Elevating Online Courses with Interactive Lectures on VoiceThread (part 3/3)

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Dr. Raelynne M. Hale.

Ending the Semester - The Importance of a Goodbye

Another thing I noticed about a lot of online courses was that many courses just seemed to end, without any sort of closing message. Many final messages to students were reminders about final exams and projects, which are very important messages, but I wanted to make sure students also reflected on the semester and everything they had learned and to have an opportunity to say goodbye to their online classmates.

At the end of every online course, I give students an opportunity to share their favorite moment from the course, say goodbye to their classmates, and to leave me honest and constructive feedback about the course. 

The primary goal is to create some sort of closure and to bring back the human during a stressful time of the semester. It is also a good way to celebrate all that they have accomplished. 

An example of an end-of-term VoiceThread is available at the following link: Saying Goodbye Example VoiceThread


VoiceThread has been an amazing tool in ways that I could not have anticipated. I have been so happy with the results and the rich discussions that my students have had in our online courses together. And, as always, don’t just take my word for it, read some of the student feedback that I received from my online courses below!

A Few Quotes from Student Surveys (2021)

“I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation towards our professor for this course. Profe Hale has shown amazing leadership, communication, and supportive skills throughout the semester. Profe Hale’s ways of teaching stands out amidst a virtual classroom because she created a friendly and productive environment for me. Most importantly, she assigned engaging participation through VoiceThread lectures, which made my learning more interactive and fun. […] Profe Hale made using Canvas and VoiceThread very easy and simple to understand through her tutorial videos. Thank you, Profe Hale for a great semester!"**

“Professor Hale created a super interactive class and each assignment gave the students the opportunity to learn, analyze, share ideas and research about different topics. […] I have never taken a class like this one before and I appreciate the successful efforts of the professor for creating a very opening and warm environment through an online class. I felt very connected to my classmates! Thank you so much Profe Hale!"**

“For me, this class was well organized which made learning the material easier. […] Aside from the usual stress that comes with a class in general, the way Profe Hale effectively set up the online class made this one of the least stressful classes overall. That was very much refreshing since online and zoom classes seem to burn me out faster than in-person class."**

“Going into this class I didn’t know what to expect or how the stress levels were going to be for this class because of remote learning. But Professor Hale made the class easy to navigate, she was very organized and clear on what had to be done. Profe Hale made the class enjoyable, she gave her students a chance to interact with each other which was nice to have. She would respond to her emails almost instantly and most importantly treated her students like actual humans that go through things and not some kind of student robot. So for that I really appreciate this professor.”

(**Note: Quotes have been reduced for length and space and edited only for orthographic errors.)

About the Author:

Dr. Raelynne M. Hale is a Teaching Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. You can connect with her on social media at:

Instagram: @dr.rhale

Twitter: @RaelynneMHale

Facebook: Raelynne Hale 

Personal account updates

People of every age, profession, and interest use VoiceThread to have human conversations online. We are so inspired by the variety of wonderful work our community creates, and it’s very important to us that we keep VoiceThread as affordable as possible no matter how much VoiceThread someone needs.

To help individuals ramp up their VoiceThreading, we’re offering two new license options:

SOLO PRO: For individual VoiceThreaders want all the bells and whistles.

SOLO BASIC: An entry-level upgrade to create more VoiceThreads and share securely.

We’re also making some changes to the free account: Record comments up to 3 minutes in length Create up to 20 VoiceThreads Upload files up to 3 GB in size Add up to 10 slides to any one VoiceThread


If you have a free account now and want to upgrade, you can purchase either of these new options on the upgrade page. Once you meet the limits of the free account, you’ll see a window asking whether you’d like to go to the upgrade page, as well.

New VoiceThread: simpler, more accessible, and more powerful

Animated gif of someone zooming into an image and doodling using VoiceThread

For 17 years VoiceThread has been giving people a way to make their interactions online warmer and more “human-centric.” Now the biggest update in our history is ready for you to give it a whirl!

Just go to your display preferences page and select “New VoiceThread.” We’re big fans of self-paced change, so you can also go back to the same place to switch back to the legacy version of VoiceThread any time. Legacy VoiceThread will be supported until summer 2024.

We’re also offering the opportunity to see a tour led by our team. Attend live if you can, or come back later to watch the recording.

Workshop 1: October 3 at 1:00pm ET
Workshop 2: October 10 at 1:00pm ET

Our philosophy

There are dozens of new features and enhancements in the new VoiceThread. First, though, what’s not changing: the fundamental value delivered in each of the 24 million VoiceThread discussions people have already built — the ability to capture and convey wonderfully complex human presence across space and time. Put more succinctly, human presence in a comment.

Feeling a sense of human presence in our learning, work, and social lives is really, really important. The research makes this very clear and has informed all our planning and development. So… what’s this “New VoiceThread” all about? Accessibility, simplicity, new features, and the future. 


Accessibility is at the root of our thinking at VoiceThread. All design processes start with asking the question, “Are there barriers to meaningful access here? For whom, and why?” The goal for our team has been to take a tool that already has the most diverse user community of any communications tool ever made, and then broaden it even further. People who are neurodiverse, cognitively disabled, vision or hearing impaired, have motor-function disabilities, simply lack 21st century tech skills, do not have meaningful access to high quality interpersonal interactions for any reason whatsoever — financial, cultural, social — will find a way to communicate authentically online with VoiceThread.

Perhaps the most significant change of all will be that the New VoiceThread will now be one web application, not two. For over a decade we have had “VoiceThread Universal,” a version of the application designed specifically for use with screen readers. This started out as a necessity due to technical hurdles with early media-rich platforms, and while it had some advantages for those users because we could tailor it to fit a known and specific user group, the pitfalls of having a separate application are well known. New VoiceThread will work right out of the box with screen readers, and screen reader users will be working with the same experience as everyone else. We will continue to maintain the older VoiceThread Universal for some time because we know that change is best managed in a self-paced manner. 

Here’s a more detailed list of all accessibility enhancements with the new VoiceThread:

  • All buttons and fields labeled correctly
  • Automated alt text generated for documents and PDFs 
  • Field to enter alt text manually for images and other visual media
  • Option to add audio descriptions to slides
  • Text comment resizing options
  • Zoomable interface
  • WCAG 2.0 AA contrast for all interface elements, including closed captions
  • Full text transcripts of all captioned content

A VoiceThread is a conversation

Back at the very beginning of VoiceThread, we decided to let people create new conversations on any slide in a VoiceThread because it seemed like a powerful option to give people. However, that affordance had the unintended consequence of making VoiceThread conversations a bit hard to follow, particularly for new or inexperienced users who could not see the entire conversation of a VoiceThread at-a-glance and needed to manually go from slide to slide looking for the hidden ‘sub’ conversations.  In addition, people who wanted to give a presentation and then engage their audience in a conversation would create a problematic experience for their audience if they commented on multiple slides in a single comment. because as the comparison in this videoshows,  a comment on slide 4 spans 11 video clips, and when the comment is over, the audience then needs to manually go through 11 slides to get to the next comment. This is not something that viewers generally understood, so they’d be stumped and wonder why the presentation just seemed to end. 

To solve those two problems, and to make VoiceThreading generally more understandable and accessible to more people, New VoiceThread will now default to a One Conversation setting that puts all comments in a single, easy-to-follow timeline. You can still create threaded conversations, but they’ll be clearly visible threads in the one timeline and not tucked away somewhere else in the VoiceThread. Importantly, you can also still start your comment on any slide you want, it will just show up in the same list as all the other comments. And since we always keep ease of transition at the heart of our new features, you can still go back to the previous experience in the thread settings.

A huge reduction in complexity

One of the main goals of this redesign was to make VoiceThreading more understandable and accessible to more people and one of the key tools to accomplish that is a reduction in the complexity of the user interface. Old VoiceThread offered a number of ways to view and navigate a conversation, you could use the comment channel on the left OR the comment timeline on the bottom. Again, we thought that giving people more information and more options was inherently better, but the cost of this was that we placed a relatively high hurdle of understanding in the way of users, in particular new users or neurodiverse users for whom all those helpful elements were actually getting in their way.

So through a redesign we were able to remove lots of complexity from the user interface elements without removing any functionality at all. Yes, you long time users might experience a moment of “hey this looks so different,” but we’re confident that you will figure it out extremely quickly, in fact, I’ll give you a tour in just 12 seconds flat. That’s it. We think that not only are long time users going to pick up on this quickly, but many new people will be able to more quickly understand and participate in these conversations.

It basically now feels like a chat app that happens to have an outrageously rich commenting tool. 

Zoom during commenting

One of the fundamental things that people do when communicating in a live setting is to point to things on a page and bring that page closer in order to see more detail and be more precise about what they are talking about. New VoiceThread will have this same affordance. While recording your comment, you can now zoom in and pan around the image while you are talking, doodling on the media through it all. Your comment will contain all that movement so that your viewers will see that comment exactly as you made it. This is a major new capability that opens up whole new use cases for VoiceThreading; high resolution images and drawings can be explored and discussed in a detailed manner not available anywhere else.

Jump navigation while commenting

A new slide gallery view allows you not only to view the entire collection of slides at once, but also to jump from slide 1 to slide 50 in a single click while commenting. This means you no longer need to engage in a long slide-by-slide traversal of a media collection; you can get wherever you want during your comments instantly. 

Easier login

The apparently simple act of logging into any service is anything but. Balancing the need for security with usability is perhaps one of the biggest challenges the internet faces. One of the biggest and best tools currently available is authentication via existing services like Apple, Google, and Microsoft. We have already added the Google and Apple login options, and will soon add Microsoft to the list. Not only are these services generally more secure, but they also enable enterprise management of users, which is a big win for universities, school districts, and businesses. 

Integration and interoperability

Sounds boring, but great integrations and interoperability of learning systems and data empowers learning institutions, educators, and families to increase student engagement and improve teaching and learning practices. VoiceThread has been a member of the IMS Global Learning Consortium (now 1Edtech) and the InCommon Federation for over a decade. We have highest level certification by both Project Unicorn and 1EdTech in regards to interoperability. 


Last year VoiceThread was awarded Level IV and Level III certification for its alignment with standards outlined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and already had a long and proven record of efficacy across a broad range of uses. There is likely no other EdTech tool with as broad a set of applications, nor as much third-party research conducted into efficacy. A small subset of that research can be found here but if you’re looking for something specific, contact us or conduct your own research starting with these + 2,700 research articles in 9 different languages.


Our review by Common Sense Media, which grades VoiceThread with an A-, places us at the very top of all EdTech tools. A- is good, but we can do better. When VoiceThread‘s privacy policy was established over a decade ago, it was already better than any EdTech tool that we have seen.

Elevating Online Courses with Interactive Lectures on VoiceThread (part 2/3)

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Dr. Raelynne M. Hale.

Interactive Weekly Lectures through VoiceThread

The second type of VoiceThread that I use on a regular basis in my fully online, asynchronous courses is an interactive lecture. This lecture includes informational slides that I narrate to teach students about new topics as well as interaction slides where students are asked to leave text, audio, or video comments. Students may be asked to contemplate a question and to type a personal response, or they may be asked to participate in a class discussion where they share an original view or listen to another classmate’s ideas and elaborate on their thoughts. 

It is important to note that these types of student-to-student interactions work best when the students have met one another within the online course and the instructor has created an open learning environment by inviting them in and creating community in the online classroom - such as through an Introduce Yourself VoiceThread or other Ice-breaker style activities during the first week of class.

The goals of an interactive weekly lecture are to:

  • Have students see my face, hear my voice, and overall, add some human to the online world
  • Introduce and expand on content students have read or learned on their own in another format (audio-video)
  • Provide a space for students to reflect on the new topics and provide their ideas (through text and audio-video comments)
  • Provide a space for students to hear other students’ ideas and perspectives (through reading text comments made by their peers on interaction slides or listening to audio-video comments posted by their peers on discussion slides)
  • Provide a space to give class-wide feedback (through the instructor leaving public posts and comments to expand discussions and clarify ideas)
  • Create a sense of community where students learn together and not in isolation


Small Group Discussions on VoiceThread - A Few Examples

Something else that I wanted to replicate in the online environment were my rich classroom discussions. I loved having discussions with my classes and listening in on their small group discussions as I walked through the classroom answering questions and facilitating. Online, the classic text-only post-and-reply-to-2-peers discussion board just wasn’t producing the types of discussions I was hoping for. So, I got creative.

One way that I did this was by creating different slides for each discussion topic and assigning students to particular slides. This worked great and I could organize the groups each time to help students hear from and interact with different students. 

However, I also wanted students to have some autonomy and pick discussion topics they were interested in, so I began creating VoiceThreads with numbered discussion questions and maximum student limits. For example, if I had a class of 30, I would create six different discussion slides and set the discussion limit to five students per discussion question. Students would select a slide to participate on and would leave their original post, replies, expansion to replies, and thank you messages all on the slide they chose. At the end of the two-week discussion period, they were invited to listen to the other discussions if they would like, but it was not required. This style resulted in wonderful back-and-forth discussions between students, but always took two weeks to facilitate in the online environment. 

Finally, I settled on a blend of these styles. I would have students select a reading or artifact from our textbook or course materials and then they would participate on the corresponding slide in the VoiceThread. I facilitated the discussion and always made sure students had groupmates to discuss with and it worked really well! Students enjoyed being able to select topics they were interested in and the discussion thrived. 

Pro Tip: When creating discussions in an online environment, make sure to set up multiple, regular deadlines each week. For example, a typical schedule for my courses is shown below:

  • Post original comments to the discussion by Tuesday at Midnight
  • Post a reply to one peer in your discussion by Thursday at Midnight 
    • Make sure to reply to peers who do not have replies already first
  • Next week, post a reply to anyone who responded to your original comment by Tuesday at Midnight
  • Listen to the expansion comments made by your peers on your replies and leave a wrap-up and thank you message by Thursday at Midnight

As one may notice, these back-and-forth discussions take time in an online environment. Something that may have taken 30 minutes in a classroom, take two weeks to facilitate in an online environment and lots of organization and follow-up by the instructor.

These group discussions are what have made my online courses more meaningful and are often the things students enjoy the most and comment that they learned the most from in the course. It is also often the reason that students feel they have gotten to know their classmates and feel less isolated when taking online courses.

Stay tuned for part 3 in this series to learn more of the ways I use VoiceThread to engage with my students!

About the Author:

Dr. Raelynne M. Hale is a Teaching Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. You can connect with her on social media at:

Instagram: @dr.rhale

Twitter: @RaelynneMHale

Facebook: Raelynne Hale 

Elevating Online Courses with Interactive Lectures on VoiceThread (part 1/3)

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Dr. Raelynne M. Hale.

 K-State Modern Languages Logo, VoiceThread Logo, and Photo of Dr. Raelynne M. Hale and Dr. Andrea Faber.

When I began redesigning my courses online in 2018, I longed for a way for them to be interactive, engaging, and fun like my in-person courses. I wanted to make sure that students could see and hear one another each week and that they could interact with the content and me, while having the feel of being “in class” despite being on the other side of a computer screen. 

I wanted students to gain a sense of community and to experiment with the course content (and in many cases with the target language they were learning) with other students and not just through auto-graded activities with their textbooks. I wanted them to share their experiences, thoughts, and ideas, and to hear other students’ stories too. 

It took a long time and a lot of experimenting with many platforms and tools, but I found one that really took my asynchronous courses to the next level - VoiceThread!

With VoiceThread, educators can create a presentation with multimedia slides, record comments via audio, webcam, or text on each slide, then share it with their students. They can then decide how students interact with the presentation. There are currently four different assignment types:

  • students can be assigned to participate on a number of slides by leaving audio, video, or text comments and replies and will not be able to submit until they have left the required comments;
  • students can also be assigned to add additional narrated slides that they have created to the original presentation;
  • students can be assigned to simply watch the presentation their instructor has created and VoiceThread will only allow them to submit once the presentation and every slide and narration has been viewed;
  • students can be assigned to create their own presentations and share it with their classmates, who can interact with those presentations too! 

But I want to share how I have used the platform in creative ways to encourage student-to-student engagement in my courses - from lower-level Spanish language courses to graduate-level courses in translation and Environmental History. 

For a quick overview of how I use VoiceThread in engaging ways, you can watch the short video presentation that I prepared for California State University, Fullerton’s Online Education Training department when I was awarded the Virtual & Online Innovations and Curricular Enhancements (VOICE) Award in 2022.

VOICE Award Winner 2022 - Raelynne Hale - VoiceThread Engagement Activities

I will share more ideas over the next few posts, starting with the example below. I have provided a short explanation about the VoiceThread style, why I chose it, and how I set it up so that you can create your own engaging online lectures as well! Please feel free to use my materials as inspiration but do make them your own by adding your own personality and videos as authenticity is important in creating an online community and encouraging students to participate.

Creating Community - ¡Preséntate! Introduce yourself on VoiceThread!

This VoiceThread serves three main purposes: 

  1. Introduce Yourself to Students
  2. Introduce Students to the VoiceThread Tool
  3. Have Students Introduce Themselves to Each Other

During week one of each online course, I have students participate in a special VoiceThread where they will watch my tutorial and introduction slides, then create, add, and narrate their own introductory slide, and then return to watch their peers’ slides and leave replies to peers. 

This VoiceThread really helps to create community and students have said that they really feel like they are welcomed to the course, get to know their classmates, and feel less alone in the online environment. 

*Pro Tip: *This VoiceThread can be used in any course, at any level, and with any size class! If you have more than 30 students in a class, think about breaking the class into groups of 10 or 15 and having those small groups participate in a VoiceThread of their own. This way, you create community, but do not overwhelm yourself or the other students by having 100s of students participating on one VoiceThread.

(*Note: Student slides and comments have been removed to protect students’ identities in all of the VoiceThread example links on this post.)\

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in this series to learn more of the ways I use VoiceThread to engage with my students.

About the Author:

Dr. Raelynne M. Hale is a Teaching Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. You can connect with her on social media at:

Instagram: @dr.rhale

Twitter: @RaelynneMHale

Facebook: Raelynne Hale 

6 Ways to Use VoiceThread in Math Courses

“A good teacher can guide the discussion and the flow of problems so as to allow the students to discover and invent mathematics for themselves” - A Mathematican’s Lament by Paul Lockhart

The quote above is from Paul Lockhart’s essay A Mathematician’s Lament. In the essay, Lockhart argues that the way mathematics is taught in schools is often ineffective and uninspiring. He believes that students should be encouraged to think creatively and to explore mathematical concepts for themselves. He also argues that discussion is an essential part of learning mathematics, as it allows students to share their ideas and to learn from each other.

VoiceThread can be a valuable tool for math teachers, because this is exactly what VoiceThread was designed to do: offer various ways to engage students through discussion, facilitate problem-solving, and promote mathematical thinking. Here are just some of the ways VoiceThread can be used in online math courses.

  1. Problem Solving Discussions: Teachers can upload math problems or equations to VoiceThread and ask students to provide their solutions or explanations. Students can respond with voice, webcam, or text comments, sharing their thought processes, strategies, and reasoning. This encourages critical thinking, collaboration, and the exploration of different problem-solving approaches.
  2. Visual Representations: VoiceThread allows for the uploads of images, diagrams, graphs, and videos too. Math teachers can upload visual representations of mathematical concepts, such as geometric figures, coordinate planes, or data charts. Students can analyze and discuss these visuals, identifying patterns, making connections, and applying mathematical concepts by using the Doodle Tool to annotate on the slides.
  3. Math Explanations and Tutorials: Students can create math explanations and tutorials using VoiceThread. They can record their voice or add text comments to explain mathematical concepts, demonstrate problem-solving steps, or provide examples. This allows for peer-to-peer learning, reinforces understanding, and develops communication and instructional skills.
  4. Math Discussions and Debates: VoiceThread enables asynchronous math discussions and debates. Teachers can pose math-related questions or prompts, and students can respond with their voice, webcam, or text comments, engaging in meaningful discussions. This encourages students to justify their mathematical reasoning, consider alternative perspectives, and deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts.
  5. Math Investigations and Projects: VoiceThread can support math investigations and projects. Students can upload their work, such as data sets, graphs, or mathematical models, and explain their findings or conclusions through voice, webcam, or text comments. This allows for the sharing of research, collaboration, and the presentation of mathematical concepts in a multimedia format.
  6. Math Reflections and Self-Assessment: VoiceThread can be used for math reflections and self-assessment. Students can record their reflections on their math learning, discussing their strengths, challenges, and areas for improvement. They can also assess their own work by providing voice or text comments on their solutions or mathematical reasoning.

These are just a few examples of how VoiceThread can be used by math teachers. The platform’s multimedia capabilities, interactive features, and collaborative nature make it a versatile tool for enhancing math instruction, promoting student engagement, and fostering mathematical thinking and communication.

Sneak Peek: The New VoiceThread!

Screenshot of the new VoiceThread media player with an audio comment playing

This fall, VoiceThreaders will be able to try out the brand new VoiceThread! The core experience will not change, so VoiceThread will still do everything you already do now, and it will have a fresh new look along with some powerful new features. It has also been built from the ground up with accessibility in mind.

Some highlights of that new experience include:

  • A single experience accessible to everyone, including screen reader users
  • Redesign of the VT Home Page to match the design of integrated assignments and the mobile app
  • Fresh visual update to the media player to streamline, modernize, and enable support for new features
Screenshot of the new VoiceThread media player with the commenting menu open

A few new features:

  • Increased control of comment playback through the conversation channel
  • Bulk actions on comments (delete, reveal moderated comments)
  • True transcripts for captioned content
  • Ability to pan while zoomed in and commenting

On top of being a massive usability and accessibility boost, this will pave the way for lots of new features in the coming months.

Screenshot of the new VoiceThread home screen with the course sidebar open

How to Make Language Learning Engaging with VoiceThread

Speaking and listening are a big part of what Language Teachers do in face to face classrooms, but it can be difficult to replicate these activities in online courses. So many online courses silence student voices and that is a big problem for language teachers. VoiceThread can be the solution to this problem because it humanizes the online learning experience for students. Here are six ways VoiceThread can be used in language teaching:

  1. Speaking Practice: VoiceThread allows students to practice their speaking skills by recording comments in the target language using audio or webcam comments. You can create prompts or questions related to the language topics being studied, and students can respond with their recorded answers. This provides an opportunity for students to practice pronunciation, fluency, and oral communication skills.

  2. Listening Comprehension: You can record or upload audio and video slides and then ask students to listen and respond with their comments. Students can answer specific questions, summarize the content, or engage in discussions related to what they heard. This helps develop listening comprehension skills and encourages active, authentic engagement without the stress of live conversations.

  3. Pronunciation and Intonation Practice: VoiceThread allows you to provide targeted feedback on students’ pronunciation and intonation. Students can record their spoken responses, and teachers can respond with voice or text comments, offering guidance, corrections, and suggestions for improvement. This personalized feedback can help students refine their pronunciation skills. You can respond directly to each student using the Threaded Reply feature.

  4. Oral Presentations: VoiceThread can be used for student presentations in the target language. Students can create multimedia presentations by uploading slides, images, or videos and adding their voice narration. This allows them to practice their presentation skills, demonstrate their understanding of the topic, and receive feedback from both the teacher and peers.

  5. Collaborative Projects: VoiceThread facilitates collaborative language learning projects. Students can work together on a shared VoiceThread, adding their voice or text comments to contribute to a discussion, debate, or group project. This promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills in the target language.

  6. Cultural Exploration: VoiceThread can be used to explore and discuss cultural topics related to the target language. Teachers can upload images, videos, or articles that represent different aspects of the culture, and students can share their observations, ask questions, and engage in cross-cultural discussions through their comments.

These are just a few examples of how VoiceThread can be used by language teachers, but you can transform any of your current lesson and assessment ideas into VoiceThreads. The ability to use multimedia slides, interactive commenting, and the power to provide personalized, human feedback make VoiceThread a versatile tool for enhancing language learning and promoting communication for any languages that you teach.

VoiceThread Roadmap 2023

Banner image showing a folded roadmap with a VT logo

The arc of change in the teaching and learning universe may be long, but it bends towards a more accessible, equitable, inclusive, and human-centric world. We plan on shortening that arc just a little bit in 2023. But first, let’s take a look at what happened last year.

2022 in Review

Google and Apple Login

Anyone who has a Google account or Apple ID can use it to access VoiceThread now. On the main VoiceThread login page, you can simply click on the “Sign in with Google” or “Sign in with Apple” button. If you already have a VoiceThread account under that email address, we’ll just sign you into it.

Assignment Features

Formal assignments and other integrated activity types, available to any institution that uses VoiceThread in an integrated LMS, received a number of updates:

  • Updated design and functionality for building VT Home, Course View, and Individual VT links
  • Options to change a VoiceThread’s settings while building an Individual VT link
  • New option to reconnect an existing assignment to a new link in your LMS
  • Set a prerequisite assignment before students can work on the current one
  • Added a close date that differs from due date
  • Ability to disable the Assignment Builder in the Canvas “Modules” area (available upon request)
  • Introduced an updated “slide gallery” view so that it is accessible for screen readers and keyboard users

Doodling Preferences

Whether you set your doodles to fade or not fade, that preference will be remembered until you opt to change it again.

Mobile Updates

We made a number of updates to the mobile app. Some of this is visible, but a substantial amount can only be “felt.” We did a major refactor to make the app more stable, improve error handling and cache/memory management, reduce load times, and make modals and messaging work better. Additional items added:

  • Option to request account deletion on the “My Account” page
  • Moved closed captions to the bottom of the screen
  • Support for all new assignment features from the student experience
  • Google and Apple login added
  • Improvements to device rotation during recordings
  • Option to switch identities from all editing pages
  • Ability to message app users that an update is available

Accessibility Updates

  • Added a slide description field so content creators can make their image slides more accessible
  • Automated creation of descriptions and alt text from PDF and document slides
  • Translated the new assignments interfaces
  • Introduced an updated “slide gallery” view to assignments so that it is accessible for screen readers and keyboard users
  • Moved closed captions to the bottom of the screen


Strong security is a quest that never ends, but we made great strides in that area in 2022.

  • Received our first SOC 2 report.
  • Updated our backend QA environment to ensure that only anonymized data can be used in any test scenario.
  • Increased group security when adding new members.
  • Added authenticated callbacks for third-party closed caption integrations.

Backend Work

Behind-the-scenes work isn’t glamorous, but it is what makes all of our upcoming work possible!

  • Automated key rollover to ensure strong security of integrations
  • Refactored the closed caption handling
  • Refactored our reporting infrastructure
  • Performed several intensive library updates
  • Built manifests and API endpoints to support upcoming features in 2023

Coming in 2023

The New VoiceThread

We’ve been working for a long time on unifying the VoiceThread experience across all platforms and for all types of users. This wasn’t possible back in the days when Adobe Flash was required and then HTML5, but we’re finally there now. This year, we’ll be releasing a completely overhauled version of VoiceThread that will be exactly the same for everyone and that was built with accessibility in mind from the ground up. Some highlights:

  • A single interface accessible to everyone, including screen reader users.
  • Redesign of the VT Home Page to match the design of integrated assignments and the mobile app.
  • Redesign of the media player to streamline, modernize, and enable support for new features.
  • A few new features:
    • Ability to pan while zoomed in and commenting
    • Bulk-reveal moderated comments
    • Bulk-delete comments on a slide
    • True transcripts provided for captioned content

There will be many more new features to come over time as a result of the new interface. When the new version is ready, we’ll alert everyone via email and give you the ability to test it on your own timeline. All administrators will have a window of time to decide when they would like their institution to move over to the new version so you can line up the transition with a convenient time for your users.

Zoom Oauth

Zoom is deprecating its JWT integration, which is what we have used in the past. We will be adding support Oauth integrations instead. We’ll be working with institutions to transition over before the June cutoff date.

Google Group Integration

If you use Google Classroom and already have a Google Suite integration for authentication, we will be able to create class groups in VoiceThread for each Google class and enroll students. This matches the roster integration for LTI integrations in learning management systems.

Microsoft Integration

We will be adding Microsoft integration for login and importing slides from OneDrive.


For courses using formal assignments integrated in an LMS:

  • New assignment type that requires students to comment on their classmates’ submissions from a previous assignment
  • Ability to grade students who haven’t begun to work on an assignment
  • Option to prevent students from seeing the Student Gallery in “Create” assignments until they have already submitted their own VoiceThread.
  • Update the grader to better support instructor edits for captions, allow exporting, and remove the “Edit” button when it should not appear.
  • Ability to view and even create assignments outside of an LTI integration in an LMS

Google Integration Update

Integration with Google Suite is the way many people access VoiceThread, especially in K-12. We’ll be adding two new features to our Google connection:

  • Roster synchronization: If you use Google Classroom, we can automate the creation of VoiceThread courses to match those rosters.
  • Sign in with Google: For independent users who want to sign in with Google instead of having a password specifically for VoiceThread.


The “New VoiceThread” will be our last step in unifying the standard and “universal” versions of VoiceThread. There will be a single, fully accessible experience for all users. This goal has been several years and iterations in the making, and we’re so proud to be reaching that goal this year. Of course we will never stop making improvements and collecting feedback, but this will be a major benchmark in the 16-year journey of bringing accessible multimedia learning environments to all students.

Additional features coming:

  • Time chunk editing for closed captions
  • Closed caption color/size/font customization
  • Update ability to set personalized defaults for closed caption preferences

Mobile App

The mobile VoiceThread experience is another area where we’ll never be done growing, and 2023 will be no exception.

  • Bulk VoiceThread editing actions
  • Support for the updated slide gallery view
  • Support for new media player features of the “New VoiceThread”
  • Accessibility improvements to match the web experience
  • Ability to play VoiceThreads in the mobile browser instead of forcing the app to launch
  • Ability to grade assignments

Student Purchase Option

Some institutions and individual instructors want to use premium VoiceThread features with their students, but there is simply no funding available. A number of these institutions would like the option to require students to purchase their own “seats” in a license instead of funding everyone centrally. This should make VoiceThread more accessible to those institutions.

Thank you, as always, for your feedback, partnership, and innovation in bringing all these new features to life. We look forward to a brighter and more hopeful year!

Every Student Succeeds Act Certification

Veteran VoiceThread educators have been expanding their classrooms and providing students a place for them to practice their interpersonal and collaborative skills for over 15 years, and now we have formal validation of that winning strategy. After undertaking a review process with independent experts at the LearnPlatform, VoiceThread has been certified to meet Levels III & IV standards that are defined by the U.S. Department of Education Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This is an important and impactful validation for us; however, ESSA validation is only part of the story.

VoiceThread’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Muth, explains “ESSA Level IV & Level III certification not only affirms that there is a research basis underlyingthe unique affordances that VoiceThreading offers, but it also validates the overall direction of our mission — humanizing the learning experience for both students and educators. We have known for a long time that high quality human-to-human interaction is not an elective component of a successful learning journey; it is a core requirement.

What is ESSA? Why does it matter?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a United States law passed in 2015 that empowers state and local educators to identify the needs of their own students and to select tools and strategies tailored to meet those needs. Tools with ESSA certification have undergone rigorous evaluation to prove that they are effective in improving student outcomes across the board.

What are the ESSA tiers of evidence?

ESSA’s tiers of evidence help learning institutions ensure the interventions deployed are backed by robust research. There are four tiers in total. The Level IV indicates that the intervention has a “well-defined logic model based on rigorous research,” and that further study is in the works to verify the approach’s efficacy. Level III attests that promising evidence of efficacy exists and is well documented in research findings. The Learn Platform reviewed our logic model and reviewed existing research to evaluate if there was sufficient evidence to support that logic model in the lived experiences of students.

What’s next

The VoiceThread executive and product teams will continue to work with the LearnPlatform to document, refine, and iterate on our logic model. The logic model is only the beginning of our efforts to understand and document specifically how VoiceThread has a positive impact on student learning. Partnering with learning researchers at K-20 institutions around the world, we plan to find out which affordances are most impactful, how, why, when, and for whom.

If you’re interested in the structure and details of research click here to get a copy of the Level IV report that was developed in partnership with LearnPlatform.