What is a screencast?

This is part of a regular series of articles exploring some of the terms used in e-learning (view other articles in the series).  We’ll do our best to break down the jargon and explain what things are from a basic perspective.

Image of a Blackboard 9 Screencast

Example Blackboard 9 Screencast

Screencasts are similar to screenshots in that they capture what is happening on your computer screen.  However, while a screenshot captures a static image from your screen, a screencast captures what is happening on your computer as a video.  You can record audio while the screencast is being recorded, or add audio in later. Normally screencasts can be edited after recording, allowing you to cut out mistakes and add text at key points in the video.

There are several popular software programmes for screencasting, but the preferred one at Sheffield Hallam is Camtasia.  We have purchased software licenses for Camtasia for some of the computer labs so that staff and students can use it.  Please contact Advisory (x3333) to find out more about what computer labs have access to the software, or contact your faculty e-learning contact to find out about any available staff licenses.  Camtasia works by simply recording what is happening on your screen while allowing you to talk about it.  Then you can edit the recording and create a video file to share with others.

Educational uses of screencasts include:

  • Explaining how to use a piece of software to students, such as SPSS
  • Giving an overview of your Blackboard site and student responsibilities in it
  • Encourage your students to create a screencast presentation on a topic.
  • Have an assessment where students must make a screencast demonstrating use of a particular computer technique.
  • Capturing your thinking during the marking process, so students can get more in depth feedback than with written notes, and link to specific points better than with audio feedback.
  • Create short presentations that cover key content in depth to avoid having to spend extra class time covering it.

However it is worth noting that screencasts are not interactive. Therefore they are only useful for activities where information is passed one way, from either tutor to students or students to tutors.

Read more about screencasts in the Educause Learning Initiative’s 7 things you should know about screencasting (keep in mind it is five years old however, so it is not fully up to date).