Category: Teaching Tips

Teaching Tip: VoiceThread introduces threaded comments

If you have used VoiceThread in your course then you already know that it is a great tool for creating a discussion around a multimedia presentation, a PowerPoint slide show, a song, or even just a page of text. Recently VoiceThread introduced a few new ways for participants to interact with VoiceThread slides: direct replies, threaded replies, and private replies.
comments in VT

  • Direct replies allow you to click on a comment and have your reply appear directly below that comment, instead of putting your response at the very bottom of the comments bar.
  • Threaded replies are like direct replies, but they start a thread from the original comment and they are visually distinct so you can see who is participating in a particular thread of comments.
  • Private replies are recommended for individual feedback or for private “sidebar” conversations between VoiceThread participants.

See this VoiceThread video for a short overview of these new reply options.

Here’s what a thread of replies looks like:

VoiceThread threaded repliesAllowing threaded replies is not a default setting in VoiceThread. Here’s how to enable them:

  • On your VoiceThread Home screen, hover over the VoiceThread in which you want to enable threaded commenting, and select Edit in the lower left corner.
  • On the next screen, click on the blue pencil on top to edit the VoiceThread settings. In the window that opens, select the Playback Options tab and tick “Enable threaded commenting.”

The threaded reply icon will now be available when participants click on a comment.VoiceThread add threaded replyIf you have any questions about replies (or any other feature) in VoiceThread, please feel free to contact Sarah Kresh or Antonia Levy.

Teaching Tip: Rubrics for Teaching and in Blackboard–Some Resources

Scoring or grading rubrics are a way to analyze, assess, and provide feedback to students on assignments.  By providing a set of descriptive categories and criteria for evaluating student work, not only is grading made more efficient, but students are also provided with guidelines as they plan and complete their assignments.

For an introduction to rubrics, you might want to review the following articles and web resources:

  • Mertler, Craig A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25).    (Note: While Mertler provides some examples at the end from K-12, the principles and step-by-step procedures enunciated here are relevant for higher ed as well. )
  •  Moskal, Barbara M. (2000). Scoring rubrics: what, when and how?. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(3).
  • DePaul University Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment webpages on Assessment and Rubrics—short explanations and additional resources at


While rubrics can be constructed as separate documents and housed with the syllabus and other course information documents, with Blackboard 9.1, we also began to have a way to connect rubrics so that they can become part of the Blackboard grade center processes.

The following are resources for learning how to deploy rubrics with Blackboard’s grade center:

“How-to” quick guides:

  • Using Rubrics
  • Creating a Rubrics Content area

both available at our faculty tutorials page at

Video tutorials:

Rubrics—covers setting up of rubrics,  (this is housed on our tutorials page as Bb Essentials Part 8 at

Runs about 6 minutes, Video format: Tegrity

Rubrics—covers setting up and grading with rubrics, adding individual feedback to rubrics,

Runs about  4 minutes. Video format: Quicktime (Note: Contains a reference to other video tutorial “in this folder” which is actually the Tegrity video listed above this one)

There are also several short video recordings on the Bb 9.1 tab help website–look under User Guides>Assignments, Tests and Grades>Grade Center

Teaching Tip: Using Collect Feature in Blackboard to Organize Discussion Posts

Blackboard’s discussion boards contain a number of features that can help faculty to navigate and organize their review of student postings and their own postings as well as contribute to better time management. One of these is the “Collect” feature. This allows you to select a set of messages to read on one screen as a continuous conversation rather than limiting you to reading one message on a screen. Using this feature means you can save time and provides continuity as you read a particular set of messages.  You may want to read an entire thread this way, or just those from a particular student.

To learn more about Collect and other organizing features in the discussion, see our quick guide, Viewing and Navigating Discussions at