Why Screencast?


I will be conducting a workshop Friday on how to capture and produce video in Camtasia.  Camtasia is the state-of-the-art screen capture program from TechSmith.  We have licensed it for District computers at our college, and those who do not qualify for the District licenses copy can purchase it for the educational price of $179.  As I say, my workshop is titled How to Capture and Produce video—specifically screencast video—in Camtasia.  It grew out of a workshop I did on how to edit video in Camtasia.  Folks who attended that one wanted more on how to originally get screencast video and what settings to use when producing it, so I obliged.  (None of those people who requested the special workshop have shown up at subsequent workshops, but others have).  So, before discussing any of the technical how-tos, we should ask the question: Why create a screencast in the first place?  I can think of several reasons.

First, and certainly the one that requires the least effort, you can make a quick video with Camtasia using your webcam to simply greet your students, or introduce a new topic or module in your course and discuss with them what you expect the learning outcomes of the new subject matter ought to be.  A personal video can be much more interesting than written discussions, especially if they are of length.

Here is a real quick and dirty intro to my workshop that I dashed off before class last time I taught this subject.  It is made for the small screen, so I didn’t bother with a high res camera or an elaborate setting (quite an understatement if you observe my office).

Secondly—and here is where we get to true screencasts—Camtasia can be used to describe how to do something on the computer.  This comes up all the time for us in Academic Technology, of course, where we record the screen and describe some click-here click-there procedure.  Once you see it demonstrated it all comes clear.  In the following video I have included this technique in one that might not at first occur to most instructors: A running commentary on student draft papers or project evaluations.  Why not as you are marking up student papers make a video of the process, and explain your comments first hand along with demonstrating any techniques that the student might need to know?

Note that this video was captured at 1280 x 720 pixels screen resolution.  Click the little gear in the YouTube player and choose 720p video, then go full screen with it.  You will see that it is plenty large and clear enough to see exactly what I am talking about.  Where there are really small details to observe, I used the zoom and pan features of Camtasia to zoom in on them.

Finally, another reason you might want to use Camtasia to make screencasts is to convert your PowerPoint presentations to narrated videos.  While it is true you can do this natively from PowerPoint now (with PowerPoint 2010 and 2013—2013 being superior because its default video file format is mp4), Camtasia gives you even more editing and production choices to make it one button simple to publish to YouTube.  Here is an example.

Note that I added a picture-in-picture effect using Camtasia to record the PowerPoint—something you cannot do using PowerPoint alone—and that all the animations within PowerPoint played smoothly.  Once again, this was captured at 1280 x 720 screen resolution, resulting in 720p video.

So where should you link your videos once they are completed?  You have several choices.  I covered this topic in depth when writing about PowerPoint video, but to summarize:

  • The recommended solution is YouTube.  It just works, and will be trouble free.  Camtasia has a one-button simple publish to YouTube feature.
  • Publish directly to Blackboard.  Simply produce your video in Camtasia and upload the mp4 file to Blackboard.  The consideration here is how big is your Blackboard course getting.  You do not want it to exceed 2.5GB, because a course that big cannot be restored from archive.
  • If size is a consideration, then publish your video and upload it to your Palomar web space.  If you are not sure where your Palomar web space is, contact us.

Of course there are variations on these themes.  Vimeo may be your host of choice, rather than YouTube, or you may have a private web host you would prefer to use.

These are the primary reasons you might want to make screencasts to share with your students.