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Using Screencasting in Online Classes

For faculty online, screencasting gives you new ways to make your material easier to be understood by students.  

Here are some tips to do screencast from Canadian Teacher.

Screencast is a digital recording or video of your computer screen (full screens or a screen region), and it usually comes with an audio narration to describe the on-screen actions. The term screencast dates back to 2004 with an interesting story.
In 2004, a columnist Jon Udell invited readers of his blog to propose names for the emerging genre.  From all the suggested terms, Udell selected screencast, which was proposed by both Joseph McDonald and Deeje Cooley. His "Heavy metal umlaut" screencast is a well-known example - which explains how Wikipedia works.

Since then, the term screen has be known by more people and the use of screencasts has itself become more popular.

Screencast Types

  1. Product Tutorials:  
    The screencast tells users how to use a software application or service by showing screen introductions. Usually, there is a recorded voice over to walk through the steps.
    Example: Customizing Your Settings Within Your Blackboard Course

  2. Short How-to:
    This kind of screencast usually is often short and demonstrates a simple guide or gives tips and tricks to solve a small problem or answer a student question (from email or discussion board) where a visual is easier than typing a response.
    Example: Writing Better Syllabus

  3. Conversational Demos:
    Conversational demos has more focus on the conversion rather than the screens. Usually, there are two voices for the screen. Often one is asking question about the screen and another gives the answer.
    Example: Michael Wesch and Digital Ethnography

  4. Class “lecture”: 
    Lectures (or more appropriately, mini-lectures) can be developed as an enhancement to your class.
    Example: General Chemistry I Digital Lecture Material

Of course, These are only examples, the sky is the limit.   

Guide Lines of making a screencast

  1. Know what you want to present
    First and foremost, you will need to have an idea about what you'll present, and you'll need to figure out which platform to use. Knowing your purposes of making a screencast is the first to come.

  2. Make it real
    Keep the screencast real and substantial. For example, if it is for software demonstration or a network monitor, then work with the actual software or live network.
    Of course, for reasons of logistics or security, this isn't always possible. But the more real we can make it, the better.

  3. Interactivity is important
    Interactivity engages viewers through the demo.  If your screencast is just screen by screen, your viewers will leave soon.  You can and I’d argue you should record narration or insert background music to the screencast. Usually, some screencasting tools like Camtasia enable you to add some visual aids to the captured screens like callouts, shapes, annotation buttons and animated images. Note that when a screencast is interactive it will engage the viewers in a conversation that steers it into unexpected areas.

Screencasting Software

Camtasia Studio

Camtasia software allows you to capture and record the activity on your computer screen.

  • Capture PPT presentations with a click
  • Record & highlight interaction with websites or applications
  • Emphasize and elaborate with callouts
  • Measure retention with Flash quizzes
  • Collect quiz results via email or SCORM-compliant LMS
  • Make content accessible with closed captioning

There is a learning curve associated with it, and editing and adding the features like callouts takes some time.  It will, however, give you a very polished product.  Unlike many of the products discussed in this website, Camtasia is not free.  Licensing runs around $180 for educators.

Example of Camtasia during the edit phase:


Jing is made by the same company that makes Camtasia, but is a down and dirty free product.  It is simple to download and use.  There is no editing capability, and videos are limited to 5 minutes.  However, it makes a great tool for quick replies to students where “how to do something on the web” is part of the issue.


Screenr is a quick and easy to use screencapture web application by Articulate.  It does not require a download, and also has a 5 minute limit.

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Last updated: 09/22/2009
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