of real-time communication also seem to build a more cohesive group within the online classroom and increased community feel among the group (Weigel, 2019, p. 31). One downfall to VoiceThread is that students do not always like the way their voice sounds so they are hesitant to leave a voice comment.
In the image below the half circle graphic are the ways students can interact with the content on the slide. The microphone is audio recording and the camera is a video comment.
Example of VoiceThread (Click to visit VoiceThread)
The following VoiceThread was created for IDET 5300 Instructional Design & Foundation course at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Bickle, M. C., Rucker, R. D., & Burnsed, K. A. (2019). Online Learning: Examination of Attributes that Promote Student Satisfaction. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 22(1), 1.
Weigel, C. (2019). A Comparison Between VoiceThread and Text-Only Discussions in an Online Course. Radiologic Science & Education, 24(1), 29–38.