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Three sets of tips for screencasting

August 12, 2014

laptop with microphoneScreencasting is making a video of the output from your computer screen, usually with narration. Screencasting is popular as a way to provide first exposure to new material for the purpose of “flipping” a class, but it has lots of applications:

  • Review or clarify a challenging concept,
  • Provide students with feedback,
  • Produce a skill tutorial,
  • Answer a frequently asked question, or
  • Demonstrate a website or procedure.

Relatively few college instructors have experience with screencasting, so I thought it would be helpful to gather some tips and basic info. The the first two items are courtesy of ProfHacker.

Simple Screencasting Tips:

  • To sound professional, use a decent microphone. The CAD U1 USB works great and is a bargain ($25 at Amazon), or spend a little more for one of the Blue microphones.
  • Keep it short (2-4 minutes)
  • Have a script, and read from it
  • A script makes captioning easier

Screencasting 101: the Definitive Guide! lists four production steps:

  1. Record screen activity.
  2. Export the recording
  3. Edit the video
  4. Upload and share

For the first three steps, I strongly recommend TechSmith’s two products, Snagit (for basic work) and Camtasia (for the bells and whistles). Both offer educational pricing.

Preparing for a screencast

This last set of tips is mine, from a workshop we debuted last week.

  1. Clean up your computer desktop. Set the background to a solid neutral color. Delete or temporarily move your personal icons. Hide the dock or system tray and any toolbars you’re not using. Quit any unnecessary applications.
  2. Set the screen resolution. 1280 x 720 is a great size for videos.
  3. Create a quiet environment. Close the door and put a “Recording Session” sign on it. Mute your phone or forward it to voicemail. Turn off things that make noise, like fans.
  4. Get your software ready. Open the files and programs you’re going to need (or know where they are). Hide any toolbars you don’t need. Clear history and “recent” file lists. Hide personal information, like favorites or bookmarks. Arrange your preferred windows, panes, etc.
  5. Turn off notifications. Disable reminders, alerts, and pop-ups from email, calendar, Twitter, to-do list, text messaging, etc.

Good luck with your screencasts! Please use the comments to share your own tips, a creative strategy, or a link to a great screencast.

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