Penn State University & VoiceThread

Penn State University (PSU) has integrated a customized version of VoiceThread’s communication platform in an effort to provide a seamless collaborative environment for its staff and students. PSU user accounts are automatically authenticated into the platform, providing instant access to VoiceThread.

The integration was developed in close partnership with PSU’s Educational Technology Services group, whose white paper and support portal provide remarkably clear and helpful guidance for new student and faculty users.

We would like to sincerely thank PSU’s ETS group for their hard work and high standards, which will ensure an excellent experience for their community of users.


Upload improvements – complex PDFs

We have made recently made some improvements to our upload process, to accommodate PDF uploads with more than 65,536 individual shapes in a single PDF. This is primarily caused by how PowerPoint renders high complexity backgrounds (i.e. complex patterns instead of a simple color or a bitmap / picture). We still recommend simple backgrounds for the best user experience, especially since extremely complex PDFs can still take 20-30 seconds per page to process.


VoiceThread Status

We have a new twitter feed, twitter.com/voicethreadIT. This is solely for system status information, and we will use this to announce any maintenance or issues that result in user-visible slowdowns or downtime. As always, we have highly redundant infrastructure and strive for zero downtime, but there are occasionally changes needed for long-term stability, performance and growth that result in brief outages or slowdowns.


Moodle Integration Resources

All of the documentation for our Moodle LMS integration modules is now online. Please go to the LMS Integration About page for more information. Take a look at the embedding, assignment and authentication modules, and see what they can do for your organization!

Please note that we only support Moodle 1.9.x at this time; we do plan to port to Moodle 2.0 once it has been released.


Edutopia Back-to-School Guide, Digital Library additions

VoiceThread is proud to be featured in Edutopia’s “Back-to-School Guide: Jump Start Learning With New Media” for the 2010-2011 school year (download it here). This is a fantastic guide to learn how to incorporate new media tools into your teaching.

Some wonderful articles have recently been added to the VoiceThread Digital Library that highlight VoiceThread’s effectiveness in various teaching and learning settings. The library is a great resource for educators using VoiceThread. It provides the opportunity to get ideas, share successful VoiceThread projects, and get the most out of VoiceThread as a learning tool!

VoiceThread continues to be used in ways that both impress and inspire us here on the VoiceThread team. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to VoiceThread’s Digital Library and urge anyone else who has a VoiceThread they’d like to contribute, to please do so.

Here are a few of the new articles to the Digital Library:


InCommon

VoiceThread is now a member of the InCommon Federation. This greatly simplifies Shibboleth authentication integration with colleges and universities already members of InCommon, which includes the majority of Research-I Universities in the United States. This should allow for faster deployments for Shibboleth authentication, with much less work on the University / Identity Provider’s end. Thanks to Penn State University for sponsoring our InCommon application.


Moodle “Create a Thread” Assignment Module Beta

We are pleased to announce that we are now in open beta with our first Moodle assignment module. This module provides a clean, easy to use student and teacher interfaces for submitting, viewing and grading a VoiceThread. The module is compatible with Moodle 1.9.x and requires either our Embedding or Authentication Moodle modules for configuration support. For the duration of the beta, we only support one Moodle instance with one VoiceThread Manager account.

This module only works with accounts that have VoiceThread Manager (Business Manager, Higher Ed Manager, College, School, District, etc); also, the VoiceThread account must match the scope of the Moodle instance. For example, a departmental subscription cannot use this module with a University-wide Moodle instance. If you would like to join our beta program, please contact us.


Authentication Integration

For larger accounts (districts, universities, etc), VoiceThread can integrate with your own authentication or Single Sign On (SSO) system, including using Moodle as a Single Sign On provider. We support Microsoft’s Active Directory, most LDAP implementations, and several standard SSO products, as well as Moodle 1.9.x with our VoiceThread SSO block. Whether or not VoiceThread uses your authentication, all user content is still stored on our servers, and all user interaction (other than login, if using SSO) is still with our servers.

To help ensure the security of your users’ data, we do have some specific requirements for LDAP, AD or SSO integration. If you would like to discuss authentication integration for your organization, pleasecontact us!


VoiceThread Accelerator

The VoiceThread Accelerator is a high performance content distribution and caching appliance that can provide a tremendous improvement in VoiceThread performance for certain network configurations. In particular, if you have excellent connectivity within your organization, but limited downstream bandwidth from the Internet at large, the Accelerator might be a good fit for your organization. Pricing depends on the number of bundled accounts; please contact us for more information.


Moodle Integration

As many of you are aware, we have a Moodle embedding module. We’re now looking to kick our Moodle integration up a notch, and need your feedback! What are the top three things you would like VoiceThread and Moodle to be able to do together? We’re already looking at ideas from assignment modules to single sign-on, and need your feedback! Please send us your thoughts.