Information Technology Services is running a pilot during the spring 2015 semester to test full integration of VoiceThread within the ANGEL learning management system (LMS). The key technology for this integration is the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification, an emerging educational technology industry standard that allows vendor learning tools to integrate seamlessly with enterprise LMSs such as ANGEL.

What is different?

Penn State has been running an enterprise version of VoiceThread for almost five years. While this vendor-hosted service has always been integrated for single sign-on authentication, it could not, like many third-party tools, be further integrated into ANGEL. Accessing VoiceThread through ANGEL could only be done by providing a link for students to click, which would then take them out of ANGEL and into the browser-based version of the VoiceThread application. Other than sign-on credentials, no other data could be passed back and forth between ANGEL and VoiceThread.

However, with new LTI protocols for LMSs, VoiceThread is now offering new features that use deeper system integration with ANGEL. ANGEL data will carry over into a user’s VoiceThread experience and most importantly, back from VoiceThread to ANGEL. Pilot users can interface with VoiceThread directly in ANGEL without having to leave the ANGEL environment.

Key features of the pilot

  • Interfacing with VoiceThread from within ANGEL: Pilot instructors will be able to, from within the ANGEL environment, interface with VoiceThread. Instructors and students will be able to create, edit, and comment on VoiceThreads without having to launch out of ANGEL.
  • Automatic creation of course groups: Currently, instructors must manually create groups from within VoiceThread and then invite students to join that group. Instructors in the pilot will, by simply creating any VoiceThread assignment from within ANGEL, automatically create a VoiceThread group that will have the same name as the course. This feature will effectively end the practice of instructors having to create groups manually and then send invitations. Once VoiceThread is set up for a course in ANGEL, any students in that course will automatically be members of that group. Also, this feature allows automatic VoiceThread account creation the moment a student clicks to launch VoiceThread from ANGEL.
  • Assignment Builder with gradebook: Within the ANGEL environment, instructors will pilot the Assignment Builder feature set that VoiceThread rolled out recently that provides them with a gradebook for comments. This feature creates an entry in the LMS gradebook and allows the instructor to view and grade student comments directly from the gradebook without leaving the LMS.

Time frame: Spring 2015

The pilot is running throughout the spring 2015 semester. The goal is to roll out the VoiceThread integration for fall 2015 for all users at Penn State. The rollout will include updated support resources from the http://voicethread.psu.edu/ website that will enable instructors and students to take advantage of this integration.

Pilot participants include five instructors

  • Jackie Ritzko, MIS 103 Microcomputer Applications in Business
  • Stephen Mainzer, GEODZ 511 Geodesign History, Theory, Principles
  • Elizabeth Jane Beckett-Caramata, PADM 594, the capstone course for master’s degree students in the MPA and iMPS in Homeland Security Base Program
  • Karen Peters, CAS 100A (GWS) Effective Speech
  • Neyda Abru, Penn State DuBois, EARTH 400 Earth Sciences Seminar

One of the five instructors, Jackie Ritzko, is also participating in the Canvas LMS pilot with her course this spring. With this opportunity, the VoiceThread service team is also piloting the LTI integration solution with the Canvas LMS.

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