"Screencasting" refers to a digital recording of the action on a computer screen, and is sometimes called video screen capture. The programs visible on screen, the movement of the mouse, and the speaking voice of the presenter (captured by external microphone) are all part of the video. The overall effect is similar to imagining a video camera over the shoulder of a presenter sitting at the computer, with all on-screen action captured.

Instructional Uses

  • lecture capture, such as a narrated PowerPoint presentation.
  • demonstration of problem-solving, online techniques, or computer-based processes (such as showing how to navigate through a database, use a particular Web site, or utilize a particular piece of software like SPSS or Excel).
  • content delivery: rather than merely augment the face-to-face lectures, it might be possible to consider delivering all content electronically and asking students to view the screencasts before the F2F lecture (in addition to reading the textbook). Such an approach would free up face-to-face time for more interactive discussions and activities.

Many instructors opt to "chunk" screencasts into shorter, more digestable presentations of 15 minutes or less (sometimes as little as five minutes). Such an approach has multiple benefits, including a more narrowed focus and an increased likelihood that students will find the time to view the videos.


Commercial software has been available for years to make screencasts, including TechSmith’s Camtasia ($299) and Adobe’s Captivate ($799). These full-featured programs include every editing, mixing, and re-mastering function imaginable, and are very user-friendly. However, they are expensive.

More recently, cheaper alternatives have emerged. The table below highlights several free screencast options:


AuthorPoint Lite
conversion of narrated PowerPoint file into .swf movie; can upload directly to Webcourses; integrated navigation bar. Free client software needs to be installed. No time limit.
iSpring Free
conversion of narrated PowerPoint file into .swf movie; can upload directly to Webcourses; integrated navigation bar. Free client software needs to be installed. No time limit. Easier file integration than AuthorPoint Lite. Also allows for YouTube embed in "regular" PPT presentations
five minute time limit; download output in .swf
Camtasia or Captivate
full-featured software to record screen (or individual programs); editing is possible, add effects and text, add captions.

There are also several commercial products in the affordable range, such as !Quick Screen Recorder ($29), SnagIt ($49), and FullShot ($49).

Recommendations, sorted by intended usage

  • Upload to Webcourses: AuthorPoint Lite (if the lecture consists only of PowerPoint), or Jing (if more than just PowerPoint);- use the .swf output, upload all output files and link to the .html file
  • Email to students as an attachment: Not recommended due to file format incompatabilities and large file sizes.
  • Capture on-screen video, such as from a DVD: Not recommended, though Jing (or especially Camtasia or Captivate) can do it. The "framerate" issues mean that the video will be captured in jerky motion. Be mindful also of piracy laws.

For assistance with any of these tools, contact the Faculty Center.


Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that reasonable accommodations toward an equivalent experience must be made for students with a demonstrated need who request accommodation. In the case of narrated videos, synchronized closed-captioning is the preferred accommodation (an unsynced separate script file, such as MS-Word, may not be considered fully accommodative).

It may be best to originally record your video while reading from a script rather than extemporaneously lecturing (since the latter would give rise to a need to transcribe your spoken words separately). Using full-screen capture (such as offers one cost-free way to display the existing video file in one part of the screen, and the appropriate close-captions in another part of the screen, perhaps via Notepad or MS-Word.

The Department of Justice also issued a letter stating that instructional material must be compliant with ADA requirements; see also this FAQ.

See Student Accessibility Services for further information and options.

Glossary of File Types

  • .avi - uncompressed, big files. Often requires codec plug-ins, so playing won’t be universal.
  • .flv - “flash video”. Windows can’t play this just by double-clicking.
  • .mov - “movie”. Format used by Apple/Quicktime. Most Windows machines can play it, but files are large.
  • .swf - “shockwave flash”. Same as a .flv with extra programming (the player), and includes a whole folder of accompanying material for each video. Upload all of it, and link to the .html file in Webcourses to make the video play within the Webcourses window. File size = roughly 1 MB per minute.
  • .wmv - “windows media video” - a double-click will play this with Windows Media Player. Files usually small.

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