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