Can VoiceThread be ADA Compliant?

It sure can!  One of the things I have been working on this semester is making my VoiceThread videos ADA compliant. As I began exploring this topic I realized that there was no easy way to get it done. You would think that in this day and age including subtitles for the hearing impaired would be an automatic thing in e-learning software such as VoiceThread, Adobe Captivate or Techsmith’s Camtasia etc., and with the click of a mouse they would be included, but they are not…

One of the things I have been working on this semester is making my VoiceThread weekly overviews ADA compliant. As I began exploring this topic I realized that there was no easy way to get it done. You would think that in this day and age including subtitles for the hearing impaired would be an automatic thing in e-learning software such as VoiceThread, Adobe Captivate or Techsmith’s Camtasia etc., and with the click of a mouse they would be included, but they are not…

Don’t get me wrong they all include a way to do it, but it is not easy nor is it fast. As you need to watch how-to online videos created by the software company and go to different online forums to learn how to do it.

Recently, Voicethread began offering a way to this, but it is not as user-friendly as the VoiceThread Standard site. You need to go to a different area that VoiceThread has created called VoiceThead Universal.  Besides the very different look that this page has, it does not do what you think it should do or at least it did not fulfill my expectations of what subtitles should look like. Interestingly enough the subtitles are added to the side of the screen as side notes instead of as subtitles. When I tried it I didn’t like the subtitles were positioned to the left side of the screen because it looked like an afterthought.

Recently, Voicethread began offering a way to this, but it is not as user-friendly as the VoiceThread Standard site. You need to go to a different area that VoiceThread has created called VoiceThead Universal.  Besides the very different look that this page has, it does not do what you think it should do or at least it did not fulfill my expectations of what subtitles should look like. Interestingly enough the subtitles are added to the side of the screen as side notes instead of as subtitles. When I tried it I didn’t like the subtitles were positioned to the left side of the screen because it looked like an afterthought.

So I spent the better part of a week working on figuring out how to do it so the subtitles can be included in the video. The first video which was about 2 minutes long took me about two hours to complete because I wasn’t sure if what I was doing would work and there was a lot of trial and error. Once I figured out the process I was able to complete each video in about an hour.

To get it to work the way I wanted it to, I had to use MS PowerPoint, Camtasia, Youtube, and VoiceThread. Which means that not only is it time-consuming but it is also costly, as you need to buy Camtasia, learn how to use it, and then figure out the rest of the steps. For me, that was not a big deal as I have been using Camtasia for a long time thus I have access to the program and I know how to use it.

Having said that not all online instructors are also Instructional designers, like me, and have access to different e-learning software.  Online educators are there to teach their subject matter, not to create instructional videos let alone know how to make them ADA compliant.  Teaching online takes is a lot of work as the educator needs to do everything an on-campus instructor does and also learn how to use the course management system their institution is using as well as other technical skills that they need to acquire. That is a lot of work! So adding another hour to the workload every week, is in my opinion, a lot of time just to include subtitles to a VoiceThread video.

Despite the fact that it was a time-consuming process, for me learning how to do this was worth it in the end because I made my student feel included in my online course. That to me was more important than my time. After all helping my students learn in any way I can is the reason I became an educator.

If you want to see what one of my VoiceThread videos looks like with the subtitles, here is a link to one of them: https://youtu.be/5yXZiDW_N2I

Happy Teaching,

Katherine

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Voice Thread vs Camtasia

In my previous post, I talked about Voice Thread and a little bit about Camtasia, but I did not go into depth as to what I liked about both software and what I thought of them. Let me start by saying that on the surface they seem very similar but they are not. Sure they both can do screencasting, but how one can use them is different.

Voice Thread is a wonderful tool when you want to start a conversation with your students or get the course to be more interactive as online courses can seem static, cold, and impersonal. For the past few weeks, I have been using Voice Thread to talk about what we are doing for the week and my students have been responding in a very positive way to my Voice Threads so I am planning on using this tool to do class discussions and a couple of assignments. I think that when I think of Voice Thread the word personal comes to mind. In a way, it recreates the in-class room interaction between the instructor and the students, which is something that has been missing in an online classroom.

So here is an example of Voice Thread for ESL students discussing the infinitive and the gerund: https://voicethread.com/about/library/infinitive_or_gerund/

On the other hand, Camtasia which is created by TechSmith is an amazing software if you want to create professional screencasts or lessons. Unlike Voice Thread which is a tool that allows you to do more of in the moment type activities it does not allow you to edit and fine tune your work like Camtasia does. Camtasia is a lot more complex than Voice Thread but worth learning to use if you want to produce online lectures and quizzes.Here is a video of what Camtasia is all about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGzYeh5lp54&feature=youtu.be

Having said that, I think Camtasia and Voice Thread are both worth knowing how to use as they fulfill a different aspect of e-learning. I am planning on continuing to use both kinds of software in my courses in order to create a multidimensional experience in my online lessons in order to keep my students learning and moving forward with their education.

Katherine

Voice Thread

I have begun using Voice Thread for my online courses as my university decided to incorporate it into Blackboard, Hurray for smart decisions!!! I say this because I have used everything under the sun from Adobe Presenter to Adobe Captivate to Camtasia to create video lectures, but somehow they seemed cumbersome because once I created the videos I had to upload them to YouTube or to Vimeo, then take the link and uploaded to Blackboard. It was too many steps and the students could only watch. My video lectures lacked interactivity, which is so important for an online class. If they had a question then they had to exit the video and go to the Q&A to post a question. With Voice Thread the students can view the lecture and then comment orally or via text on what I discussed. This function is such a great feature as it lends itself to so many interactive activities in an online course.

Once I just finished posting a response to students podcast reflections using Voice Thread this tool really showed me the possibilities it has, as a student within minutes of share the thread posted a response to tell me that he finally understood how the assignments work. It seems that because the student could hear me speak and explain the way the assignment structure work it really helped him understand what I was telling him via text. That is so powerful and amazing to me.

The other thing that I liked was that it took me only a few minutes to record and share an oral message with my students. I think that the only thing I didn’t like was that it did not allow me to edit my recording. This is such a small thing and I am sure as I get more familiar with it I will discover the rest of the features Voice Thread has to offer.

Katherine