Screencasting: Broadcasting On-screen Activity
Here we introduce the process of recording the actions on your computer screen, then making them available - known as 'screencasting'. Screencasting software is a flexible tool, suitable for many tasks and in a variety of roles, and the ease with which it can help provide widely enhanced support to learners make it an area of keen interest to anybody wishing to use mixed digital media.
A screencast refers to a recording then delivering of the graphic content of a defined region of the computer screen - effectively recording all actions the user makes in that region within the recorded time period. The viewer can then follow every action the demonstrator makes, including mouse and keyboard actions.
You can of course record the whole screen if there is no specific area of focus, but this will produce a correspondingly larger recorded video file.
Often the screencast includes a supporting audio description as events unfold, to accompany the actions on the screen, and may additionally include a recording of system audio output, if relevant to the content.
Here is an example of a screencast being used to explain to demonstrate some basic audio tips for podcasting:
Simple screencasts are as easy to produce as clicking the record button of an appropriate screen recording application, and recording whatever you are viewing/using on screen in real time. The recorded actions will then be converted into a moving image which is delivered for others to view. A basic screencast may consist of just one movement or action with or without audio. Different file types can be used in a screencast (depending on the software) including still images, moving images, audio and other screencasts.
However, screencasts may also form part of a larger resource, where multiple screencasts are produced, and combined with other content. Depending on which screencasting software you use, there is a range of tools for adding additional features to your screencast, including picture-in-picture, quizzes and branching (progressing to different sections of the screencast depending on your selection of a multiple choice answer).
Uses and examples
The use of screencasting is well established in small pockets of educational practice where it has been a popular tool for more than ten years - especially with software trainers for training purposes. Screencasting began as simple screen capture (the straightforward recording of on-screen activity). With the development of online technologies and services, simple screen capture is often augmented with multiple audio tracks, captioning and still images. We are noticing that its use is gaining popularity in mainstream education beyond niche areas. Its ease of use, and ability to demonstrate on screen activity, with the viewer able to play, pause and reflect, make screencasting an ideal tool for a variety of research, learning and teaching uses including:
As everything is recorded, it can be used to demonstrate how an application or web service in a browser functions, or how to configure and use any other software process.
Pre-recorded support material
Learners may be asked to reproduce or complete follow-up work based on a teacher's recorded screencast.
Pre-recorded screencasts may be produced to assist learners in the field. This can then be played back using a mobile device, such as a laptop or mobile phone.
Recording teaching sessions (lectures etc)
Where a session utilises on-screen resources, such as slides, websites etc, a screencast helps enhance the typical audio only podcast by putting into context what is being said.
On-screen walkthroughs for training and tutorials
Screencasts can be designed to be multi-part resources that support learner self-direction. Effectively this is a technique called branching, where the user selects where they go to next.
Assessment (learner demonstrating and/or teacher feedback)
Learners and researchers can record their work with audio explanations and use these recordings as material to support or replace traditional text-based submissions. Further, teaching staff and academics may wish to then review a learner's / researcher's piece of work, using screencasting to highlight and evaluate the submission, again using audio commentary for further support.
Producing enhanced video podcasts
When visuals can be used to enhance an audio podcast, a screencast will often support your need. Furthermore they may be useful for users of mobile devices.
Producing material for distance learners
In lieu of lab sessions where staff would typically be hands-on and able to demonstrate.
At JISC Digital Media we use screencasts to demonstrate our ideas, produce digital media tips and as personal reminders of doing complicated tasks that are easier to playback than write how-to manuals for internal use.
Below is an example using a screencast to demonstrate the process of accessing Blackboard using an Apple iPhone
Screencasts always consist of moving images, such as the cursor moving, and/or performing actions. The screencast software captures everything on screen and packages it for delivery (sometimes as a live stream), this is useful for showing the full range of digital media. Audio can be used either from playback on the screen or added as a verbal commentary with or without music/sound effects.
Available on multiple devices
Screencasts are typically viewed on a computer. However, the significant recent expansion in the range of mobile devices capable of delivering video content - including laptops and mobile phones - means that the potential scenarios and context for its use are now far more varied.
Screencasts are valuable due to their ease of creation and the enhancement they offer to audio podcasts. They have many uses and help both the teaching and learning experience. Teaching staff can easily make available resources that support students who may having learning difficulties and or access difficulties. The materials will also support learners who may have been absent due to illness during a session. Used with the appropriate digital media, screencasts can potentially add valuable support to learners in a different context than text-based material for those who prefer this type of delivery.
Although screencasting software is not necessarily expensive, it still pays to try before you buy. Most screencasting software have trial versions that often run for 30 days. Alternatively, several free screencasting software/web services exist which may fit your needs, especially if you are new to screencasting. More detailed advice about the technical business of screencasting, along with some short screencast sections, can be found in our Screencasting Workflow advice document. Finally if you want to give screencasting a go but still aren't sure where to start, please do get in touch via our helpdesk.
Provide a brief summary annotation of the screencast, both in the screencast and its supporting text.