Quick and Easy Screencasting

Why should a professor care about screencasting?

by Baynard Bailey

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. How many words is a video worth? Sometimes the best way to teach people something is to just show them. But what if I need to show students or project collaborators something now, but I won’t see them for five days? What if I need to teach them a procedure but I don’t want to repeat myself a thousand times? What if I want to create instructional materials that can be accessed independently on demand, this year and the next? One answer to these questions is screencasting.

A screencast is a video recording of one’s computer screen. Educators can use them to create instructional materials. They are also popular as a mode for technical support. To illustrate the concept, here’s a short screencast I made to show Vassar faculty how to add images to labels in Moodle:

I like tools that are easy to use and free. Here are a few popular sites that offer free screencasting utilities:

All of these require users to create an account. If you want to narrate your screencasts, make sure your computer has a microphone. Most laptops these days are sold with video cameras and microphones included.

If you are really into the idea of screencasting and want more control over the recording and editing possibilities, here are a couple of professional grade programs that are outstanding:

  • ScreenFlow – $99 http://www.telestream.net/screen-flow/overview.htm This is the Cadillac of screencasting utilities, in my opinion (mac-only). I’ve tried a bunch and I like this one the best. Below is a sample video that I used for training purposes that includes some of the interesting editing techniques possible with Screenflow (zooming, enhanced clicking graphics and sounds, callouts etc.):

FCP Training 04 Three Point Edit from Baynard on Vimeo.

To see video in its context, please visit it on the training wiki I created.

  • Camtasia Studio – $299 http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp Virtually synonymous with the idea of screencasting; this is the most popular application out there. Now available on macs and PC. This is a very popular program because it is a very high quality program with a rich feature set.

Screencasts can provide valuable technical training that is can be used over and over. Lectures could be captured for students to refer back for later contemplation. Screencasts can free up precious class time. The utilization of screencasts is only limited by your imagination. For a rapid-fire summary of ways screencasts can be used in higher ed, I offer this quote from facdevblog:

Screencasts have been applied in a number of innovative ways in higher education including capturing lectures, conducting website tours, software and database training, demonstrating library functions, and providing feedback to students. Regarding feedback, students can benefit greatly as faculty can review portions of students’ submitted assignments on-screen, highlight specific areas of text, and give his or her audio feedback on the students’ assignments. Students can view the recorded feedback at their convenience and follow-up with questions via email or face-to-face.  Faculty can also assign students to develop their own screencast episodes for certain course activities.

ACS is happy to provide consultation or training in order to include screencasting into your teaching practices.