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Building effective electronic assessments

In their recent post on the CTE Blog, A&S Learning Design & Technology director Judith Giering and CTE director Michael Palmer offer a number of valuable suggestions for confronting and remediating cheating in higher education. Some might assume that technology’s potential contributions in this area are limited to specialized tools such as plagiarism detection or assessment surveillance software. Unfortunately, as Giering and Palmer point out, these tools present significant practical and ethical challenges that likely outweigh any potential advantages. However, the Learning Tech tool catalog includes suites of features that can be combined with Giering and Palmer’s other recommendations to reduce cheating and promote more authentic types of assessment.

The features described here are included in Collab’s Tests & Quizzes tool; other learning management systems such as Canvas and Blackboard offer similar options.

Select an item to learn more, or scroll through the list to explore them all:

Authentication

Authentication is a valuable companion to electronic assessment, as it requires students to confirm their identity with usernames, passwords, or other unique information in order to proceed. Because Collab and other learning management systems use the University’s NetBadge authentication system to provide access, this feature is automatically a part of any assessments created within them. Many other tools, such as Gradescope, Poll Everywhere, and VoiceThread, also use NetBadge to identify participants.

Honor pledges

While the Honor Pledge cannot prevent students from cheating, it is an important reminder that the University community is a community of trust, and academic dishonesty represents a serious breach of this trust that can result in suspension or even permanent dismissal. When it is appended to an assessment, students must select a checkbox acknowledging and accepting its conditions before they begin.

To enable the Honor Pledge for an assessment:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site. If your assessment has not yet been published, select the Working Copies tab; if it’s already been published, select the Published Copies tab.
  • Select Settings in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • A list of assessment settings will be displayed. Select About this Assessment, then select the Honor Pledge checkbox.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.

You can also enable the Honor Pledge for other types of assignments.

Assessment passwords

Assessment passwords can provide an additional level of security for assessments offered in a particular location, or under particular circumstances. For example, instructors conducting an assessment in class can set an assessment password and share it just before beginning, to limit access to those who are actually present in the virtual or physical classroom.

To set an assessment password:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site. If your assessment has not yet been published, select the Working Copies tab; if it’s already been published, select the Published Copies tab.
  • Select Settings in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • A list of assessment settings will be displayed. Select Availability and Submissions, then select Ensure students take exams from specific location.
  • Enter your desired password into the Assessment Password box, then scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.

Time limits

Some recent studies have suggested that time limits can potentially neutralize cheating by restricting the opportunity for students to seek unauthorized assistance or consult unauthorized resources.

To set a time limit for your assessment:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site. If your assessment has not yet been published, select the Working Copies tab; if it’s already been published, select the Published Copies tab.
  • Select Settings in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • A list of assessment settings will be displayed. Select Availability and Submissions, then select the Time Limit checkbox and enter your desired time limit.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.

Question randomization

Randomization can be used to deliver individual assessment experiences for each student and combat unauthorized collaboration without the burden of additional grading. When randomizing questions, two primary options are available: 1) to present the same group of questions to everyone, but randomize the order in which they appear in the assessment; or 2) to create a bank of questions and allow the system to randomly select a designated number of them when the student begins the assessment.

To randomize the order of questions in one or more parts of your assessment:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site, and select the Working Copies tab. (By default, the content of published assessments cannot be edited, and so you can’t perform this action after your assessment has been published.)
  • Select Edit in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • Select Edit to the right of the part title. (Assessments have one part by default, but you can create additional parts if you’d like to do so.)
  • A list of settings will be displayed. Under Question Ordering, select Random within Part, then scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.
  • Repeat the steps to randomize the order of questions in other parts of your assessment.

To randomize the questions delivered to each student in one or more parts of your assessment:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site, select the Question Pools tab at the top of the page, and create a question pool. You can create your own question pool, import question pools from publishers or other providers, and share question pools with other instructors.
  • Select the Working Copies tab. (By default, the content of published assessments cannot be edited, and so you can’t perform this action after your assessment has been published.)
  • Select Edit in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • Select Edit to the right of the part title. (Assessments have one part by default, but you can create additional parts if you’d like to do so.)
  • A list of settings will be displayed. Under Type, select Random draw from question pool.
  • Enter the number of questions that should be drawn from the question pool for each student, select the question pool in the dropdown menu, and select whether students should receive the same questions or different questions if they take the assessment more than once.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.
  • Repeat the steps to randomize the questions delivered to each student in other parts of your assessment.

Answer randomization

Answer choices can also be randomized to prevent students from creating and sharing unauthorized answer keys.

To randomize multiple choice answers:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site, and select the Working Copies tab. (By default, the content of published assessments cannot be edited, and so you can’t perform this action after your assessment has been published.)
  • Select Edit in the Select Action dropdown menu to the left of the assessment title.
  • The questions included in the assessment will be displayed. Select Edit to the right of the desired question.
  • A list of questions will be displayed. Under Randomize Answers, select Yes, then scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button to save your changes.
  • Repeat the steps to randomize answers in other questions. Note that randomization is not appropriate for all types of multiple choice questions, such as questions in which “None of the Above” or “All of the Above” are included among the answer options.

Activity logs

Activity logs record basic information for each assessment submission and can be consulted in the event of any reported technical problems or suspected integrity issues. The Collab Support team can provide additional information if necessary in certain cases.

To view the available activity logs:

  • Visit the Tests & Quizzes tool in your course site, and select the Event Log tab or the User Activity Report tab at the top of the page.
  • If you select the Event Log tab, a list of submissions for all assessments in the course site will be displayed. The list is searchable and filterable by each assessment; it’s also sortable by the title of the assessment, the name of the student, the date and time the assessment was started and submitted, and the IP address (the location through which the student was connected to the internet).
  • If you select the User Activity Report tab, you can select particular students from the dropdown menu and view a comprehensive list of the assessments they’ve completed, the dates they were submitted, and their scores.

Learning Tech 3.0: Onward and upward

This semester, April showers don’t just bring May flowers… they also bring another exciting collection of additions to Learning Tech. The latest round of features and updates include new opportunities to explore technology through featured courses, browse and search blog posts, share tool ratings and feedback, and even find and install dedicated apps.

Select an item below to learn more, or scroll through the list to explore them all:

Tech in Action

The interactive trailers in the Tech in Action section present selections from the tool catalog in the context of their use in actual courses. Each trailer includes an overview of the course, its size, and its format; descriptions of key components and the associated tools; and video highlights.

Recently released trailers include BME 3240: Biotransport with Brian Helmke and ENGL 2507: Identity, Selfhood, and Otherness in Renaissance Drama with Adriana Streifer.

Screenshot of course trailer page

Blog enhancements

Looking for a previous post from the Learning Tech Blog? No problem! You can browse through post titles and short summaries on the redesigned blog page, or search by keywords such as tool or instructor name.

Blog page

Posts are also linked to the pages for any associated tools. For example, if you’d like to see and access all of the posts that reference Gradescope, you can find them together at the bottom of the Gradescope page.

Related blog articles on Gradescope page

Tool ratings and feedback

With the ratings and feedback feature, you can help your colleagues by evaluating tools you have used in your teaching. Select the Submit Rating button on any tool page to share your review of the tool.

The ratings include five categories: Ease of Setup; Ease of Use; Features and Options; Pedagogical Impact; and Accessibility. You can also enter text comments. Ratings will be aggregated and displayed after a minimum of five ratings have been received for the tool. Text comments will be recorded and displayed in a future update.

Ratings feature

Tool platform/app support

Many tools are available in different ways on different devices. The How can I use this tool? section outlines the ways the tool may be accessed and used on desktop and mobile devices.

If you access a tool page on a mobile device and the tool offers a mobile app, the page will automatically display an Install App button based on your device—allowing you to add the app with just two taps, instead of searching through the App Store.

How can I use this tool? section

Student cost information

While most tools are licensed and funded by the University, some require additional costs such as a subscription fee for an electronic textbook, or a device fee for a clicker. The Student Cost information indicates cases in which these costs may occur.

Student cost tooltip: This tool requires an additional purchase from students (e.g., a subscription fee or device fee). Contact learningtech@virginia.edu for more information.

What’s next?

We’re not done yet! Our next major update is an exciting revisioning of the tool request process—allowing you to submit requests, review request statuses, vote for your favorites, subscribe to updates, and more. Stay tuned!

Learning Tech 2.0: Filters, tooltips, badges, and more

A new semester means new courses, new ideas, and new discoveries… and new features in Learning Tech that help you find the best tools for your needs. Select a feature below to learn more, or scroll through the list to explore them all:

Search filters

In addition to the basic search option, four filters allow you to browse the catalog of tools according to any of these criteria:

  • Purpose (how the tool is generally used)
  • Availability (where the tool has been licensed)
  • License (who is included in the use of the tool)
  • Access (how the tool is accessed)

As filters are selected, the catalog will automatically display the appropriate tools.

Informational tooltips

Handy tooltips provide additional details on the availability, the type of license, and the type of access offered for each tool. Place your cursor over a category (or tap the category on a mobile device) to view the tooltips.

Accessibility and security badges

Special badges designate tools that have prepared a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or other resources related to accessibility, and that conform to the University’s data privacy and protection guidelines. Place your cursor over a badge (or tap the badge on a mobile device) to view a brief description; select the badge to view the linked resources or guidelines.

Tool requests

If you’re interested in a tool that isn’t currently included in the catalog, you can submit a tool request quickly and easily from within Learning Tech. These requests are regularly reviewed by the Learning Tech team and members of the new University Teaching and Learning Technologies Committee, which includes representatives of schools and departments across UVA.

What’s next?

You’re about to find out! More exciting features and resources are coming very soon, so stay tuned!

Zoom launches live transcription service

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Zoom now includes a live transcription feature that can help to make class sessions, meetings, and webinars more accessible. Powered by AI, the service provides real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions that are visible to all participants.

Live transcription can be helpful to enhance understanding, when there’s poor audio quality, and when participants are unable to have their sound on for a variety of reasons. The feature can easily be enabled in your Zoom meetings with just a few clicks.

Activate live transcription during meeting

Zoom Live Transcript CC feature
  1. During a Zoom meeting or webinar in which you are the host, select the Live Transcript [CC] button in the bottom bar.
  2. Under Live Transcript, select Enable Auto-Transcription to begin providing live transcription.
Zoom Live Transcript options. Show Subtitle, View Full Transcript, and Subtitle Settings.

Participants will receive a notification that this service is available. By selecting the up arrow next to the Live Transcript button, they can view the transcript in two different formats:

  • Select Show Subtitle for the transcript to appear as subtitles at the bottom of the meeting video, and/or
  • Select View Full Transcript for a transcript window to open in a side panel.

In the transcript window, participants can search within the transcript by using the Search transcript bar at the top and select the Save Transcript button at the bottom to save it.

Live transcription limitations and tips

There are some things to keep in mind when using this service. The transcription will not be 100 percent accurate. Therefore, this feature should be used to improve accessibility, not for an official ADA accommodation. (Contact UVA’s Accessibility Partners for any questions about this.) The text’s accuracy may be affected by any background noise and how loud the speaker is, among other factors. It’s recommended that you use an external microphone for better audio quality, and that you speak slowly and clearly.

Also, at this time, live transcription is not supported in breakout rooms. You can hire a UVA-approved closed captioning vendor if this is needed, or assign a participant to type closed captions.


Check out Zoom’s support for further information on the live transcription feature, and don’t hesitate to contact the Learning Tech team if you need help at any point.

Introducing Otter Voice Notes!

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With so many of our courses moving from physical classrooms to digital ones, audio and video content has become an essential part of the teaching and learning experience. A recent survey of more than 2,100 students across 15 public and private universities found that 75 percent of the respondents used captions in their courses and 98.6 percent felt they were helpful, with more than half stating that captions improved their comprehension.

Fortunately, one of UVA’s latest learning technologies is making it easier than ever to record, caption, transcribe, and annotate your courses, meetings, projects, and even personal notesOtter Voice Notes. You can use this innovative service alongside your Zoom meetings, or independently to transcribe and edit other kinds of recordings or content.

Step 1: Request an Otter Voice Notes license

You can request an Otter Voice Notes license by visiting the Otter Voice Notes page in the Learning Tech catalog, selecting the Request License button, and completing a brief form. If you’d like to connect your Otter account with your Zoom account to provide live automatic transcriptions of your Zoom meetings, be sure to select Yes before submitting your request.

Qualtrics form screenshot:
Would you like to connect Otter Voice Notes with your Zoom account to provide live automatic transcriptions of your Zoom meetings? Yes or No

Step 2: Join the UVA Otter team

Once you’ve submitted your request, the Learning Tech team will invite you to join the UVA Otter team. Your invitation will be delivered to your UVA email address, and you can select the Join button in the invitation to get started.

Screenshot: Join University of Virginia on Otter.
Matt Burgess has invited you to Join the Otter team University of Virginia. Join now to start exchanging voice notes! Join

If you don’t want to connect your Otter account with your Zoom account, you can skip the remaining steps.

Step 3: Enable live streaming in your Zoom account

If you’d like to connect your Otter account with your Zoom account, you’ll need to do two more things. First, you’ll need to enable the live streaming option in your Zoom account.

  1. Visit the UVA Zoom portal, and sign in with NetBadge.
  2. Select the Settings link.
  3. Under In Meeting (Advanced), select the Allow live streaming meetings slider.
  4. Select the Custom Live Streaming Service checkbox, and enter Managed by Otter.ai in the text box.

Step 4: Connect Otter and Zoom

Finally, you’ll need to authorize the connection between your Otter account and your Zoom account. Before you can do this, ITS must make some modifications to your Zoom account. You’ll receive an email notification once these modifications are in place, and then you can complete the process.

Otter Live Notes add screenshot
  1. Return to your Otter account, and select the Apps link.
  2. Select the Add button for Otter Live Notes.
  3. Sign in with NetBadge, if necessary.
  4. Select the Authorize button to authorize the connection between your Otter account and your Zoom account.

That’s it! You can now use Otter and Zoom together to provide a more accessible and engaging multimedia experience for everyone with real-time transcriptions in your web browser, closed captions in your Zoom meetings, and more. You can even transcribe live events such as webinars. However, please keep in mind that automatic transcription is not as accurate as human captioning, and should not be used as a substitute for an official ADA accommodation when one is required.

Check out Otter’s YouTube channel for tips, tricks, and tutorials, and contact the Learning Tech team if you have any questions. 

A new integration for Gradescope and Collab

Last fall, 9,261 UVA students submitted nearly 340,000 exams, quizzes, and other assignments in Gradescope. As of today, the integration between Gradescope and Collab has been upgraded to the latest standard: LTI 1.3, also known as LTI Advantage. This upgrade offers a number of benefits, including improved performance and the ability to edit grades that have been added to the Gradebook tool without having to return to Gradescope. The process for syncing grades between Gradescope and Collab has been slightly modified, but don’t worry—you can continue to use this valuable feature by following the steps below, and you can always contact us with any questions you might have.

Note that these changes apply to the integration between Gradescope and Collab only; if you’re not using Gradescope and Collab together, your workflow should remain the same.

Getting started

You’ll need to complete these preliminary steps before entering and syncing grades between Gradescope and Collab.

  1. Add the Gradebook tool, the Gradescope tool, and the Lessons tool to your course site, if they’re not already present.
  2. Visit the Gradescope tool in your course site and set up your course in Gradescope.
  3. Create quizzes or exams, problem sets or homework assignments, or online assignments in Gradescope.

Step 1: Create links to Gradescope items

Once you’ve created your items in Gradescope, you can add links to them in the Lessons tool. You’ll need these links to sync the grades between Gradescope and Collab once you’re ready to do so.

  1. Visit the Lessons tool in your course site, and select the Add Content + button. If you’re using the Lessons tool exclusively for this purpose, you can hide the tool in the toolbar to prevent students from inadvertently accessing it.
  2. Select the Add External Tool link.
  3. Select the Gradescope link.
  4. Select the Gradescope item to be linked, then select the Link Assignment button.
Gradescope screenshot: You've opened Gradescope via LTI from a UVACollab assignment. You can select a Gradescope assignment to link to it. After linking, students who use the LTI link will have their grades synced back to UVACollab. Link with: A new Gradescope Assignment OR An existing Gradescope Assignment

Step 2: Sync and edit grades

After entering your grades in Gradescope, you can return to your linked item in the Lessons tool and sync the grades between Gradescope and Collab.

  1. Enter your grades in Gradescope.
  2. Visit the Lessons tool in your course site, and select the link to the Gradescope item that you created in Step 1.
  3. The grades will be displayed, along with general statistics such as the mean, median, and standard deviation. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Post Grades to UVACollab button.
  4. Select the Post Grades button to add the grades to the Gradebook tool.
Gradescope screenshot: Post Grades to UVACollab
Instruction
- Grades from linked users' submissions will be posted to the UVACollab assignment listed below.
- Existing grades in UVACollab (for linked users) will be overwritten.

Once your grades have been added to the Gradebook tool, they can be edited in the gradebook without returning to Gradescope. For example, if you’d like to award extra credit points for an assignment, you can do so by simply adding the additional points to the scores in the gradebook. However, note that these changes will not be reflected in Gradescope, and if you resync your grades from Gradescope after editing some or all of them in the gradebook, your edits in the gradebook will be overwritten.

Happy Holidays from Learning Tech!

With the fall semester officially over, faculty and students are enjoying a well-deserved break. It’s been quite a year—a year filled with extraordinary challenges, but also innumerable inspiring examples of dedication, collaboration, and innovation in teaching and learning. Like all of you, we’re looking forward to a fresh start in 2021, and we’re already working on several new technologies and other enhancements we can’t wait to share with you.

However you celebrate this holiday season, we hope your days are merry and bright, and we’ll see you in the new year!

Instructors expanding their teaching toolkits with new UVA learning technologies

This article was published in UVA Today Thursday, December 10, 2020.

With many classes online this semester, instructors have found alternative, innovative ways to manage their classrooms and keep students engaged. To help with these efforts, UVA faculty and graduate students now have easy access to a host of new technologies to enhance teaching and learning.

This summer, the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Chief Information Officer invested in licenses for seven learning technologies: Digication, Gradescope, Hypothesis, MATLAB Grader, Peerceptiv, Poll Everywhere, and VoiceThread. More information on these tools and the rest of UVA’s digital catalog can be found on the Learning Tech website, another new initiative that launched ahead of the fall semester.

Instructors are taking advantage of these new or recently expanded technologies to improve assessment and evaluation processes and increase student engagement and collaboration.

“The University invested in these technologies to help faculty make the best of a necessary situation during the pandemic —a lot of online course instruction,” said UVA Provost Liz Magill. “But we have found that this has led to faculty innovation, too. Using new software is no exception—our faculty have changed their approach to many standard pedagogical practices and will likely retain these innovations long after the pandemic is over.”

Statistics Assistant Professor Rich Ross and Chemistry Lecturer Alicia Frantz are among nearly 550 instructors finding Gradescope to be an essential addition to their teaching toolkits. The tool allows them to streamline the grading process and gain insights into how their students are learning in their large-enrollment courses.

“I have lots of individual work and lots of group work and trying to figure out how to manage assessing or evaluating that work is a difficult thing,” Ross said, “but having tools like Gradescope have been super helpful in thinking about how we do this at scale.”

Instructors can grade exams, problem sets, and other assignments more efficiently by building intuitive, dynamic rubrics. Ross estimates that the tool saves him about 40 hours of grading over the course of the semester.

“You actually never have to take your hands off the keyboard. You can get very, very quick and accurate at grading work and especially in comparison to grading paper submissions.”

For Frantz, grading quickly means that she can return feedback to her students sooner, helping them to learn from their mistakes and better prepare for the next exam.

“Before I started using Gradescope, when we would hand back exams, there were always at least a third of the exams that never even got picked up and those were always the students that were struggling that most needed to work through those problems,” she said. “I think just the ease at which they can look through their exam without having to make a special trip or to feel anxious about it, I think that’s been one of the best things that’s come out of this.”

Students also can ask their professor to look at a question again if the student thinks there was an error.

“I think students appreciate being able to submit a regrade request maybe partly because they realize that as a course staff, we’re admitting that we can make mistakes sometimes, and that we’re happy to have those conversations,” Ross said. “I think that actually builds a lot of trust between the instructor and the students.”

In addition to trust, Ross is able to build stronger relationships with his students.

“Gradescope has implemented several mechanisms that meaningfully … reduce the amount of time you have to spend grading and let you do more of one of my favorite things as a teacher, which is interacting directly with my students, talking to them about content questions, talking to them about potential career options.”

Jennifer Sessions headshot
Jennifer Sessions, History Professor

When the pandemic hit, History Professor Jennifer Sessions turned to a tool that she had used before to help maintain an important aspect of her courses—peer feedback.

“I started using Peerceptiv for guided peer review of essay assignments in my modern European history course in Fall 2017, and since then have used it in everything from big introductory surveys with several hundred students to specialized upper-level courses of a few dozen. This fall, we’re even using it in a graduate seminar.”

She’s one of 10 instructors who have Peerceptiv up and running in their courses this semester. The peer assessment tool encourages student development as teachers and learners through a research-validated cycle of anonymous feedback. Students can share recommendations with each another, while evaluating the quality of the reviews they receive.

Sessions says she values the tool because it helps students not only improve their individual papers, but also become better readers and editors.

“It sounds hyperbolic, I know, but I regularly use the term ‘magical’ in describing this power to colleagues. The anonymous online system depersonalizes the peer review process and facilitates more objective, honest feedback, which means writers get better, more useful feedback on their own drafts.”

Her students review drafts of each other’s work and then revise those drafts for final assessment, getting separate grades for each assignment.

“Reading and providing feedback on several of their colleagues’ drafts allows students to see what does and doesn’t work for the assignment, to think through why, and to talk about how to make a given piece of writing more effective.”

The tool has inspired Sessions to reexamine her course design.

“Using Peerceptiv has made me much more deliberate in designing courses to scaffold concepts and skills over the course of a semester. Particularly, it has pushed me to shift the focus of writing assignments from outcomes to process.”

Another popular new technology is Poll Everywhere, an audience response system that enables users to post activities like attendance items, quizzes, or polls and then display results in real time.

Math Professor Paul Bourdon, School of Data Science Assistant Professor Scott Schwartz, and 168 of their colleagues are using the tool this fall.

Schwartz said, “As I was [teaching my Data Mining] course, it just happened that after one of my lectures, where I had all this dense code, I thought, I want to ask some polling questions and it just was a hit with the students.”

He says using Poll Everywhere has been a low-stakes way to get more of his students to participate in discussions: “I just think it really lowers the bar to get engagement going. And that’s really what the students have told me when they talk about it.”

Bourdon, who serves as the Department of Math’s Director of Lower Division Courses, was previously using a different polling platform and decided to adopt Poll Everywhere in all undergraduate calculus courses this fall. He uses the tool to “promote small-group discussion of interesting problems during class, to monitor student understanding, and to help students assess their own understanding.”

He solicited midsemester feedback from his students, many of whom had positive things to say about the tool. A student in his course wrote, “I think Poll Everywhere is useful because it makes me stay engaged in lecture. It also acts like a check on my understanding. I like how the professor made it so that the bulk of the Poll Everywhere grade is for participation not accuracy so I don’t feel pressured to have it all figured out at that instant.”

Bourdon and Schwartz will both continue to keep Poll Everywhere an integral part of their toolkits.

“Poll Everywhere has totally changed the way I go to make my lectures,” Schwartz said. “Instead, I start by saying, ‘What is my Poll Everywhere conversation going to be about?’”

Encouraging collaboration and community by using ThreadBoxes in VoiceThread

This post was written by Keith Samuels, A&S Learning Design & Technology’s Language Lab Coordinator, and originally appeared on LDT’s blog November 16, 2020.


Would the ability to share VoiceThreads in a browsable collection with a select group of people or on the web be valuable to you? A ThreadBox is an embeddable or linkable space that allows you to gather VoiceThreads into an easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing browsable collection. A ThreadBox can be viewed by anyone, shared with a select group through your LMS, or embedded in a web page. The creator decides who can submit VoiceThreads and whether submissions are displayed as part of the collection. ThreadBoxes are great for showcases, projects, community collaborations, contests, conferences, etc.

By creating a ThreadBox, which is a format that allows participants to submit VoiceThreads to be viewed as a group, an instructor can foster collaboration over the course of a semester or for a particular project. This Threadbox can then be shared with a select group or made available on the internet. This allows flexibility in giving participants a platform to share ideas and projects for collaboration in a setting that fosters engagement on many levels.


Creating the Threadbox

Creating a ThreadBox is a simple process. 

  • Sign in to your VoiceThread account
  • Click on your email address in the top right-hand corner of your home page
  • Select Threadbox from the list (see image below)
LEADTOOLS v20.0

This will take you to your ThreadBox page, where you will have access to previously created ThreadBoxes, or have the choice to create a new one. To create a new ThreadBox, click “Add your own” in the top right-hand corner of the page.

In the pop-up window, enter the basic information about the ThreadBox. Once you have entered your settings for your ThreadBox, you may return later to update or edit your settings. For more information on that process click here.


Sharing a Threadbox

ThreadBoxes may be embedded in your website or shared with a link. To get a link for access to your Threadbox, repeat the steps listed in “Creating a ThreadBox” above. Once in the ThreadBox, click options, and you will be able to copy the link (see second red arrow below). If you would like to embed the Threadbox, click the “embed” button (see first red arrow below).

If you decide to embed the ThreadBox, select the size at which you want to embed the ThreadBox, and then copy the embed code. A minimum embed height of 600px and a width that uses 100% of the available space is recommended (see below).


Submitting a VoiceThread to a ThreadBox

If you are an administrator or if submissions have been allowed, you may submit a VoiceThread as part of a ThreadBox. Choices for allowing users to submit a VoiceThread to a ThreadBox are set up in the options section of the ThreadBox homepage. The creator of the ThreadBox may allow submissions, require admin approval for submissions, or require submitters to accept terms and conditions.

There are three options available when submitting a VoiceThread to a ThreadBox. Create a new VoiceThread, select from already created VoiceThreads, or submit a link to a VoiceThread. If you own a ThreadBox or have bookmarked it, you can find it in the sidebar on your own VT Home Page. To submit one of your own VoiceThreads to it, simply drag that VoiceThread and drop it into the ThreadBox.


In Summary

Using ThreadBox is a great way to showcase projects, foster community discussion, share ideas, or collaborate with others. The ability to determine who can submit to a ThreadBox allows the creator to determine the scope and scale of the project. The ability to embed it in a website allows for a wider viewing audience and participation on the part of those making submissions. Creating a ThreadBox is not difficult and is a great way to share information on a small or large scale.

Check out these tutorials and guides on how to use ThreadBoxes from VoiceThread with this overview of ThreadBox.

Faculty Spotlight: Paul Bourdon’s rapid switch to Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is nice. I think it’s a fun collaborative way to get everyone in the class involved in learning.

I really like Poll-Everywhere. It’s like mini quizzes/practices that test my knowledge.

students in MATH 1190

Paul Bourdon is Professor and Director of Lower Division Courses in UVA’s Department of Mathematics. He previously used iClicker for in-class activities, but switched to Poll Everywhere this semester to maintain this aspect of his courses in a virtual environment. Poll Everywhere is currently being used in all introductory Calculus courses.

We asked Paul to share how he and his colleagues are using the platform to engage students and gauge their understanding of course concepts.

Q. HOW ARE YOU USING POLL EVERYWHERE IN YOUR COURSE?

A. I use classroom polling to promote small-group discussion of interesting problems during class, to monitor student understanding, and to help students assess their own understanding.  

All introductory calculus courses are flipped this term. Students are required to complete, an hour before their class is to begin, an online “class-prep” assignment. Fairly often classes start with a polling problem designed to help students review terminology and concepts introduced in the class-prep assignment. Results of this polling may prompt instructors to review the basics for the day’s class a bit more or a bit less than they had intended.

Later in class, students are sent into breakout rooms to problem solve. Polling questions are used in two different ways. Sometimes a polling question related to the solution of one of the breakout-room problems is activated when the students are in their rooms, allowing instructors to gauge students’ progress, aiding in making the decision of when to close rooms. Sometimes, students are told that one or more polling questions relating to the breakout-room problems will be activated when they return to the main room. This, ideally, prompts students to work through all breakout-room problems, sharing their thinking and recording all their work in order to be prepared to answer polling question(s) upon return to the main room.

Q. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT POLL EVERYWHERE?

A. I use it almost exclusively for multiple-choice questions, which are extremely easy to code. I’m thankful that the question editor allows inclusion of math symbols (using commands that nearly all math instructors know very well).

It’s very easy to share polling questions with other instructors. One can set up “teams” of instructors and, in seconds, share polling activities for a given class with all instructors on your team.

Q. WHAT HAS THE TOOL HELPED YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS ACHIEVE?

A. I think I’ll respond to this via a student’s comment about Poll Everywhere provided on my midterm course evaluation:

I think Poll Everywhere is useful because it makes me stay engaged in lecture. It also acts like a check on my understanding. I like how the professor made it so that the bulk of the Poll Everywhere grade is for participation not accuracy so I don’t feel pressured to have it all figured out at that instant. Overall I think it’s a useful tool.

Q. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR INSTRUCTORS USING POLL EVERYWHERE FOR THE FIRST TIME?

A. Make sure you’ve chosen appropriate default “Activity Settings” before you start coding questions. (E.g., one setting is “Allow participants to change their answer.”)


Poll Everywhere can be added to course sites in Collab, in Blackboard at the McIntire School of Commerce, and in Canvas at the School of Education and Human Development and School of Continuing and Professional Studies. It can also be accessed directly via NetBadge by faculty and students in all schools and departments. Contact the Learning Tech team or Poll Everywhere Support if you have questions about the tool or need help creating activities.

If you’re interested in sharing your experience with Poll Everywhere or another tool in the Learning Tech catalog with your colleagues, we’d love to hear from you! Email Kristin Sloane at ks8yx@virginia.edu.