Vivian Yenika-Agbaw: Professor of Education, University Park

For the summer 2014 session, Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, a professor in the Penn State College of Education, used VoiceThread in her LLED 561 Cultural Pluralism in Children’s and Adolescent Literature course. This was a six-week online course for World Campus with an enrollment of 19 students.

How She Used It

Vivian Yenika-Agbaw used VoiceThread for students to share their research proposals with the class. In order to prepare for the research paper, students created a 10- to 15-minute proposal to be presented using VoiceThread. The following information was to be included in the research proposal:

  • Subject/topic/theme, etc. or author picture and background information (a link to his/her website could be included instead)
  • The rationale for selecting the author or for focusing on the subject/topic/theme
  • Possible questions that would guide the research (it could be one but no more than three)
  • List of possible book titles to examine in the study
  • Sample scholarly sources to consult
  • Detailed explanation of the proposal

This VoiceThread assignment was due by the end of the week of lesson 9.  By the end of lesson 10, students were to review and give comments on at least three proposals. Students were only required to make a general comment on the last slide of three proposals. However, students were welcome to make specific comments on certain slides if they wanted to leave more than one comment.

If a proposal had received five comments already, students were instructed to choose another proposal to comment on. All the comments were due at the end of lesson 10. Comments were to begin with a compliment and then add one or two constructive criticisms that would enable the presenter to strategically revise his/her research paper as he/she worked on the final draft. Research proposal presentations were worth 10 percent of the total course grade.

Example 1

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Example 2

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Guiding Principle for Use: More Effective Communication of Research Projects Among Course Students

Using VoiceThread to convey research proposals allows students to learn quickly and easily about the research their classmates plan to conduct. In the past, research proposals were in the format of a written assignment to be turned in to the instructor and reviewed for relevance and scope prior to approval for the actual research project. In the previous form, the only person to see what each student proposed for his or her research project was the instructor. Students had no idea what their classmates were considering as research questions or topics. Learning was isolated and constrained. With VoiceThread, students are able to see what their classmates are considering for research, and as a community of learners, they can build off of each other’s ideas, creating stronger and more focused research topics.


Yenika-Agbaw was a reluctant convert to using VoiceThread as a new technology in place of the traditional written paper format for student research proposals.

With the help of an instructional designer or two, she was convinced to try using VoiceThread so that students could more easily share their research proposals with the class. Yenika-Agbaw soon saw that the use of VoiceThread allowed her students to learn from each other and build off of each other’s ideas, working more as a community of learners and less as isolated online distance learners who primarily interacted with the instructor only.

How She Found VoiceThread

Yenika-Agbaw started teaching online for World Campus and had the opportunity to work with an instructional designer to develop a new course. VoiceThread was recommended as a way to get the students involved in each other’s learning and research, and she reluctantly agreed. After the first semester of using VoiceThread for the research proposal assignment, Yenika-Agbaw felt it was a very effective method for students to share information and to learn from each other.

Future Use and Issues

Yenika-Agbaw plans to continue use of VoiceThread in her future courses. She does not see herself as a technologically advanced instructor, but rather a good example for other faculty who might be hesitant to try new teaching tools in their courses.

About Vivian Yenika-Agbaw

Vivian Yenika-Agbaw is professor in the department of Curriculum and Instruction, where she teaches courses in children’s and adolescent literature in the residential and World Campus programs. Prior to joining Penn State, she held tenure-line faculty positions at Clarion University in the department of education, and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she was professor of English education in the department of English, taught literature and composition courses for 10 years, and coordinated the secondary English program. She has taught high school English in Cameroon and in the United States working with minority youth enrolled in summer enrichment programs.

She is the author and coeditor of numerous books including Adolescents Rewrite their World: Using Literature to Illustrate Writing Forms, with Teresa Sychterz, Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness: Essays on Adaptations of Familiar Stories, with Ruth McKoy Lowery, and Laretta Henderson; African Youth in Contemporary Literature and Popular Culture:  Identity Quest, with Lindah Mhando; and has served as manuscript reviewer for Children’s Literature, The Lion and the Unicorn, Marvels and Tales:  Journal of Fairy Tale Studies, and Journal of Negro Education. She has also served or is currently serving on the editorial review boards of Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Language Arts.


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