Photo of High Ed Online Learning from Michelle Pacansky-Brock

High Ed Online Learning from Michelle Pacansky-Brock

By Michelle Pacansky-Brock


This VoiceThread is from a learning unit in a 16-week online art appreciation class at the community college level. I used VoiceThread to deliver content, as in a lecture, but wove in open-ended questions for students to respond to. I’m really excited about this VoiceThread. I think it could be used in many different contexts. It incorporates voice and text comments as well as great visuals. My students’ comments are insightful, engaging and demonstrate evidence of discussing ideas in a group setting (like a class discussion).


There are 16 learning units in each semester - one learning unit each week. Each week a new learning unit is deployed. The learning unit includes a list of learning objectives and a list of assignments to complete, which are designed to help them meet their objectives. The assignments include a reading from the textbook or a selected article, this VoiceThread lecture, possibly some weblinks, sometimes an online movie or movie clip. In the VoiceThread, students respond to prompts crafted by the instructor that require them to reflect on the unit’s content.


  • Increases their sense of being part of a community (a significant barrier for online success).
  • Improves the sense that the instructor is present in their learning experience.
  • Students enjoy having options for commenting (text, audio, phone-audio, video).
  • VoiceThread improves student-student and student-teacher communication and reduces the amount of “hurt feelings”, as opposed to the usual bulletin-board format, because the human voice eliminates misinterpretations of text-based comments.


During the first week of a course students get a little confused about what to do, but this initial confusion passes quickly as they explore and experience VoiceThread’s tools. In higher learning, older students are less excited about trying out new technologies - they need more encouragement and support.


  • Give clear instructions to your students about how to use VoiceThread.
  • Explain to them WHY you’re having them use it. How will VoiceThread benefit their learning?
  • Demonstrate that you know what you’re doing. Be a confident instructional leader.


Use a voicethread project to have discussions about readings or lecture topics.