In part 1 of this guide, we looked at the arguments for screencasting and the two main types of tools – online, all-in-one-take and fully-featured desktop applications. In part 2 we take a look at the former.
Choose a tool
There are plenty of free online screencasting tool – you’ll find plenty listed in Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Tools. To get your search started, you could do worse than take a look at screenr, screenjelly and screencast-o-matic.
Why use an online tool?
Here are some arguments for going the online route:
- If they’re not free, then they’re certainly inexpensive.
- You don’t have to download an install yet another desktop application.
- They come with all sorts of nifty connections to other online tools, particularly social media.
- The tools come with very basic functionality, so you’ll be up-and-running in minutes and won’t spend ages tinkering.
As you probably guessed, there are some drawbacks:
- There may be some security issues having your organisation’s applications and sites shared online.
- You need good internet connectivity.
- Because you only get the one take and can’t edit your work or add extra functionality, you may not be able to achieve all you want.
- If the vendor goes bust, bang goes your content (assuming you haven’t downloaded copies).
Choose your topic
All-in-one-take screencasts make great resources for just-in-time use or as elements in a blended offering. They need to be short (under 5 minutes) and highly practical. Don’t just work through all the functions in your application or on your site, regardless of whether anyone’s interested – describe how to do something really useful and not obvious. Everyone loves practical tools and tips.
You’ll want to think through carefully what you want to show and how. If necessary, practise a few times until you feel confident that you can perform the task fluently. In most cases best advice would be not to script – the best screencasts are simple and conversational in tone. If you really must script, then edit the words carefully to make sure they sound completely natural.
Typically you will be asked to select the area of the screen that you want to capture or to pick one of a range of standard sizes. Remember that the screencast is likely to be viewed at less than the original size, perhaps much less if on a smart phone, so focus in on what’s really relevant. A few tests should help you to find the most appropriate arrangement.
If you have more than one microphone on your system, then you’ll have to specify which one you want to use. As with all audio, quality does count – if you have a quality mic (ideally with a pop shield) then use it. If not, use what you have, but try to ensure there’s not a lot of background noise.
First, briefly introduce yourself and explain what it is you will be showing and why viewers will find this useful. Then commence your live performance (no pressure then), pausing where necessary. If you make minor stumbles, don’t stop, because chances are no-one will notice or care. Obviously if you make a complete hash, there’s no problem in starting again.
Depending on the tool, you’re likely to have plenty of ways to share your screencast:
- Provide a link in an email, tweet, blog post or forum post or on your intranet, web site or LMS. The user will be taken to the vendor’s website to see the screencast.
- Alternatively play the screencast directly in a web or forum posting or on a web page by embedding the HTML code supplied by the vendor.
- Download the screencast as a video. You can then upload it to your website, intranet or LMS, or send it out as an email attachment.
- Publish the video on YouTube.
Coming in part 3: Using more sophisticated desktop tools.