Screencasting for Lecture Capture

During this first couple of weeks of the new teaching term I’ve been experimenting with using screen capture software as a means of capturing my lectures. Using nothing more than the built-in microphone on my Macbook Pro and an educational license for Camtasia Studio, I’ve been able to capture several lectures live in the lecture room. When I plug my Mac into the LCD projector, the screen resolution changes to super VGA (1024 x 768 pixels). I literally set Camtasia Studio to use the built-in microphone and full screen capture and switch on record at the start of the lecture. At the end I stop the recording, save the Camtasia Project file and convert it to MPeg 4 (Apple Quicktime format). This takes about 30 minutes to an hour but it’s literally all the post-processing I do. Then I upload the result to the Learning Objects Podcast tool in the Blackboard course site and it’s there for my students to review. Next time the course is given, I’ll be able to provide the screencast before the lecture, allowing me to “flip” my teaching.

The quality is surprisingly good. The only thing missing is a transcript and a copy of what gets written on the blackboard!

Here’s a screencast I made today of a lecture that I gave on Web Applications. I chose to use this as an example because as well as an illustration of what’s possible, the subject of the lecture might be of interest to my readers.

The best quality is obtained by hosting the result on or the Learning Objects podcast tool. I’ve also uploaded it to YouTube (which normally has a 15 minute limit) and Vimeo so you can get a comparison of the relative quality of those delivery options.

Camtasia Studio is the professional screen capture software of choice and is best for live lectures, or other longer or more complex production tasks. If you have shorter screencasts to prepare, Jing (from the same people who make Camtasia Studio) and Screenr work well and are free. To find out more, Jisc Digital Media provides some useful resources on Screencasting and have been running a series of surgeries, including one on Screencasting for Lecture Capture, recently.

Tara Brabazon: Written evidence of the workings of the mind

Tara Brabazon, writing today for the Times Higher, provides a useful analysis of the common mistakes students make when submitting assignment work and suggests ways that we in academia could improve the first year experience. Her 20-point check list of what students do wrong and how lecturers react to those errors should be published in every student handbook.

Tweetdeck Chrome App

I’ve just installed the new TweetdDeck app for Google Chrome and like what I see so far. It takes the “that’s so obvious, why wasn’t it done before” idea of combining (TweetDeck calls this blending) all your feeds into three columns.

  • Home: for all your identities and the people they follow across all of your social networks;
  • Me: for mentions of your social identities and posts to your facebook newsfeeds; and
  • Inbox: for direct messages.

Like TweetDeck the desktop app, you can add your Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz accounts and you can post to one or all of them.

I hope that the iPhone version will adopt this interface as it’s much easier to handle the blended columns than multiple columns on the small screen.

It’s only been 5 minutes, but first impressions: 5 thumbs up!

My First Pencast

Last year, I bought a Livescribe Echo Smart Pen with the hope that it would be useful in teaching. Well, here the result of my first attempt to use it “in anger”. I used the pen to write out a solution to one of the problems from my module EGLM03 Modern Control Systems while recording a narrative of what I was doing. The pen recorded the pen movement on the special notepaper and matched the movement to the audio. I then uploaded the recording to the Livescribe Community where it is made available as an embeddable flash movie.

Here’s the result:

Some nice features about this presentation: you can show, hide or partially hide the completed page; you can move through the presentation like it’s a video; and you can click on the page to go to the point in the drawing and the recording closest to the virtual pen’s position on the virtual page when that part of the image was drawn. With the real pen and the notebook,  you can also playback what was being said when you wrote a note and this would be great for students using the pen in lectures!