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Research Guides

Introduction to Screencasting

This guide offers an introduction to screencasting, the tools to use, and some best practices to get you started.

What is a screencast?

A screencast is a video recording (which can also include audio narration) of computer screen actions. The screencast will record cursor movements, typing – anything that is on the computer screen at the time of recording.

Here is an example of a screencast that explains how to search for a book by title through the University of Toronto Libraries website. Camtasia Studio was used to create this screencast.

Why use screencasts?

Screencasts are beneficial for:

  • explaining how to use a specific tool or resource (i.e. database, library catalogue)
  • answering quick reference questions
  • providing 24/7 access to instruction, which can be viewed and reviewed when needed (Farkas, 2007)
  • "saying things visually," which can be more effective than step-by-step written instructions (Carr & Ly, 2009)
  • instructing people with different learning styles, particularly those who prefer visual and aural instruction (Garwood, 2009)

 References can be found in More Information

What to consider when creating a screencast

There are many screencast softwares available - both free and commercial - that vary in features in terms of recording length, editing options, and visual effects. Before choosing a software and planning a screencast, consider:

1. Is a screencast the best way to get the idea across? Depending on the topic, a screencast may or may not be the best medium of instruction. Research has shown that animated media, like screencasts, put a high demand on memory retention, since there is so much to process both aurally and visually at the same time (Oud, 2009). For this reason, keep screencasts short and simple.

2. How long will the screencast be? Most free software allow a maximum of 5 minutes recording time. And most viewers do not want to watch an instructional video that is too long. The suggested length of time is under 2 minutes. 

3. Where will the screencast live? You can determine what software to use and options available depending on whether you want the recording to remain private, you want to embed it into a webpage/blog, or you want to ensure it can be viewed publicly.

Screencasting Software looks at free and commercial-based screencasting software in detail.