Strategies for Developing Effective Screencasts with Camtasia

Over the past decade, screencasting has become an invaluable tool in the educational technology tool belt for learning programs. A screencast, at its heart, is simply a file of a recording of a computer screen. Screencasts are often narrated with audio to provide information to learners about what is occurring on the screen. A screencast can be used to teach technical content, explains concepts, or provide asynchronous support to learners, among a variety of other uses. Developing an effective screencast is part strategy and part art. Selecting the right tool to develop a screencast can make the project even easier. While there are many solutions on the market, Camtasia offers a cost-effective, low-learning curve option for creating screencasts. Here we’ll discuss tips for making a great screencast and how Camtasia can assist.

Plan, Plan, & Plan

Developing a great screencast is all about what you do before you create any content. Spend some time first deciding on who the target audience is and what the learning outcomes are for the screencast. Develop an outline for the content. Using a storyboard is a great way to outline and give you a sense of all aspects of the project. As you outline, write a script; a good screencast should never be adlibbed. Do a dry run on your own with the script and on-screen actions and time it. If you want to keep the learner’s attention, focus on duration. Where possible, keep your screencast to 5 minutes or less. If you have more content, consider chunking it out into multiple learning objects that span several screencasts. Your learners will appreciate having a well-thought out, short session that they can focus on and re-visit as needed. You’ll notice this step includes no technology, but is the most important step in the process, as it lays the foundation for everything that comes afterward.

Create Content

Content for your screencast can include audio, video, or images. If you have existing content that doesn’t need to be created from scratch, you can import it directly into Camtasia. When you are ready to record new content, there are a few things to consider before starting; It is important to invest in a good microphone if you are recording audio for your screencast, so test several types of microphones. In general, a desktop microphone such as a Snowball with a popper stopper will give you an excellent audio quality. Microphones aren’t the only consideration though, ensure you are in a quiet space. Eliminate as much noise as possible: close doors, cut off fans or other items emitting noise, and check the acoustics of the room.

Once you are properly prepared, actually recording your content in Camtasia is a breeze. Camtasia will allow you to select the amount of the screen to display, including the entire screen, a part of the screen, or a window. You can also record content directly from a mobile device. Starting and ending the capture is as simple as a touch of a button.

Edit Content

Editing your content to create a focused, professional look is important. If your screencast is rough around the edges, learners will lose interest and won’t take your content seriously. In general, depending on the type of content you are recording, there are a few things you will want to consider doing when editing your content. Camtasia works on a multi-track timeline format that will allow you to sequence and overlay content to achieve optimal results. The first step is adding your content to the timeline in the correct sequence from beginning to end. Next, trim the content to eliminate mistakes or unneeded pieces. Once the general sequence and timing of content is in place and cleaned up, look for places to add impact. Camtasia offers a variety of tools such as SmartFocus to draw learners in, a blue tool to cover up sensitive information, callouts, text scrolls, drawing tools, transitions, and audio, video, and cursor effects to add professional flair to your screencast.

Publish Content

The final step to developing a screencast is to publish the content to get it out to your audience. Camtasia offers a wide variety of export options to fit your needs. You can share content through social platforms such as YouTube or Google Drive. A direct export to iTunes is available. In addition, you can create a direct file export to upload to your own desired platform. If you choose to publish through TechSmith Relay, there is an option to add quizzes to your screencast to test learner knowledge as well as track viewing and completion. If your screencast is for learning purposes and you have the opportunity to create a quiz and track learner progress for your screencast through Relay, an LMS, or other platform, you should consider it. Assessment is a key element to the education process.

Screencasting is an important educational tool in a technology rich learning world. While creating a screencast may seem daunting, following a few key best practices and using the right tool can make developing screencasts painless and fun. Camtasia is one of the best tools on the market for creating screencasts. Camtasia offers a low learning curve, works on Mac or Windows operating systems, and costs only $99 USD to buy with no annual fees or just $49.50 USD to upgrade to a newer version.

Joshua Mathews Ailsworth currently serves as Informatics Educator Lead at Sidra Medical & Research Center in Doha, Qatar. Joshua is an experienced learning and development professional with a background in higher education, long-term care, and medical centers. Joshua is passionate about the philosophy and psychology of learning, learner engagement, and the role of technology in enhancing the learning experience.

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