Screen capture software allows you to record any activity that takes place on your computer screen along with an audio commentary. At its simplest, a real time “screen capture” video can be thought of as allowing people to look over your shoulder while you talk them through something on your computer. Being quick and simple to make, the resulting videos can be a great opportunity to get closer to your audience.
This article will look at some of the features that these applications provide and considers how recording on screen activity in real time can be used to support learning and teaching. Traditionally used for software demonstrations and tutorials in IT skills, real time screen capture has also found a number of more innovative uses such as providing visual feedback on student work, or capturing live events for archive or later transmission.
There are a range of free and commercially available tools that can be used to create real time screen capture videos. The free tools are generally light on features but simple to use. They include:
- JING, a lightweight application from TechSmith (manufacturers of Camtasia) with emphasis on the rapid creation and sharing of videos via provided webspace.
- Camstudio, which comes as a portable application so you can run it from your USB stick without the need for permanent installation.
- Screentoaster.com and other Flash or Java based online services which allow you to create screen capture videos through a website without the need for the installation of specialist software. Many of them also let you to either download or host and share your videos online for free.
Free applications can be great for creating 'quick and dirty' productions, such as a how-to video for colleagues. However the additional functionality of commercially available packages, particularly powerful inline editors and flexible outputting options can make them a worthwhile investment for serious screencasters.
The rest of this article will focus on the commercial application, Camtasia Studio, available from TechSmith and one of the market leaders in this field. It should be noted that there are other applications available, notably Adobe Captivate (as reviewed in Graham McElearney's article, also in this issue) and, BB FlashBack, which offers a similar array of features and functionality.
My first experience with Camtasia was in the production of a range of short tutorial videos on using the GIMP image editor (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Developed as resources for a roll on / roll off course targeted at Entry Level 3 / Level 1 learners, the ability to create short informal videos that supported a kinaesthetic learning style, was preferable to relying on text based instructions with still screen shots alone. While Camtasia itself was very intuitive and quick to get started, I soon found that creating coherent content that delivered a targeted learning outcome took planning and practice. While recording the onscreen visuals can indeed be done in real time, I was soon recalling the old adage about “Failing to plan…”
My other main use of Camtasia has been to record two full semesters’ worth of live lectures for year 1 and 2 Electrical Engineering degree programs. The software was used along with a reasonably powerful tablet PC, wireless USB microphone, Air Mouse and webcam to capture several things simultaneously:
- PowerPoint slides in sync with the lecturer’s comments (audio recording).
- Equations that were written out in the session using the tablet’s stylus.
- Pointer gestures highlighting areas of the screen for additional focus or commentary.
- A small video of the presenter’s explanatory gestures.