The use of VoiceThread effectively increases the sense of the instructor's presence in the online environment, reducing the sense of isolation that has been cited as a contributing factor in lower retention rates online. Retention is directly tied to learning effectiveness.
The text-based and textual hierarchy leveraged to design the tools in Blackboard and other CMSs is an inferior learning environment for visual disciplines. Visual disciplines in face-to-face environments rely upon large, projected images to facilitate learning. In a classroom, when a professor is left image-less, student learning is paralyzed. However, in online environments, the textual tools suggest that we should simply make do with what we're given. Web 2.0 tools, like VoiceThread, provide enhanced opportunities for visual learning, as well as participatory, peer-to-peer learning experiences, around visual media.
Community enriches students learning experiences through the fostering of safe, trustworthy environment in which students are more comfortable sharing personal thoughts, as well as making mistakes (which is an inherently important element in the formative assessment model employed here). Community college courses, moreover, are comprised of a vast range of learning disabilities, styles and levels. Fostering a learning environment that embraces all learning as important, ok, and integral to the overall goal, relies upon the foundational construction of community. VoiceThread's inclusion of student avatars, the extension of "choice" to students in how they comment, and the ability for students to listen to, see, and read each others' thoughts contributed to the development of online community.