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Connect – September 2016

VoiceThread – Multimedia Collaboration and Sharing Online

VoiceThread is a web based software that allows faculty (and students) to create presentations or facilitate discussions by uploading slides, images, or video(s) and then adding audio or video narrations. While one can choose from a variety of tools to make a narrated presentation for students to watch, what makes VoiceThread different – and potentially more interactive – is that ease with which the creator can enable any viewer to comment on a given image or slide in the presentation. As time passes, and students and faculty add to the presentation, the VoiceThread itself becomes an increasingly rich source for understanding the content. In addition to faculty presentations and class discussions, VoiceThread can also be used for student or group presentations, allowing others to view and comment outside of class time.

Molly Knight & Tina Boyer – German Masterworks in Translation: Monstrosity

Connect IconFor the second iteration of their fully online summer course, Dr. Knight & Dr. Boyer looked to VoiceThread as a way to increase the quality of the weekly interactions students engage in around the major concepts of the course. Their weekly discussions give the students an opportunity to process the readings and course videos, demonstrate their familiarity with key points, and hone their understanding of the topic through the feedback they receive from each other and their instructors. The students respond both to the instructors’ prompts and their peers’ posts. While the discussions themselves occurred asynchronously, the ubiquity of video and audio comments helped to create a more robust classroom online. VoiceThread is relatively unique regarding the ease with which students and instructors can post audio and video comments in the context of threaded discussions. Molly and Tina’s instructional design allowed their students to maintain a high bar for class discussions, while improving the sense of community they all experienced in seeing and hearing their classmates.

Brian Calhoun – Strategic Job Search (CNS 320)

As Brian prepares to teach this course online next summer, he is searching for a way to replicate the in-class interaction and discussion that is a hallmark of this course when taught on campus. To that end, he plans to use VoiceThread as a way to present content, and engage students more deeply. From Brian:

The undergraduate students will utilize VT through weekly discussion posts during the five week CNS320 Strategic Job Search online class. One of the weekly assignments will have the students utilize their peer networks to refine their responses to interview questions, and develop well thought out questions to ask potential employers during job interview and recruitment events. The interactivity of the VT discussion posts will hopefully reduce student anxiety over high pressure interview and career fair situations by requiring them to talk about these job search situations in person, so to speak, in advance. I encourage students to ask questions using VT that they feel they will face in a job interview, and I really value being able to walk through these scenarios for the benefit of the entire class.

While watching videos of oneself can be difficult at times, the hope is that by practicing their answers and recording their responses, students will be better equipped to deliver in critical moments. While Brian has arrived at this solution for his online course, it’s possible that it might also inform his practice in his face-to-face course.

Interested in getting started in VoiceThread:

Learn – September 2016

Other Learning Opportunities

In an effort to assist you in exploring the ways in which you might adjust your own discussions, we’ve included a list of articles, workshops, conferences, and more. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at


TLC & OnlineEd Workshops

3 people worth following on Twitter

OLC Workshops

(contact the Office of Online Ed for free registration)

Fall Conferences

Do – September 2016 is an open, online annotation tool that allows you to take and share notes on digital content.

Hypothesis Intro

Annotations can be public or private, critical or collaborative, formative or summative. It can be a great tool for sharing your own metacognitive reading processes or supporting close reading by students.


Loren Horn Griffin, from the University of Oklahoma, has detailed several possible uses in the college classroom. Moreover, as an open, non-profit, collaborative effort,’ mission fits in nicely with that of a university classroom.

To get started:

Further reading

  • John Stewart takes one step further by creating a custom activity tracker.


Google+, Google’s social network, offers an intriguing space for classroom interactions of a different character than those situated in Sakai. Designed for social networking, Google+ provides an ease of communication and potential for engagement similar to other social platforms (i.e. Facebook & Twitter), but with a relatively clean slate. Since few students are active participants on Google+ (as opposed to, say, Facebook), it can be easier to establish a course-appropriate tone for interactions in here. Moreover, student profiles are connected to their WFU email and username, easing the setup of a private group for your class.

Google +

While we wouldn’t recommend Google+ for all of your course-related discussions, there are a few instances where we think it excels.

  • Less Formal & More Frequent Sometimes instructors want 250-300 word posts from students with an academic tone and source citations. Google+ is NOT the place for those. Rather, it’s a good place designed to generate less formal discussion. Include a poll about students’ favorite text in a given week. Ask students to post their favorite quote, and +1 the other one’s that they also like. The dynamic back and forth of the classroom is sometimes easier to generate online with shorter, less formal discussions.
  • Media-Driven Topics Teaching a course on Sociology and Film? Google+ is designed to easily integrate the of sharing videos, images, and links. Students can easily reference clips, stills, and articles in the context of your discussion…in a way that everyone else in the group knows exactly which scene they’re talking about. This visual element adds something that is difficult to produce in a traditional classroom.Gears Green
  • Learning Beyond the Classroom One of the best features of Google+ is its mobile app (for both iOS and Android). A business professor at WFU designed a brand recognition assignment for his marketing class in which students would photograph examples of specific marketing strategies that they identified in the supermarket. With the Google+ app, students could easily snap the photo, add their justification, and search their classmates’ examples, all while standing in Aisle Nine.
  • Flipped Classroom Its not uncommon to hear of a faculty members who have created a series of short instructional videos in an effort to flip their classes. If you’re thinking of doing the same, a Google+ community offers an interesting opportunity to post and organize your videos. Students can add questions and comments in response to each video, and access them just as easily on a laptop as with their mobiles.

A few things to keep in mind if you think you might want to use Google+ in your course:

  1. Have students set up their Google+ profiles and join the community early. While profiles are linked to their WFU emails, they still need to complete parts of their Google+ profiles to receive community invites. It’s also a good time to encourage them to confirm their privacy settings. Give the class one to three weeks to join and settle in.
  2. Initiate participation with a low bar of entry. Communicating on a new platform or in a new context can be disorienting. Provide students one or more low-stakes opportunities to engage with each other early on (i.e. A poll question, an icebreaker post requiring comment, etc.). This helps to build familiarity with the platform and rapport with the class.
  3. Elicit feedback and remain flexible. Google+ as an extension of the classroom is probably new for both you and your students. Instructors rarely get everything exactly right the first time. Plan accordingly and hold firm to your primary goals, but don’t refuse to change tactics if there’s reason to think it might improve interactions.

Getting Started

Think – September 2016

Extending Interaction Beyond the Classroom

At Wake Forest, we rightly place great value on the interaction our faculty and students have with each other, most commonly apparent in our vibrant classrooms. There are many ways in which this interaction extends beyond the classroom, too. For instance, faculty also play a role in advising students and serving as fellows in our residence halls. It’s possible to extend academic interactions beyond the classroom as well. A central strategy in teaching and learning is minimizing the transactional and relational distances in theLightbulb icon, Red classroom. Moore’s taxonomy describes three types of interaction: student-instructor, student-content, and student-student. While Moore’s original effort is designed to clarify learning in distance education, increasing these interactions outside of the classroom can enhance learning outcomes across all sorts of environments.

Why might we want to extend interaction beyond the time we spend face-to-face with our students?

  • Accountability – Give students a concrete way to show that they have prepared for your class by initiating the discussion before they arrive. Provide students a space online to share questions or muddiest points from the reading, take a short quiz, collaboratively brainstorm, or answer questions embedded in a video or VoiceThread.
  • Reflection – Have you ever had to end a class when the discussion was just getting started? Or maybe after you finished processing a given class meeting, you found yourself wishing that you had said one more thing or asked one more question? Students often feel this way too. Build time for processing and reflection by asking students to engage in discussion, write in journals, or post in a blog after class. Create an opportunity for students whose voices are seldom heard in the classroom to participate in the discourse.
  • Engagement – College students are still in the process of discovering and developing their voices. Help them learn how to engage more deeply in the content you share with them by using a tool like and building questions into videos you curate or create.
  • Community – Learning is a social activity, and it works better in community. Moreover, the way you organize and participate in out-of-class discussion, regardless of the technology, matters. Learn how specific strategies can create social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence.

There are many ways technology can help us do this, including Google+ communities, VoiceThread, blogs, wikis or even shared Google documents – not to mention all the tools in our learning management system, Sakai. Take a look at some of the examples shared in this newsletter and then consider why you might want to extend interaction outside the classroom. Let your goals guide you to the right technology tool … and in deciding whether one is required at all.

Do – March 2016


Take a moment to visualize the following:Gears Green

It’s the first day of class, and your instructor stands at the front of the room. This instructor reaches for lecture notes, blows the dust from them, and clears his or her throat. Lecture has begun, and it continues without pause for the next hour. The instructor makes no effort to connect what you are now hearing with your other readings or assignments, nor does he or she ask you to do so. No one is allowed to interrupt with questions, and the instructor elects not to assess students in any way until the end of the term.

Now imagine the same experience…but as a video in an online course.

Non-interactive, exceedingly long, and de-contextualized video content can result in scant learning, even when it is well-produced and features a dynamic instructor. While there are many strategies that one might employ to connect video content to deeper learning, one tool available to improve in-video engagement is Zaption.

Zaption is a browser-based tool that enables you to add interactivity to existing video content. With a free account you can add open-ended and multiple choice questions or text and image annotations (paid accounts offer several additional features). These videos are then embeddable on Sakai and elsewhere. Take a few minutes to view a demo lesson that our office has created.

As the creator of a lesson, you then have the ability to view student responses and viewing behaviors on the lesson’s dashboard, which can be sorted by student, question, or class.

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We encourage you to explore Zaption’s lesson gallery, create a lesson of your own, and share it with our office or your colleagues. In addition to Zaption’s own support resources, we’d be happy to work with you to troubleshoot any issues you encounter in creating content for your students.

Connect – March 2016

Faculty using Video at WFU

Connect IconWhile there are a number of faculty here at Wake Forest who are committed to the creative use of video to enhance instruction, we’d like to highlight two of them:

Kyle Denlinger – VoiceThread in LIB 100

Kyle Denlinger, eLearning Librarian at ZSR, took the opportunity to design an online version of LIB 100 – Accessing Information in the 21st Century, to incorporate video using VoiceThread. He refers to VoiceThread as more of a communication platform, calling it “less of a presentation tool, and more of a conversation.” Here are a few of the ways VoiceThread features in LIB 100.

  • Introductory Videos – In addition to readings and other videos, Kyle created a VoiceThread each week where he presented content by video narrating over slides. Periodically, throughout the presentation, he would ask students to respond to a question and they would post replies in text, audio, or video that everyone could see and respond to.Kyle - Voicethread
  • Discussion – VoiceThread allowed Kyle to reconfigure in-class discussions by posting slides with six compelling question prompts related to each week’s readings. Students had to respond to at least two questions each week and reply to each other’s responses.
  • “Big Idea” VoiceThread – Each week students identified one big idea they took away from the course that week and created a three slide VoiceThread. Slide one unpacked the big idea they were taking away, slide two described an idea on which they were still unclear, and slide three asked a question of the class, leading to more discussion.
  • Tutorials – Students also created some of the course content by narrating screencast videos teaching others how to use a specific library database. They uploaded their videos to VoiceThead to share with the class.
  • Pecha Kucha – At the end of the course, students presented their research project in the form of a Pecha Kucha presentation with audio or video narration.

Kyle asked his students to reflect on the course at the end, and many reported actually participating more than they do most in-person classes. He believes that the students came to see themselves not just as passive consumers of information, but as active producers of it, in part due to the video based assignments and discussion.assignments and discussion

Mary Dalton – Recording Video Interviews with Authors over Skype

 Dr. Mary Dalton is developing an online version of COM 318 – Culture and the Sitcom. The textbook for the course is a collection of essays about the topic organized by decade and written by a number of authors. Mary used the online nature of the course to do something she has always wanted to do: bring the physically dispersed authors into the classroom.  Mary & Laura - Skype

She used Skype to video call the authors, and Call Recorder to capture the video of the speaker and herself having a conversation. The videos will be embedded in her Sakai course site, and stored in the Online Education’s Vimeo account. Students will see the interview, then read the chapter, then view the associated sitcoms, now with a framework for intellectual analysis as opposed simply for entertainment. If you have a moment, view an excerpt from one of the interviews.

Mary’s course will run online this summer.  For more information, see

Think – March 2016

Instructional Video

While rarely included in the correspondence and distance learning courses of decades past, videos have become nearly ubiquitous in today’s online, blended, and flipped courses. Those of us who have experienced these courses, both old and new, might now find ourselves asking the question: is this a good thing? To which our office would reply…maybe.

Lightbulb icon, RedVideos have the potential to offer a great deal to the learning environment, but they are equally capable of numbing your students and fostering an impression of abdicated responsibility. Faculty and students alike have spent most, or all, of their academic lives teaching and learning in a shared physical space. Removing individuals from this familiar environment has the potential to disorient learners in a problematic fashion. Synchronous video interactions can leave individuals less certain of having achieved mutual understanding. Long, lecture capture videos – even those of a high production quality – often result in low levels of student engagement. Poorly designed video content is likely to increase the transactional and relational distance between students and teachers, which ultimately hinders learning. Decontextualized videos leave students feeling as though their instructor has completed his or her work, and then simply walked away.

Video done right, however, has the potential to engage learners in new and significant ways. Engaging, empathic videos can connect learners to teachers and content in significant ways. Worked problems and screencast tutorials can be successful ways to communicate difficult concepts in a manner that allows students to view, and review, sample problems at their own pace. VoiceThread and Zaption (each addressed elsewhere in this month’s newsletter) are two interactive tools that support the development of engaging video. These tools promote the development of video interactions that are well-equipped to minimize the transactional distance in any mode of instruction.

For more reflection on video use in the learning environment this #digped Storify of a 2012 discussion includes several insights into “the use and abuse of the video lecture” by contemporary practitioners. Elsewhere on the same site, Jesse Stommel offers up a self-reflective examination on his own use of video for Shakespeare in Community. As with any aspect of learning, we encourage you to learn from your colleagues about their successes and failures, meet together to brainstorm new ways forward, and contact us for further assistance in exploring a variety of video tools and production techniques.

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                     Online ASL Instruction                   One tutorial, several ways        RSA Animate | Education Paradigms

Learn – March 2016

Related Journals from ZSRLearn

While ZSR hosts a variety of journals designed to assist faculty and staff alike with improving instruction across all types of courses, two that we would like to highlight here include the Teaching Professor and Online Cl@ssroom. Both of these publications can be accessed through ZSR’s journal search page. The Teaching Professor is designed, “to provide ideas and insight to educators who are passionate about teaching.” Faculty Focus is a companion blog that can be accessed freely online. Online Cl@ssroom is another newsletter from the same publisher that focuses on teaching and learning in online and blended environments. Two recent articles that connect to our current topic include one on screencasting and another on videos in the blended classroom.

Note: Subscription access to ZSR Journals may require VPN login from off-campus locations (learn more).

Other Learning Opportunities:

Articles & Websites


TLC Workshops on campus

Online Learning Consortium Workshops

The Office of Online Education has some pre-purchased seats in OLC online workshops.  Email if you are interested in taking one.

Teaching Professor Newsletter

Online Cl@ssroom Newsletter

Learn – February 2016

TOPc@st & BlendKit Mooc

“Once upon a time, there was a hospitality college at a large metropolitan research university in Orlando…” So begins a story that Tom Cavanagh shares in episode four of TOPc@st, a teaching podcast that he co-hosts with Kelvin Thompson. Cavanagh continues by recalling a conversation he once had with Dean of that college, in which the Dean identified a central problem on campus: parking (one with which people at Universities everywhere can identify).  

Learn TealAs a hospitality college with a commitment to “high-touch teaching,” this school had always been reluctant to embrace online learning. However, it soon became apparent that rethinking the program’s mode of delivery might not only open up new opportunities for learning, but also address this seemingly unrelated problem. Cavanagh and Thompson do not attempt to convince their audience that instructional decisions are best made on the basis of university infrastructure problems. Rather, they paint a picture of an unexpected change that led not only to improved interest from both faculty and students but also to improved outcomes in the classroom.

Episodes three and four of TOPc@st offer a great introduction into the world of blended learning; and for those of you who are interested in learning more, the team at UCF begins teaching the fifth iteration of their blended learning MOOC on February 22: BlendKit2016. In our opinion, this is one of the best online learning opportunities available to those of you who are truly interested in learning more about blended learning. 

Sign-up to dive deeper. Better yet, if you, or any of your colleagues, are interested in completing this five week (free) course as part of a local WFU cohort, let us know ( and we’ll work to arrange an actual blended learning experience.

Other Learning Opportunities:

Building a Student Culture of Academic Integrity: The Role of Anti-Plagiarism Software

This workshop is taught by Dr. Laura Aull, from the Writing Program, as well as staff and faculty from the Teaching Learning Center, the Library, and Instructional Technology Specialists.  Find out about the opportunity to participate in a Spring 2016 pilot of VeriCite.

Faculty and Student Panel Discussion: Online Summer College Courses

Faculty and students from each of four courses taught online during Summer 2015 will present a short assessment of their experience teaching or learning, followed up by a time for questions from the attendees. Representatives from the Online Education Committee of the College (OLEC) will also be present.

Online Learning Consortium Workshops

The Office of Online Education has purchased a 10 seat pass for OLC Workshops.  Take a look at the workshops offered; if you are interested in attending, contact us at

“With more than 140 workshops per year covering key online teaching and learning topics, university faculty and staff can learn about the essentials of online teaching, blended teaching & learning, social media, mobile learning, online teaching and learning tools, copyright, the TEACH act, and so much more.”

Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference

The fifth annual Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts conference is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18 – Thursday, May 19, 2016, at Bryn Mawr College. These conferences are intended to be a forum for faculty and staff to share resources, techniques, findings, and experiences related to blended learning. Their definition of blended learning is quite broad, encompassing any combination of online and face-to-face instruction with a focus on supporting the close faculty-student interaction and emphasis on lifelong learning that are hallmarks of American liberal arts education. (See also article in the 4/14/2014 newsletter)

TLC workshops on campus

Teaching Professor Newsletter

Online Cl@ssroom Newsletter

Connect – February 2016

BOLD Grants & Blended Learning

Each year, the Provost’s Office provides several grants designed to encourage and support faculty in their work here at Wake Forest. The Office of Online Education partners with the Provost to offer one such grant: The Blended and Online Learning Development, or BOLD, Grant. The BOLD grant is designed to provide faculty with both support and compensation in developing online or blended courses in support of the undergraduate mission.

Connect IconOne of the 2015 BOLD grants went to Saylor Breckenridge for his proposal to blend his social statistics course. Saylor recently offered up the following reflections on the BOLD Grant process and his now blended course.

I was intrigued by blended course structures and thought that it could be an asset to my Social Statistics course in which there is a lab focused on learning statistical software. I thought that moving that portion of the class online might be a particularly effective technique for engaging with students on these materials. [After receiving] a BOLD grant in the summer of 2015, I immediately began working with the Office of Online Education. The collaboration with this office has opened my eyes to ways that online pedagogy can be an excellent means of teaching and working with students. Their skills have provided me with excellent training and leadership towards understanding techniques distant from the idea of merely video-ing my lectures towards creating new content that enhances my class. Blended learning has become a notable asset to my Social Statistics course providing me with the ability to construct lessons about data and software that students can access repeatedly as they work on assignments and long-term projects.

To hear more about several other courses that were developed by faculty with the 2014 BOLD (then: STEP II) Grants, we invite you to attend the Faculty and Student Panel Discussion on Online Summer College Courses (February 16th).