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Dozens of Tips & Techniques for Creating High Quality Engaging Screencasts

by Kelly Walsh on March 31, 2013

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The creation of instructional videos is one of the many technology-enabled capabilities that the 21st century teacher has at their disposal. Instructional videos can be a wonderfully engaging element in teaching. Video content is also usually a fundamental element of the flipped classroom (which regular readers of EmergingEdTech know we’re a big fan of).

The low cost of good quality web cams and the availability of free or relatively inexpensive screencasting applications helps to make the development of video learning content easier than ever. Yet all the free or low cost tools in the world do not inevitably yield good quality results. There is an essential element of technique to be considered. If one is going to invest time and energy (and budget dollars) in tools for the creation of video content, it is highly advisable to learn a bit about how to do what you are doing well.

With the above in mind, I’ve searched the web and selected ideas from a handful of good web resources and articles on the subject. These tips and techniques can help anyone create good quality, engaging screen casts. (Note that I have embellished many of these tips with some comments of my own, in parenthesis).

From “Making Quality Flipped Class Videos” by Jasper Fox:

  • Keep them short (lots of these sources emphasize this – 3 to 10 minutes max is general range recommended).
  • Embellish the slides (leverage the screencasting application’s capabilities to add notes, use highlighters, etc. Don’t do it just for the sake of doing it, but use these functions judiciously to help make a point, emphasize key terms, etc. )

From “Beginning to Flip you Classroom with Screencasting” on 21things4teachers.net:

  • Microphone techniques:
    • Use quality equipment (a good mic)
    • Position the mic away from your mouth, slightly below and to the side (this helps to eliminate ‘pops’ and sibilance)
    • Place the cord and mic so it doesn’t rub against your body or clothing
  • Planning process:
    • Storyboard your project
    • Use graphic organizers, index cards, prompts…
    • Script it out, talk it through
    • Gather and prepare your Media Resources
    • Walk it through it
  • Other tips:
    • Cursor or not? Do you want it visible in the recording? Choose the ‘effect’ desired (enhanced or none).
    • Close all other running programs and windows while recording
    • Be sure to watch for spelling or grammar mistakes on printed text!
    • Music mystro – add a short fade in beginning and ending fade out

From “Screencasting Tips and Best Practices” by David Strom:

  • Pick where you are going to distribute and name your channels consistently. (YouTube is dependable and best known, and being able to easily embed YouTube videos in other sites can be a powerful tool. There are also plenty of other video hosting sites to consider, and be sure to also consider using your own LMS if your school has one. As for naming the channels and videos – if you use a popular site, you may want to include reference to your name as the instructor and the course and possibly school name, to help to differentiate your content from the rest.).
  • Audio recording tips:
    • Speak clearly, crisply, and engagingly.
    • Use your audio editor to remote any ‘umms’, ‘you-knows’, and other verbal pauses or mistakes.
    • Vary your tone: you are reading a script, but don’t want to sound like you are.
    • Talk faster than you would normally in conversation: a viewer can always hit the pause or rewind buttons if they want to hear or see something again.

From “Most Common Mistakes in Screencasting” by Andreas Zeitler:

  • Reasons to avoid using the built-in microphone on a laptop:
    • People will hear you typing and clicking.
    • The recording will have more hiss, because of the poor microphone quality.
    • The recording will have more ambient sound (such as a printer printing, the phone ringing, the wind blowing or a car honking).
  • Some things NOT to do (I’ve reworded these).
    • Use Handheld Cameras. Don’t do it (unless you are capturing content during a field trip or other ‘mobile’ venture).
    • Use picture-in-picture constantly throughout the video (a little is fine, always on is a problem)
    • Moving the mouse constantly while screencasting.

From “Top Ten Tips for Creating Effective ScreenCasts” by Bill Meyers:

  • (Consider) an enhanced (enlarged) cursor
    • Enhanced cursor helps viewers follow the action
    • Use enhanced cursor movement to pinpoint important information
  • Plan to Make Mistakes
    • Know that mistakes are easily removed during editing
    • When you make a mistake, take a breath and then repeat the segment where the mistake was made
  • Edit ruthlessly
    • Edit out mistakes
    • Edit out unneeded or confusing material
    • Edit to keep the presentation brief and interesting

From Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Bergmann and Sams

Chapter 4 of this book has a section titled “How to Make Videos Your Student Will Love”. Here’s a couple great suggestions that were not already mentioned above:

  • Create the video with another teacher. “There is something powerful about watching two people having a conversation instead of having one teacher talk the viewer”. Radio stations use this technique all the time for morning talk shows. If you can partner up with another teacher, you can help each other create more engaging videos. One of you can take the role of “the learner” while the other is the teacher.
  • Add humor. A little humor can go a long way to make videos more engaging!

As for applications to use, Screencast-O-Matic is a popular free app that works with Macs and PCs, and Camtasia is an excellent paid application that is very popular. Some of the above sources provide additional recommendations.

Don’t hesitate to click through to the source articles above to access more tips and techniques. And as always, we love to hear your comments, so if you have a favorite technique or tip or other related feedback that you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to comment and share it!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Add Voice Over to PowerPoint Presentations in 5 Easy Steps
Have you Flipped your Classroom? How are you Using Class Time?
8 Great Reasons to Flip Your Classroom (and 4 of the Wrong Reasons), from Bergmann and Sams

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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