Author: Oliver Batchelor

Striving and Thriving: The New and Improved VoiceThread

Striving and Thriving: The New and Improved VoiceThread

This blog entry is about VoiceThread – a collaborative multimedia slide tool that enables users to upload multimedia in slides where their peers can interact asynchronously – and it’s new and improved interface. The best tools for asynchronous learning are the ones that can most effectively facilitate learning outside of the course meeting times while also consistently striving to deliver a more engaging, user-friendly, and inclusive experience for all students. With a brand-new look and many enhancements, VoiceThread stands out as a high-caliber tool that keeps getting better.  

As one of the many technologies available to members of the LUC community, VoiceThread displays a strong dedication to constant improvement in their new and improved interface. The following improvements make for an even better experience using VoiceThread: 

  • Screen-reader accessibility 
  • Simplified conversation structure that is more user-friendly 
  • Zoom & Pan controls for moving as you add a comment 
  • Easier slide navigation for viewing and commenting 

The new interface is available to you now and can be toggled by logging into VoiceThread and going to the Display Preferences page. For anyone who prefers the legacy interface, please keep in mind that it will still be available until summer of 2024. 

For more information, be sure to take a look at the ITRS VoiceThread Page and VoiceThread Documentation. 

For assistance with VoiceThread, feel free to book an appointment with an ITRS Team member. 

Linked in Lessons: Internal & External Tools 

Linked in Lessons: Internal & External Tools 

This blog post is about the Sakai Lessons tool, links to other Sakai tools, VoiceThread, Top Hat, and how to maximize the effectiveness of a course using your Sakai site. Just as the main purpose of an LMS is to enhance the learning process, you can – and absolutely should – utilize Lessons in Sakai to deliver educational resources to your course in an orderly, easily navigable fashion. Of all the internal tools available in Sakai, Lessons plays a special role by enabling you to organize the learning materials in your course and minimize student confusion in locating readings, assignments, assessments, discussion forums, and even external tools.  

When assisting faculty with Sakai one-on-one or in the context of an orientation/group presentation, my colleagues in Instructional Technology and Research Support (ITRS) and I often explain to faculty that Lessons is a “three ring binder” that allows you to arrange the content in all the other tools. You can create a Lessons page for each week (Week 1, Week 2, etc.) or module (Module 1, Module 2, etc.) or any other increment that you use in your class.  

Why Lessons? 

To obtain a more detailed and extremely specific understanding of the value Lessons can bring to your course, imagine yourself in the following (quite cumbersome) scenario: 

You are teaching a course with a Sakai site and it is Week 3 of the academic term. You just finished uploading the Week 3 Readings to the Resources tool, creating the Week 3 Assignment in the Assignments tool, added a Week 3 Topic to the Discussions tool, published your Week 3 Quiz in the Tests & Quizzes tool, built a “project idea” recording assignment in VoiceThread, and made an icebreaker activity for in-class completion using Top Hat. To notify your students, you compose a message using Announcements and ask your students to…: 

  • Go to Resources and locate the assigned readings in the Week 3 Readings folder. 
  • Submit your Week 3 Assignment in Assignments 
  • Access the Week 3 Topic in the Weekly Discussions forum and post your reading response (and respond to a classmate) in the Discussions tool.  
  • Take the Week 3 Quiz in Tests & Quizzes 
  • Go to VoiceThread and “record yourself.”  
  • Complete the icebreaker in Top Hat during the class meeting.  

Do you feel fatigued from reading that scenario? I feel that way from writing it. In this scenario, it is also not difficult to imagine that a sizable portion of your students reported problems with finding and completing the assigned content. Fortunately, there is a much more effective strategy for simplifying the process.  

Internal Tools in Lessons 

As an alternative to the situation described in the previous section, you can include links to all the activities in different Sakai tools within a Lessons page. Once you’ve uploaded/created the weekly content, you can create a new lessons page titled “Week 3”, add the weekly assignment/quiz/discussion/readings to the page, mark each item as a prerequisite for advancing to the next week’s page (if applicable), and direct your students to “Complete the activities in ‘Week 3.’”The majority of Sakai tools are linkable within a Lessons page and can potentially reduce confusion (and the process of navigating to so many different tools, of course). Using this habit, you may not even need to send so many announcements (and hope everyone reads them).  

VoiceThread & Top Hat: Interactive, Asynchronous Learning 

Along with the tools available within Sakai, some of the external tools available to you can now be added to a Lessons page thanks to recent upgrades and enhancements. For instance, several enhancements to the VoiceThread tool such as new assignment types and a deeper integration in Sakai have resulted in a much more streamlined experience for assigning, completing, and grading work. As of 2022, Assignments in VoiceThread – a multimedia recording/uploading tool for collaborative learning via asynchronous interaction – can now link directly from a Lessons page. Instead of requiring students to select the VoiceThread tool (to authenticate their account) and directing them to complete the assignment in the VoiceThread tab in Sakai, you can now add a link to a VoiceThread assignment such as creating a recording, commenting on a recording, or just watching one. Once completed and graded, scores for these assignments will also populate in the Sakai Gradebook tool directly.  

In addition to this improvement, a much more recent upgrade to Top Hat now enables you to link to assigned content through a Lessons page using the same method as linking to VoiceThread. As a tool for interactive learning with a vast array of features to facilitate and track student engagement, you can use Top Hat for live, interactive quizzes as well as tracking attendance, creating assessments, sharing reading materials, and more. Although it is important to note that Top Hat requires a student fee and for users to create their accounts directly through the tool, grades for assigned content will now populate the Gradebook just like VoiceThread.  

Going Forward: Help & Resources 

Based on the (perhaps excessive) details provided in the sections above, the value and purpose of Lessons pages is apparent. In short, there are many ways you can incorporate content from other sections to simplify the process of navigating Sakai for your students.  

For assistance with Sakai, VoiceThread, Top Hat, or any other instructional technology, please schedule a consultation with an ITRS team member. Here are some additional help resources for Sakai Lessons, VoiceThread, and Top Hat: 

Sakai Lessons Documentation 

VoiceThread Documentation  

Top Hat Documentation 

Top Hat Support 

Panopto: New & Improved

Panopto: New & Improved

video cameraPanopto has updated with many significant enhancements! The experience in recording, editing, and sharing asynchronous video content is now more intuitive than ever. The following are just a few examples:

              • Speed – After recording content, video processing speed enables the user to quickly make edits with little to no wait time!
              • Smart Chapters – When recording your screen in a session without slides, Smart Chapters (a table of contents feature) is enabled by default.
              • Interface – Accessing recordings and folders has gotten even easier with a more intuitive layout!
              • Captions – Creators can now use a “find & replace” option for quick edits, specify caption end time, and find support for caption translation!

For a complete list of enhancements/updates, see the Release Notes.

To request assistance with Panopto, contact the Help Desk and/or book an appointment with a member of the ITRS team!


Interactive Learning with Top Hat

Interactive Learning with Top Hat

Top Hat is an interactive web-based response platform at Loyola. Instructors can leverage students’ devices to take attendance, launch discussions and questions, and solicit real-time feedback. Students can use devices they already own, like smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

Top Hat offers several ways for instructors to facilitate engagement with different question types, discussion boards, and gamified elements like polling tournaments. In addition to the instructional benefits, Top Hat provides instructors with learning analytics like daily attendance, student participation, and student performance reports.

In a virtual workshop with our Top Hat partners, Quintin Peirce and his team will provide an overview of how Top Hat can help drive engagement and outcomes in your lectures and labs, both before and during class. The team will also show a walkthrough of accessing Top Hat through Sakai to ensure a smooth technical experience. Student logins will be administered at the beginning of the session to facilitate active participation through the platform.

This session will take place on Thursday, August 11th, 3:00-4:00pm CT: Register Now

Coming Soon…ITRS Workshops for Summer Faculty

Coming Soon…ITRS Workshops for Summer Faculty

Attention LUC Faculty!

It is our pleasure to announce an upcoming series of academic technology webinars. Please join ITRS for the following events (select the links in the session titles to register):

Monday, April 25th, 11-11:30am 

Zoom Basics –  Learn how to get started with Zoom, set up a recurring meeting for your Sakai course, configure security settings, and more.

Tuesday, April 26th, 12-12:30pm 

Introduction to Labster for Faculty – Discover Labster, a virtual science lab boasting a catalog of over one hundred lab simulations for various scientific disciplines.

Wednesday, April 27th, 4-4:30pm

New Features in Panopto for 2022 – An overview of exciting new tools available in Panopto.

Thursday, April 28th, 10-10:30am

Statistics in Sakai – Learn how to use the Statistics tool in Sakai for evaluating student engagement.

Friday, April 29th, 1-1:30pm

Advanced Zoom: Polling & Breakout Rooms – This session provides an introduction to using these tools for facilitating student engagement in Zoom meetings.

We hope to see you at these sessions. In the meantime, please send any questions to or book a Zoom meeting with a member of the ITRS team here.

New Features in Panopto for 2022

New Features in Panopto for 2022

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Panopto has updated with new and exciting features to significantly improve the processes of editing, sharing, and and viewing recorded sessions. The following features are now active and/or available:

  • Video Reference Copies – The process of copying a session has improved significantly with Reference Copies, or copies that are connected to the original session. After recording and editing a video, Panopto users can create reference copies of the video in different folders to share with different courses/sections. When a user edits the original recording, the changes are applied to all reference copies of that session (if any). Please note that non-Reference copies can still be made in the video settings.
  • Discussion Notifications – All users now have the option to receive a daily summary email of discussion activity on their recordings. These notifications can be activated and managed to preference in the User Settings section.
  • Audio Descriptions – Users can create or upload audio descriptions to their recordings in order to increase accessibility using Panopto Editor. If viewing a recording with audio descriptions added, users can turn them on/off using a button in the Panopto Viewer. When toggled, the video will automatically pause and read audio descriptions.

With these changes, we hope that you will have an even better experience in creating and viewing sessions. For more information on Panopto, be sure to take a look at the ITRS Panopto Site.

If you need assistance with Panopto, feel free to book a live Zoom session with ITRS using this link.

Panopto: New & Enhanced Features for Summer 2021

Panopto: New & Enhanced Features for Summer 2021

Asynchronous lectures are growing in popularity, and fortunately, are becoming increasingly easy to record. Panopto, an invaluable tool for recording and uploading lectures and slides, is consistently growing in popularity and ease of use. Accordingly, ITRS is pleased to announce the arrival of new and improved features in Panopto:

  • Multi-stream Viewer – Mobile device users can view and navigate through multiple streams in recordings.
  • Moderating Discussions – After recording and sharing a Panopto session, creators are able to moderate discussions in the viewer.
  • Preview in Capture – Preview each individual stream in Panopto Capture.
  • Improved Share Feature – A new and improved interface for sharing recordings. Share emails now contain Table of Contents and captions (if present in the recording).
  • Multi-Language Search – Users can discover content by multi-language searching.

These new tools make for a (dare I say?) fun experience creating and viewing recorded lectures!

For more information, how-to guides, and live training sessions on Panopto, visit the ITRS Panopto site.

Panopto 10: Coming Soon

Panopto 10: Coming Soon


Panopto 10

Greetings from ITRS! We are pleased to announce the arrival of Panopto 10, Loyola’s official lecture capturing platform. The new version will be available on December 20th, 2020 and will include several new and improved features:

  • Tags — Panopto’s video library has a new way to support content organization and discovery: #tags.  Users can now add tags to their recordings from the video settings, the editor, or in Panopto Capture. 
  • Smart Chapters — The new Smart Chapters tool automatically creates a table of contents for any recording with a screen capture, including recordings from Zoom.
  • Delete Streams in the Editor — Users can now delete or replace video streams in the editor, allowing for greater flexibility in making changes to recordings.
  • Share interesting points in a video — This feature enables viewers to easily share a link to a specific point in the video with others.
  • Audio Normalization — Users can now make audio levels consistent throughout their recordings with the audio normalization feature in the editor.
  • Updated Mobile apps — New updates to the Panopto app (coming soon) will provide users with enhancements for recording and uploading content from their phones.
Coming Soon: Panopto 9

Coming Soon: Panopto 9


Panopto 9.0

Greetings from ITRS! We are pleased to announce the arrival of Panopto 9, Loyola’s official lecture capturing platform. The following features and enhancements are now available to all Loyola users:

  • Panopto Capture – An exciting new web-based recorder that allows users to easily capture video, audio, screens, and applications using a web browser (no software download required).
  • New Mobile Apps – Recently updated apps for Android and iOS provides users with an enhanced and user-friendly experience in Panopto on mobile devices including support for offline recordings, a personalized homepage, an improved search experience, and the ability to record and upload content from your phone.
  • Multi-language captions – Tracks for captions in specific languages are now available in recording settings. Creators can add captions in multiple languages and viewers can easily switch from one language to another.

For more information on Panopto, please visit this guide.

Top Hat Training: Discover Interactive Learning Software

Top Hat Training: Discover Interactive Learning Software

Top Hat

ITRS is proud to announce a series of trainings on Top Hat, a web-based platform that allows students to use their smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices to participate in and engage with in-class activities.

Top Hat’s student-centric experience engages and motivates learners with captivating virtual classroom features, interactive course content, and built-in assessment capabilities. Instructors can choose between seven different poll question types for instant feedback, create an online discussion board, explore a fun tournaments option, and access an enhanced gradebook.

To learn more about Top Hat, register for a training session or visit the ITRS Top Hat Page.