Screencasting Software Recommendations

Have you wondered how you can effectively demonstrate a certain procedure performed on a computer to your students instead of explaining via textual directions? How about recording your comments about a student’s work as you grade his/ her assignment, especially for an online course? All this and more can be done through screencasting or video screen capture, which is a digital recording of the activities on your computer screen in various software such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, and etc.

Screencasts are especially useful teaching tools that can be utilized in many ways such as:

  • presenting video lectures along with narration;
  • demonstrating how a certain task is performed using specific software;
  • teaching how to use computers or a specific software;
  • providing student visual and narrated feedback on assignments or projects (a useful and eff ective method of feedback for online courses).

There is a range of screencasting software available in the market and online capable of various levels of screencasting. Some of these are more useful than others with regards to functionality and being user-friendly. In this post, we recommend and provide a brief review of 4 screencasting softaware we have found most useful for educational use for our IU faculty and students: CamStudio, ScreenToaster, and Screencast-O-Matic, and Adobe Captivate. Of course, these are only four of many good screencasting software and are selected based on their flexibility in system compatibility, functionality and cost.

Screen Toaster is a free web-based program that allows you to capture your computer screen including audio and webcam images in real time. It also allows you to share videos online with other users. It is compatible with Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS, and Linux and can run on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera 9, and Safari. While there are no limitations in duration of the screencasts, ScreenToaster recommends the size of the recordings to be 20MB maximum for “optimized performance”. You have the option to download your recordings in MOV and SWF formats and in the beta version, you have the option for download in MP4 format after publishing. The positive aspect of it being a web-based product is that there is no need for download and if you are using small portable notebooks with lower memory, this would be an ideal way to create a screencast. However, the site requires you to register to use the product and you need Internet access. Outside of these shortcomings, it is a great venue to create presentations, tutorials, and videos to share and embed in blogs, webpages, or simple email. For more information about this product, go to: http://www.screentoaster.com or visit our Quick Tip.

Screencast-O-Matic is another free web-based video recording software that allows you to create screencasts of various activities on your desktop from full-screen to specific regions. You have the ability to record audio and add notes to your screencast at different times. It is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and 7, Mas OS X , and Ubuntu and can run on Firefox and Safari. There is no need for installation and you can screencast up to 15 minutes and host your recording on SOM, YouTube or export it to flash, quicktime, or windows media.  One of the nicer features about this product is that it also allows you to export your screencast to as an MP4 to iMovie or as AVI to Windows Movie Maker. If you need to create a longer recording, you have the option to upgrade to a Pro account for a small fee to record up to 1 hour of recording. Check out their website for more detail on this product http://www.screencast-o-matic.com

According to the creators of CamStudio, this software is capable of recording all screen and audio activities on the computer and creating “industry-standard AVI video files and using its built-in SWF Producer can turn those AVIs into lean, mean, bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash videos (SWFs).” There is no limitation on the length of recording. Like the above-mentioned software, CamStudio is free. However, unlike Screen Toaster and Screncast-O-Matic, it is not a web-based software so you can download it and uses it without Internet connection; however, it is only compatible with Windows operating systems. There are extra features such as the option of adding high-quality, anti-aliased screen captions to make your video and audio smoother and crisp. With CamStudio you have control over output of your video with regards to size and quality for emailing, burning onto CD/DVD, and posting on the web. Another nice feature about CamStudio is the Lossless Codec that produces clear results with smaller file sizes. Lossless Codec is released under GPL; there are no royalties to pay but if you intend to use the product for commercial purposes, there are some details on the licensure. You can go to http://camstudio.org for more information about this product.

Finally, the most recommended software for IU faculty and students to use for high quality multimedia video and screencasting as well as other productions is Adobe Captivate 5. Commercially priced $799, Adobe Captivate along with other Adobe products, are available for free download to IU students and faculty and for a small fee on a CD. Like CamStudio, Adobe Captivate needs to be installed on your computer and registered.

Adobe Captivate 5 is said to be the “godfather” of all screencasting programs in its ability to easily create interactive presentations with multiple screen recording options, extremely powerful editing capabilities and full integration with other Adobe suit products. It is important to note that Adobe Activate does not actually record the screen but the activities on your screen. It is a great post-production product with a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to interact with the recording and edit it in many ways. According to Adobe, this product “is not a quick and dirty screencasting program, its intention is to create best-in-class multimedia video and e-learning experiences and it does that very well.” For more information visit http://tryit.adobe.com/us/captivate5 and to download the software from IU, go to IUware website http://iuware.iu.edu/

Happy screencasting!

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