This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Abigail Alexander.
When I joined my current institution as an Assistant Professor of French in 2019, I was relatively outspoken against online, asynchronous language courses. However, after incorporating VoiceThread into my courses in spring 2020, I have become an avid believer in online asynchronous French courses, which I now offer every semester. My university’s subscription to VoiceThread (a collaborative learning space that allows language students to record themselves speaking and better replicate the in-person classroom experience) has enabled me to offer engaging online asynchronous language courses in which students gain just as much speaking proficiency as their in-person language course peers and therefore meet the course’s learning outcomes with ease.
To replace the PowerPoint presentations that I prepare for each session of an in-person language course, I now develop a corresponding VoiceThread to replicate each of those individual sessions in my online asynchronous courses. In each online course, I provide 1-2 VoiceThread presentations per week that contain an average of 30 slides apiece in order to ensure that students’ listening and speaking skills develop appropriately while providing ample opportunity for student engagement and collaboration. Moreover, by creating VoiceThread activities that require students to collaborate with one another, I have found that a strong sense of community can spring up among my online students.
VoiceThread allows me to upload a PowerPoint presentation and then record myself speaking with audio and/or video, depending on the ideal pedagogical choice for each slide. This platform is very useful for language courses because my students can not only listen to my recordings as many times as they like, but they can also then record themselves speaking on the same slides and hear the recorded responses of their peers. In my online, asynchronous language courses, I require my students to listen to all of my recordings and then record their own responses where requested. Some sessions require 5 student comments, and others require 20+, depending on that session’s emphasis. After each weekly deadline, I give each student a participation grade based on these VoiceThreads, and I also provide each student with individual feedback on their grammatical accuracy, pronunciation, etc. In this way, VoiceThread helps my online students feel my constant presence in our course as well as my commitment to their progress as individual learners with unique needs.
VoiceThread also allows me to offer activities that enable students to engage with the responses recorded by their peers to create more natural discussions in the target language. Then, the final slide of each VoiceThread asks if they have any questions. Even though I frequently encourage students to email me with any questions at any time, I have found that students also enjoy taking advantage of the opportunity to pose questions in a more public forum within the VoiceThreads, which furthermore helps other students with that same question. In this way, my online students have the opportunity to have a more open dialogue with me that also welcomes participation from their peers.
About the Author:
Abigail Alexander is an Associate Professor of French at Kennesaw State University. She teaches online and in-person courses on French language and French and francophone culture and literature.