I typically create screencasts to either record a narrated slide presentation to share with students via the course Web site (or learning management system) or to create a demo of a particular technology tool or resource. Faculty who teach different types of quantitative courses (e.g., mathematics, statistics) might also create pencasts, which are video recordings that capture writing or annotating with narration. Screencasts and pencasts work really well to capture processes and to “make thinking visible.”
Screencasting tool options
I’ve written about creating screencasts with Office Mix, but there are a number of different tools you can use. Mac users can quickly and easily create basic screencasts using QuickTime Recorder. Windows 10 users can use the built-in screen recorder. If you want more features and editing capabilities, you might want to explore either Screenflow (my personal favorite) or Camtasia. There are a number of other possibilities as well.
So which tool is right for you? I always suggest finding the tool with the fewest features that will enable you to create what you want to create. So, for example, if you just want to make a quick recording of your screen to demonstrate how to use a Web site, I’d use QuickTime or the Windows screen recorder. If you want to record a narrated slide show with some checks for understanding, Office Mix is probably the best bet. If you know you’ll need multiple takes and want the potential to edit what you’ve recorded, you might want to opt for a more feature-rich tool like Screenflow or Camtasia. More important than the tool, is how you prepare for and actually record your content. The following tips will help you to address these points and get started.
- Preparation is key. There are few things more annoying than watching a rambling, disjointed video presentation. While the content doesn’t need to be scripted or fully storyboarded out, you should at least begin with a careful outline of your content. This will help you to make sure that you cover all the key points you desire, ensure that they are appropriately sequenced, and that you stay with the program as you record your video. If you want to provide examples as you go, be sure to determine them in advance so that you’re not fumbling around for an example on the fly that might not help you make your point in the most effective way. Finally, if you’re demonstrating software or a Web site, be sure you have the appropriate login information and note and run through the steps in advance so that the demo flows smoothly.
- Plan for interactivity. Even a series of brief videos can lose students’ attention. It’s critical to plan for different kinds of experiences and interactivity in the screencast. I typically break a longer screencast into short “chunks” that I intersperse with questions to consider, a diagram to complete, or some sort of quiz or input similar to what you can do with Office Mix. If you’re not able to chunk your content, I’d suggest either incorporating prompts that encourage the viewer to pause the video and consider an idea or provide some sort of companion worksheet or organizer that students can complete as they watch the video. Any of these strategies promote greater student engagement than just passively watching a video, no matter how well planned and produced.
- Capture good audio. Speaking of production, it’s critical to capture good quality audio for your narration. While you might be able to capture decent quality audio from a laptop’s built-in microphone, I’d suggest investing in a good quality headset/microphone (I like the Logitech H390) or a USB condenser microphone (my favorite is the Samson C01U Pro).
- Scripts help for clarity. This is maybe the most “controversial” tip in the list. Some would argue that the most engaging screencasts are more conversational and less scripted. This is certainly true when read in a monotone voice, but I think there are benefits to scripting your content. First, it helps to ensure that you stick to the outline of the content. More importantly, though, it gives you the opportunity to think through the best examples, illustrations, and nuances of what you’re presenting. It also helps me to be more engaging, I think, than if I’m having to think things through as I’m speaking. It makes the recording process go much more quickly. And it helps dramatically with the final recommendation.
- Make your content accessible. If you’re creating screencasts for your courses, they should be accessible to all learners. This means that they should be close captioned – ideally word for word. You might also include an outline or script of your content with the videos, but this doesn’t technically meet the standards of ADA compliance. This is one limitation with using one of the free software options above. To my knowledge, I don’t believe you can add captions with these. With Screenflow or Camtasia, however, it’s much easier to add captions. If you’ve scripted your content, it’s as simple as copy/paste.
I hope that these recommendations will help you to “up your game” when it comes to creating screencasts in the classroom. I’m still relatively new to the process and have a lot to learn myself. If you’ve been screencasting and have additional ideas and advice, please share with the community through a comment below.
What else do you consider in creating screencast recordings?
Please post your comments below.