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Screencasting: enhancing classroom discussion and participation

Ross faculty using pre-recorded lectures and interactive technology as a springboard for a richer in-class experience
Flipping the Classroom

For her LHC 306 course this semester, Professor Dana Muir recorded a short ten minute screencast and uploaded the video to CTools. After students viewed it, she had them respond to a question asked using a web form produced in her M+Google account. Lastly, during class, she utilized a free service called Socrative to set up a series of questions that students could answer using mobile devices like laptops, smartphones, or tablet computers. Results were projected on the screen in real time.

She became inspired to do this after attending a series offered by CRLT centered on helping educators engage students using technology.

Muir's use of screencasting is one of many examples. She and other faculty at Ross, like Professors Scott Moore, Laurie Morgan, and Nigel Melville are finding that screencasting can be done easily using software called Camtasia. "Screencasting" refers to the digital recording of a computer monitor’s output, usually with accompanying narration.

Watch a Sample Screencast by Professor Muir

While Moore takes his screencasts and modifies them using some advanced video editing techniques, screencasting can easily be done using just Camtasia, a slide deck, and a microphone.

Some use screencasts as a way to replace traditional lectures completely, while others use it as a springboard for in-class discussion and participation.

In her case, Professor Muir had her students access the video before class and respond to it using a quick Google form.

“The M+Google exercise is a way to hold students accountable for watching the screencast ahead of time,” Muir said. “The pedagogy is to ensure they are prepared for class."

Google forms can be created within Google Drive, something everyone already has access to thanks to the campus M+Google initiative. Students can access the form using a web browser, and responses are stored in a Google spreadsheet.

Muir then utilized Socrative to record and display answers to questions posed during class.

LINK: Socrative, Smart Student Response System

Using Socrative, results can be displayed live

"I prepared six multiple choice questions, and each student accessed Socrative using a mobile device with internet access. Socrative permitted me to immediately show bar charts reflecting the student answers,” Muir said.

Muir thinks it is a great way to keep students interested. In the last fifteen minutes of the class session, she returned to a “normal” mode and didn’t feel nearly the same energy.

"The six questions took most of the class period because I built in more learning points I wanted to discuss on each one. Every student in the room seemed engaged, and a wider range of students than usual asked questions,” Muir said.

While Google forms and Socrative can certainly be used without an accompanying screencast, the only difficulty in making one is the same as giving a traditional lecture; that is, the hardest part is assembling the slides you'll use. The screencast video itself can be generated and shared with relative ease.

Professor Muir opted to upload her videos to CTools, where her students can download them directly to their computers.

Professor Morgan chose to host her content on Ross’ Mediasite servers. By doing so, she ensures she stays under the file size limit of CTools and is able to do things like track viewing statistics to see who has watched.

CTools only allows for a maximum of 3GB in a course’s resource folder. While Camtasia’s file sizes are generally smaller than the average video, they’re still video, which means they’re going to be considerably bigger than typical files like text documents.

Hosting them on Mediasite allows you to simply post a link to the video--in CTools or in an email--that students can open in their web browser, and doesn’t take up any space.

What You'll Need to Screencast

  • Camtasia Software ($299.99, free 30 day trial)
  • Microphone
  • Headphones
  • (Or a combo mic/headset)
  • Video hosting service (Mediasite, CTools)

LINK: Download Camtasia free for 30 days

Muir’s success with screencasting has given her words of encouragement for others thinking about doing something similar.

“It is extremely easy. I am not a tech geek and I did not require any Computing Services support to prepare the screencast or post it as a video on CTools. A ten minute lecture can take maybe eleven minutes to produce,” Muir said.

Morgan agrees. “I spent most of my time creating the PowerPoint that I’d narrate. Once you have that, it's pretty easy.”

LINK: Camtasia Video Tutorials


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