Screencasts are video recordings of a computer screen demonstrating a task. They are excellent educational activities to teach almost any subject from a PowerPoint presentation to using a website or software.
Whether you are creating a screencast for a Youtube, a classroom or an online course, screencasts are the best tools to create a “how-to” video in the most engaging way.
In this article, we reviewed all recent research on how to make a screencast and deliver high quality content and knowledge to your viewers.
What are screencasts?
Screencasts are recordings of computer screen activity, which often contain audio narration. They are an easy way to create walk-through, how-to and other educational videos, and have generated a new interest as a learning tool.
A screencast is the recording (or capturing) of a screen as a video. According to Mohorovičić (2012), screencasts allow online instructors to present adequate learning scenarios. Some of the subject that can be taught through screencasts are:
Screencasts may be the best choice, in comparison to simple screenshots in a slides presentation if you want to accomplish one of the above examples. Let’s see why:
What are screencasts’ benefits?
In many scientific studies concerning screencasts (eg., Palaigeorgiou, and Despotakis, 2010) learners have liked the authentic nature of screencasts and said that screencasts increased their application-specific confidence, and helped them be more confident about the knowledge provided in the lesson.
Undoubtedly, screencasts have a significant advantage in that learning is less impersonal and there is a sense of social presence compared to simple books. Maybe the most important benefit of them is that they also provide a worked-out example and thus the learning content is featured within an authentic context.
In their study, Palaigeorgiou and Despotakis (2010) refer that in screencasts:
There are multiple benefits in using screencasts and demonstrating the lessons in such a way. Not all screencasts are of equal quality and educational value.
What are the main components of a screencast?
Sugar, Brown, and Luterbach (2010) analyzed the components of screencasts and found that they mainly consist of:
“Click on Edit then click on Select All.”
“Create a new file.”
A majority of the examined screencasts included a combination of both of these narration formats. Of course, there are screencasts with no narration at all.
However, it is preferable that you use narration as most of the studies (eg., Ali, Samsudin, Hassan and Sidek, 2011) have proved that screencasts with narration are significantly more effective than screencast without narration in enhancing students’ learning performance.
How to design the most effective screencasts
Bad screencasts can have a negative effect on satisfaction or learning.For example, screencasts are ineffective when:
Is there actually a way to prevent these disadvantages?
Most of the screencasts we encounter provide the same experience that pushes viewers into passivity and often superficial learning as learners forget what has been demonstrated.
Researchers in screencast design have concluded in specific design guidelines that can be applied to provide a more active video consumption.
So, here is a summary of those guidelines:
1Add interactivity to your videos
To give out the full potential of our video, it is advisable to allow learners to have control over the presented material. Therefore, adding interactivity that helps the users engage with the video more actively is a crucial component of screencasts design.
With interactivity, representational holding is reduced as smaller chunks of information have to be processed in the working memory (Ertelt, 2007). How is that achieved?
2Keep videos short
Perhaps the most difficult design issue is to create meaningful videos for tasks that are too long to display in one video. The script for each video can be easier when each video addresses a single concept.
Shorter screencasts, focus on one concept, hence reduce learners’ cognitive load.
3Craft your titles carefully
Make your information easy to find. By applying the right labeling to your videos, you provide easier access to your learners.
4Provide illustrated tutorials at the end of your lecture
Designers should be aware of the “expertise reversal principle,” where screencasts, that are suitable for novices in the acquisition phase, lose their positive effects or even hamper the recalling of learned software procedure.
How can you ensure that your learners will remember the information provided?
1) Provide videos showing only a sequence of print-screens of the actor’s actions or a filtered view including only the actions not presented in videos previously studied by the student.
2) Replace highly detailed screencasts with screenshots in the phase when learners have good-enough understanding of the procedures. Studies (eg., Novakovic, Milic, and Milosavljevic, 2013) have also shown that illustrated tutorials are better for later recalling of already acquired procedures.
5Give learners practice opportunities
Practice is the most crucial component, in improving the transfer and application of knowledge. Learning success depends on the amount of practice. Regarding procedural knowledge, forgetting procedural tasks is a function of the number of steps needed to perform the tasks.
Prompt your learners to repeat the procedure presented themselves and, if possible, provide immediate feedback. Give them a specific task to complete. Don’t ask them to just mechanically follow the steps needed.
Spaced practice increases learning, one of the most reliable phenomena in psychology. In your lesson urge learners to repeat a procedure in several parts of your course, in the form of task completion to enhance confidence in the procedure.
6Give knowledge-encoding opportunities
Learners strive for knowledge-encoding opportunities, like learning activities that could increase their confidence and help them organize better the material presented.
Create questionnaires after screencasts to assess understanding.
Provide multiple views of the content that can enhance practice (eg., concise, printable summaries of text, e-books). Incorporating material in many modes (text, audio, video) and forms of organization helps learners achieve several goals while studying.
7Give explicit time requirements
Give learners quite a precise relation between establishing learning objectives and estimating minimum time requirements for achieving them. This way learners feel the need to organize their study model, regarding time-scheduling their usage sessions for the long-term.
At the beginning of the course give learners a support tool for creating study plans based on the learning objectives and the time at their disposal.
8Apply the multimedia design principles
Research on learning from multimedia have indicated specific principles, which guide instructors when it comes to an effective multimedia message design. In the table below you can see how multimedia design principles can be applied for screencasts.
Examples are taken from Razak’s, and ALI’s (2016) study.
|Principle of Signalling||Students will learn better if the signal to process the information is given.||Insert signals, highlighting or assertion of important information (key-words, pointer phrases, for students to show what to do and how to organize them.|
|Principle of Coherence||Students will learn better if external elements are removed.||Issuing interesting but irrelevant statements or graphics used.|
|Principle of Redundancy||Students will learn better if the information is not provided within the same sensory channels.||Avoid showing print text and narration simultaneously with the display screen. It’s ok to present narration simultaneously with the display screen.|
|Principle of Spatial Contiguity||Students will learn better if the printed text is near the graphics that corresponds to reduce the need for visual scanning.||Place text close to the same part of the animation.|
|Principle of Temporal Contiguity||Students will learn better if the narrative and animation are displayed at the same time to reduce stake memory.||Present narration and animation simultaneously than either individually.|
Other multimedia principles we have already mentioned are:
9Make learners more active
Self-regulated learning is a growing field of educational research, which seeks how students can become more active in the learning process, by creating learning goals, inferring meanings and applying strategies.
In self-regulated learning conditions, learners are capable of monitoring, controlling and regulating aspects of their own cognition.
Loch and McLoughlin (2011) have proposed specific guidelines, with which an instructor can foster each stage of learners’ self-regulation through screencasts:
|Active Learning Dimensions||Application in screencasts|
|Planning and goal setting||1) Give an overview of the concept being presented. 2) Activate prior knowledge. Remind them about what they may already know.|
|Monitoring processes and metacognitive control||1) Ask learners to set a goal for the session. 2) Present questions and tasks to check for understanding, and to get students to engage in the problem-solving process actively.|
|Reflection on self-knowledge and task achievement||1) Encourage learners to reflect on the learning process and their understanding of the concept. 2) Ask learners to document areas of uncertainty and to prepare questions for the discussion section.|
10Take care of the narrative you develop
Tools to Create Screencasts
There are many screen recording software to choose from when creating a screencast. You can choose based on your budget (free, paid, premium) or the functionality you will need. Here are a few examples:
Or, you can take a look at our extensive list of tools for instructional video creation where we are also giving a quick review of each tool.
Choose the tool that works for you, and always edit the result. LearnWorlds’ interactive video player can help you add interactivity on your screencasts.
Six steps for an effective instructional screencast design
Now that we’ve seen the most popular design guidelines for screencast production and the most popular screencast tools you can find online, let me help you, with these six simple steps for screencast design:
Watch other people’s screencasts: See other good or bad examples which will give you insight on what should be taken into account.
Invest time, to prepare. Find high quality equipment and high quality software. If you are a novice screencast creator you may need several hours to create your first screencast but this time should reduce significantly with experience.
Planning includes three main subjects: What you want to achieve through your screencasts, how you will narrate your demonstrations and what interactivity features you are going to use. The table below will help you understand those three elements:
What are your learning goals and content?
Create a clear plan with your learning goals and objectives.
How will you achieve those objectives through your screencasts?
What will your script/narration be for each screencast?
Create clear and concise story scripts or storyboards for the screencasts that are going to be recorded.
Which will your bumber be?
How many narrators will you use?
Will you appear in the video?
How explicit or implicit will the script be?
How will your mouse movement be?
What practical examples will you include in your description?
How will you help relate tasks between videos?
What kind of questions or statements are you going to make to make learners more active? (see the table about active learning)
What interactivity features will you add in each video?
Will you give learners a table of contents?
Will you give learners the capability to change the video’s viewpoint?
Will you insert questions inside the video?
Where will you insert breaks, pointer phrases and highlights?
Preferably, record audio during screen capturing. Mouse movements should be slower than usual when something is being pointed, while the rest of the time mouse movements should be controlled so as not to become annoying and distracting to the viewer.
If an error occurs in a sentence, sometimes it is better to pause and repeat the entire sentence without stopping the recording and edit later (cut out the bad parts) than restart recording from the beginning (Mohorovičić, 2012).
Now, it’s time to add the interactive elements you have decided, to craft your titles carefully and to apply segmentation where needed. Remember to create videos that last no longer than two minutes or alternatively, create meaningful pauses.
6Prepare assistive learning material
You have to frame your screencasts with meaningful activities that will boost your videos’ effectiveness. The table below will help you remember what those activities should look like:
Now that you have done all this preparation you can be determined that your screencasts will have the most optimal impact on your learners!
Applying the above steps will definitely reduce your videos’ cognitive load and make your screencasts more into digestible bites of information that will enhance learners’ engagement and participation.
Don’t forget to always reflect on the produced material, get feedback from your learners and improve your productions every time!
You can find more information on how to create educational video in the LearnWorlds Academy’s course Video-Based Learning (free course).
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Research on Screencasts & Further Study
 Loch, B., & McLoughlin, C. (2011). An instructional design model for screencasting: Engaging students in self-regulated learning.
 Novakovic, D. R. A. G. O. L. J. U. B., Milic, N., & Milosavljevic, B. (2013). Animated vs. illustrated software tutorials: Screencasts for acquisition and screenshots for recalling. International Journal of Engineering Education, 29(4), 1013-1023.
 Mohorovičić, S. (2012, May). Creation and use of screencasts in higher education. In MIPRO, 2012 Proceedings of the 35th International Convention (pp. 1293-1298). IEEE.
 Oehrli, J. A., Piacentine, J., Peters, A., & Nanamaker, B. (2011, March). Do screencasts really work? Assessing student learning through instructional screencasts. In ACRL 2011 Conference Proceedings (Vol. 30, pp. 127-44). Philadelphia: Chandos.
 Ali, A. Z. M., Samsudin, K., Hassan, M., & Sidek, S. F. (2011). Does screencast teaching software application needs narration for effective learning?. TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10(3).
 van der Meij, H., & van der Meij, J. (2013). Eight guidelines for the design of instructional videos for software training. Technical communication, 60(3), 205-228.
 Despotakis, T. C., Palaigeorgiou, G. E., & Tsoukalas, I. A. (2007). Students’ attitudes towards animated demonstrations as computer learning tools. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 10(1).
 Plaisant, C., & Shneiderman, B. (2005, September). Show me! Guidelines for producing recorded demonstrations. In Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, 2005 IEEE Symposium on (pp. 171-178). IEEE.
Ertelt, A. (2007). On-screen videos as an effective learning tool. The Effect of Instructional Design Variants and Practice on Learning Achievements, Retention, Transfer and Motivation. Dissertationsschrift, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.
 Palaigeorgiou, G., & Despotakis, T. (2010). Known and unknown weaknesses in software animated demonstrations (screencasts): A study in self-paced learning settings. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 9, 81-98.
 RAZAK, M. R. A., & ALI, A. Z. M. (2016). Instructional Screencast: A Research Conceptual Framework. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 17(2).
 Sugar, W., Brown, A., & Luterbach, K. (2010). Examining the anatomy of a screencast: Uncovering common elements and instructional strategies. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 11(3), 1-20.