Brief Description:

Screencasts are video recordings of the actions on one’s computer screen, including any associated audio. Screencasts, synonymous with video podcasts, provide a simple means to increase access to course content and learning resources. The product of screencasting is a video or movie file that can be uploaded to YouTube, a website, or a course management system for dissemination. Students may access screencasts repeatedly, at any time, from anywhere, using computers or a variety of handheld mobile devices (e.g., smart phones, iPods, iPads).

Possible Instructional Uses:

Through screencasts, instructors may deliver frequent, high-quality feedback on student work via video and audio. This technology has the potential to increase an instructor’s efficiency because it can be faster than handwriting feedback. Posting screencasts to course management systems may also facilitate earlier receipt and use of instructor feedback by students. Video and audio feedback also has the potential to be richer and more detailed than traditional written summaries of feedback or margin notes. For example, an instructor can easily provide multiple examples and concrete suggestions that would be cumbersome to write out. Furthermore, screencasts of feedback on student writing can feel more personal and engaging to students while helping to convey the experience of the reader. By highlighting and annotating specific strengths and areas for improvement on the screen, instructors can also explicitly model their thought processes and expectations for student performance and development.
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are typically brief, anonymous, and ungraded assessments of student learning in which the unit of analysis is the entire class. The “muddiest point” is a common CAT in which students briefly identify which concepts from a particular class period are unclear and why. Instructors analyze the data during or after class to identify the concepts confusing students. Screencasting provides an easy mechanism for instructors to respond to CATs and provide supplemental instruction without impinging on subsequent class time, especially if a CAT does not reveal consensus among students regarding which concepts are most challenging. Additionally, instructors may take advantage of the internet and digital multimedia resources to enhance explanations in screencasts. Although creating these screencasts represents an initial start-up cost, one quickly forms a library of teaching and learning resources that can be used repeatedly.
Novices and experts approach disciplinary problems in dramatically different ways.  Screencasting provides instructors with a mechanism to explicitly model expert thinking and thought processes, whether it is analyzing a primary historical source or solving a physics problem.  For example, instructors can use tablet PCs (or other peripherals that allow for handwritten annotations) to create screencasts of themselves solving quantitative problems and thinking aloud through the rationale for each step.  Similarly, an instructor may create a think aloud screencapture of a close reading, demonstrating how they approach and annotate a document or interpret an image.
Copious research suggests that active learning enhances student learning. However, instructors often perceive the implementation of active learning strategies as requiring one to sacrifice content coverage during lectures. Screencasting can allow instructors to shift students’ first exposure to fundamental concepts to before class. Thus, more class time may be used for active learning and teaching critical thinking (e.g., the application and synthesis of fundamental concepts), rather than solely lecturing on basic concepts. This approach may deepen student learning without necessarily sacrificing breadth. Such screencasts can be accompanied by short assignments and/or readings that prepare students for the activities during class sessions.
Instructors can use screencasts to support student learning outside the classroom.  For instance, students’ experience and facility with instructional technologies can vary widely.  Instead of taking class time to orient students to required technologies, instructors can make short screencast tutorials so that students can get up to speed at their at their own pace. Screencasts can also be an effective means for instructors to frame or preview assigned readings, providing students with background knowledge or contextual perspectives to maximize productive engagement and learning.
Some Available Platforms:
  • Jing
  • Camtasia

Tips for creating screencasts

  • Keep screencasts as short as possible (5 - 10 minutes).
    Less is more, given the limits on attention span.  For longer topics, consider how they can be “chunked” into shorter targeted units.  
  • Record screencasts in several segments rather than a single “take”.
    The clips can be tied together during the editing process.  This practice can save significant effort during recording (e.g., do overs).
  • Budget more time than you anticipate.
    Screencasting can be an efficient process; but initially, aspects of recording, editing, and posting your screencasts online can take more time than expected.  Experienced screencasters report a 2:1 ratio of recording and editing time:length of final product.  Allow for extra time until you are comfortable with the process. 
  • Pay attention to the audio quality.
    An effective screencast can support learning without being Hollywood quality.  However, as one assesses one’s screencasts, quality audio should be a key consideration for usability.
  • Consider scripting your screencasts.
    Some instructors find it useful to script out their screencasts to maximize efficiency of recording.  Others prefer to simply improvise while recording.  Regardless of personal preferences, scripting can significantly facilitate the ease of implementing closed captioning in screencasting software.  Closed captioning significantly increases the accessibility of screencasts for students with disabilities.
  • Decide where you'll upload your screencasts after you've created them and clearly communicate this to students.  At U-M, instructors have a variety of options for disseminating screencasts to students.
  Jing (free version) Camtasia
Availability and cost: Free online Some units at U-M have access to a site license through ITAM; Camtasia can be downloaded to any U-M issued computer via Key Access (talk to your IT admin)
Mac and/or PC Works on both Works on both; PC version has more editing tools available
Editing capabilities None; Must use another application to edit screencasts Full suite of editing tools included
Length of Screencasts Limited to 5 minutes No Limit
Support N/A

Contact your IT administrator regarding support with Camtasia. For LSA faculty, contact LSA Technology Services and for College of Engineering, contact CAEN.

For more information, or to download the software (or free trial), click below:

For additional comparison of other screencasting technologies, visit this page

Brenda Gunderson has created pre-lab lessons for her statistics course using Jing.  For a more detailed description visit this website.

Joanna Mirecki Millunchick wanted to know “Which concepts are still confusing to students?”  in her introductory materials science and engineering course. She created screencasts to respond to students' misconceptions using Camtasia.  She also created screencasts to describe solutions to homework assignments. More details about her work can be found here.

Scott Moore, a former U-M faculty member in the Business School, created a website to disseminate his lessons learned when creating a small production studio in his basement for screencasting.