Vocat 3.0 is an ongoing collaborative process between Cast Iron Coding and the Center for Teaching and Learning at Baruch College. It’s built under an “agile development process,” which is at its heart consultative, iterative, and incremental. The flexibility that agile development allows has been key to making Vocat responsive to the specific needs of students and faculty.
  • 2015 Q1
    • 3.2 – beta1: Video Player Annotation Improvements
    • 3.2 – beta2: Multiple Document Type Support
    • 3.2 – beta3: Transcoding and Storage Improvements
    • 3.2 – stable release on April 15, 2015
  • 2015 Q2
    • 3.3 – beta1: Mobile App Development
    • 3.3 – beta2: Improved Rubric Creation Functionality
    • 3.3 – beta3: Additional Reporting Views
    • 3.3 – beta4: Revised navigation and improved UX
    • 3.3 – stable release on June 30, 2015
  • 2015 Q3
    • 3.4 – beta1: Audio and Video Commenting
    • 3.4 – beta2: WordPress Integration
    • 3.4 – beta3: LTI Support
    • 3.4 – stable release on Sept. 30, 2015

Vocat News

Vocat 3.2 Launches with Robust Annotation Interface, Audio and Image Capability

The Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning is pleased to announce the release of Vocat 3.2, which greatly broadens the capabilities of our homegrown multimedia assessment tool. Once known as the “Video Oral Communication Assessment Tool,” Vocat has expanded well beyond its original functionality. The tool now accepts video, audio and image files, and also allows multiple files and file types within a single project.

Vocat’s developers, Cast Iron Coding, have grounded this major advancement with a powerful and intuitive new media manager. Evaluators can now define which media types are allowed in each assignment, and either upload files themselves or allow students to upload their files directly.

With added media types also come new ways to assess those media. An overhauled annotation interface now allows users to format text and draw on videos and images, facilitating more precise feedback and more robust evaluations.

Media Manager
Media Manager
Drawn Annotations
Drawn Annotations
Audio Waveform
Audio Waveform

Clarity was a driving factor in this update. The new media manager interface includes instructions that state what can be uploaded where, a progress bar that displays the status of uploads, and editable file names for easier identification of assets. Annotations are now color-coded by user role to clearly differentiate feedback from Evaluators and peers, and comments and annotations can both be formatted with Markdown syntax.

Vocat 3.2 also gives Evaluators greater control over assignment settings. Options for Creator uploads, peer discussion, peer review, and self evaluation have been moved from the course level to the project level, and Evaluators can now enable anonymous peer reviews.

The new features make Vocat useful for departments and assignment types that were not previously viable: photography and art assignments, multimedia reporting projects that require images and videos, or audio-only assignments such as musical performances, speeches, and debates.

The possibilities for asynchronous assignments are also vastly expanded by version 3.2. Groups can now upload individual portions of a project to the same assignment space, instructors can offer more options for completing open-ended projects, and students can revise and upload multiple drafts of their projects in a single submission space.

This is just a sampling of the potential uses. The true power of the tool is fully realized by the ingenuity of those who use it in ways that we never could have imagined. On our end, we will continue to develop, full speed ahead. Vocat 3.3, scheduled for release in early summer, will integrate a mobile application to facilitate media submissions, a rebuilt rubric generator, and a revised and more intuitive navigational structure.

The CTL looks forward to seeing the inventive new ways that users engage with Vocat!

Below is a detailed list of enhancements in 3.2:

  • Allows image and audio uploads.
  • Allows multiple assets per submission.
  • New submission upload UI.
  • Adjusts upload placeholder text to be clear about what asset types are accepted.
  • Improves “add first asset” language on empty asset list.
  • Prevents user from closing asset management interface while uploading a file.
  • Prompts users to name YouTube and Vimeo assets.
  • Adds permanent URL for each asset on a submission and allows users to navigate to them directly.
  • Allows annotation drawing during video playback.
  • Adds audio annotation feature.
  • Adds functional scrubber to video progress bar.
  • During asset playback, users can jump back 10 seconds.
  • Makes asset playback UI responsive.
  • Adds basic markdown instructions.
  • Shows annotations on video when video is full screen.
  • Adds annotation selection and moving, and improves UX for annotation editing; general refactoring.
  • Adds role colors and shadows to annotation drawings.
  • Allows markdown in annotations, comments, course message, and project descriptions.
  • Shows avatar and annotation info in full screen mode.
  • Improves look and feel of move UI on asset management.
  • Adds visual active state to annotations; fine tuning various UI interactions.
  • Annotators should be able to submit an annotation with an enter keypress.
  • Revamped asset management and annotation views.
  • Adds link to modal markdown overview to discussion post input.
  • Migrates course settings to project model.
  • Adds “edit project” option to project list actions dropdown.
  • Users can see the whole rubric on the submission detail page.
  • Adds a date picker to replace multiple fields for project due date.
  • Allows refusal of media after project due date; shows project details to creator on submission detail view.
  • Shows the average in course map cell to evaluators, not to creators.
  • Improves layout and behavior of notifications.
  • Upgrades rails and other gems.
  • Adds polling for annotation processing.
  • Adds middleware that allows asset requests to bypass Rails.
  • Adds sidekiq for handling thumbnail generation; adds thumbnail worker and generator for handling image submissions.
  • Allows upload and transcoding of mkv files.
  • Breaks out seed data into sample data generator and creates proper seed script.
  • Changes deployment approach so that asset compilation is moved back to the server side.
  • Numerous improvements and bugfixes for new annotation canvas functionality.
  • Upgrades Rails to 4.1 and refactors configuration approach to safely store secrets.

Vocat for CUNY!

For several years now, those of us working on Vocat at Baruch College have fielded requests from colleagues across CUNY interested in using the tool. Technical limitations in Vocat 2.0 made it difficult to share, and created a barrier to scaling up use.

The release of Vocat 3.0 last spring, which introduced server-side processing for videos, has made scaling Vocat considerably easier. And now that we have rolled out Vocat 3.1, which includes automatic provisioning via Puppet manifests, launching new instances of Vocat is a snap.

We’re ready to share, and are starting locally. Beginning in Fall 2015, any CUNY campus will be able to request their own instance of Vocat.


Baruch College will be offering the tool, license free. We will help arrange at-cost hosting and video transcoding for any other CUNY campus that wants to host externally; if campuses wish to host Vocat in their own infrastructure, we will assist with the installation.

In Spring 2015, the Baruch Center for Teaching and Learning will:

  • announce a pricing structure for external hosting.
  • hold web conferences orienting CUNY colleagues to the requirements of managing Vocat, with an emphasis on necessary local support.
  • document existing and potential use cases.


In Summer 2015, the Baruch CTL will:

  • Host a one-day orientation for project leaders and support teams from other CUNY campuses.
  • Arrange visits to participating campuses to meet with interested faculty.


In Fall 2015, the Baruch CTL will:

  • Continue to advise project leaders at other campuses on support.
  • Compile and prioritize bug, feature, and help requests for the Vocat developer.
  • Begin plans to share Vocat more broadly.


We encourage anyone at CUNY who is interested in pursuing a Vocat instance for their campus to initiate a conversation with our Vocat team as soon as possible by sending an email to

We are so very pleased to be able to share this software throughout CUNY, and look forward to seeing what our colleagues across our great university do with it!

Vocat 3.1 Launches with Revamped Design

The Baruch College Center for Teaching and Learning is happy to announce the release of Vocat 3.1, which features a total stylistic overhaul of our homegrown video assessment tool. We are also releasing a website that will publish news about the project as well as its evolving documentation:

Over the past ten months we’ve worked closely with Vocat’s developers, Cast Iron Coding, to pilot and release a stable version of Vocat 3.0. In response to significant feedback from instructors and students who’ve been using the tool, we’ve reviewed and redesigned every page in Vocat for maximum clarity and intuitiveness. In addition to the new design, we’ve added new features and enhanced existing ones to streamline course creation, strengthen roster management, and improve the project assessment experience.

Evaluator Dashboard
Evaluator Dashboard
Course View
Course View

When you log into the new version of Vocat, the first thing you’ll notice is a reorganized dashboard with a tighter layout that makes relevant course information more clearly visible. The crisp and colorful new design also makes course data easier to read on both the dashboard and evaluation pages. Most noticeably, instructor, self, and peer evaluations are easily distinguishable in the bright new color scheme.

Several new features also give instructors greater control over their courses. Instructors can now request that a course be added to the system by filling out a simple form with the most basic course information (course number, section, semester). Once approved, they can manage their own rosters rather than relying on administrators to handle enrollment changes. The rubric creator has also been improved, with clearer wording and a layout that more closely resembles the rubrics we see most frequently when working with instructors.

We’ve revised wording and added descriptions for greater clarity on pages throughout Vocat, and we’ve also posted extensive instructions for students and instructors. This help documentation is available at and provides step-by-step guidance for most processes within Vocat. Over the coming weeks will be expanding and enhancing the documentation with video tutorials and model use cases.

Finally, we’ve created Puppet Manifests that enable automated provisioning of Vocat. This will allow us to smoothly migrate Vocat to new server environments, and also lays the groundwork for the future launch of additional Vocat instances in the cloud.

Thanks to the generosity of Baruch College alumnus Walter Barandiaran, Vocat will remain under continuous development into 2015, with upcoming features including a mobile app that allows for recording and submission of videos directly from hand-held devices, a rebuilt video player and annotation interface, connections with Learning Management Systems like Blackboard and Canvas, support for multiple document types, and WordPress/BuddyPress integration. Stay tuned!

For more information about what Vocat is and what it can do, or to take it for a test drive on the demo installation, please visit The demo installation can be accessed with the username and password testtest123.

Below is a full list of updated features, courtesy of Zach Davis, Managing Director of Cast Iron Coding and Lead Developer of Vocat:

  • New look and feel; every page reviewed and redesigned with an eye toward improved user experience.
  • Redesigned evaluation detail on submission shows peer, self, and instructor score summary and score detail; all scores are now visible and properly categorized.
  • Significantly improved tablet (iPad) support, paving the way for full responsive design in v3.2.
  • Users can now click on group names in coursemap detail views to see group members.
  • Refactored publish/unpublish functionality in course map; added dropdowns to column headers for easier access to project details.
  • Student dashboard now shows a list of courses, course landing page shows list of all submissions.
  • Better indications of whether a project is a group or individual project.
  • Improvements to messaging when courses don’t have any students, groups, or projects setup.
  • Allows instructors to invite and enroll students in their courses.
  • Admins can now change course settings in Admin UI.
  • Removed little-used “glossary” feature and replaced with less intrusive score detail placards.
  • Allows users to delete their own annotations on a submission.
  • Restructure top-level navigation; make it easier to get to group and individual course maps.
  • Improvements to group setup and group assignment.
  • Updated underlying libraries: Rails, Marionette, Backbone, VideoJS.
  • Many fixes to permissions and ACLs.
  • Improved auto-scroll effect on annotation box.
  • Redesigned submission summary boxes and added more relevant statistical detail.
  • Redesigned alert and messaging system for less intrusive error messages and notifications.
  • Admin course search criteria now does fuzzy matching.
  • Improvements to navigation between coursemap and detail pages.
  • Many small language improvements.
  • Restructured Sass stylesheets for vastly improved loading time in development contexts.
  • Adds course request feature that allows instructors to request Vocat courses and admins to approve or deny.
  • Improved error pages.
  • Project count added to admin course list.
  • Fixed many, many small bugs.
  • Parallel launch of new informational site.
  • Parallel launch of new documentation site.
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