Students – how to create a screencast

Some assignments require you to create and submit a screencast – a short video that records your PC screen and audio. For example, you may be asked to make a presentation based on a few PowerPoint slides.

Your PC will need a microphone; a headset (used for online chat) is ideal. Most laptops have a built-in microphone.

Planning your screencast

Your screencast should not include input from your webcam unless specifically requested by your tutor; it will just show what is on your PC screen. This means that you can read from a script, and I recommend that you do so. Although some screencast software allows you to edit out mistakes, it is much better to make your recording as good as possible and avoid time-consuming editing.

Plan what you need to say, and write it in your ‘natural voice’ – that means the same way you would say it if you were talking to someone. Your script will need to meet professional and academic expectations, so it should not be too informal, include slang, or (for example) include ‘like’ as punctuation between phrases.

Time how long it takes you to read the script out loud. Pretend that you are speaking to someone, so slow down, add pauses and say the words like you mean them! You have probably been given a maximum length (e.g. 5 minutes) and you should aim to talk for at least 80% of that time (e.g. at least 4 minutes, but not more than 5). If your script is too short or too long you will have to edit it; avoid simply talking faster or slower!

When you are happy with your script, read it through out loud a couple of times to make sure there are no parts that are difficult to say and rewrite if there are.

What can your screen show?

You can record anything shown on your screen:

  • a presentation using slides created using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides etc.
  • a presentation using other systems such as Prezi, Videoscribe, Sway or HaikuDeck.
  • using an application such as Excel or a CAD package.
  • a guided tour of one or more websites

Note that a recording of a video playing on your screen doesn’t work well. If you want to include another video in your screencast you will need to use video editing software to combine the two video files.

Screencast software

Screencast software is available for Windows and Mac PCs. The professional choice is Camtasia Studio (Win/Mac) which has superb editing features and great online tutorials. It is expensive, but there is a free time-limited trial that you could use.

Your best choice is probably Screencast-O-Matic (Win/Mac) which works through your web browser. The free version has some limitations, such as a watermark and a 15-minute limit, but is fine for this type of assignment. If you want more, you can upgrade to get lots more features, including full video editing for only $18 per year.

How to use Screencast-O-Matic

Start by viewing their online tutorial videos – unless you decide to upgrade you probably only need to watch the first one which takes about 2 minutes. There is also a useful support page with FAQs.

Then click the link on their homepage to Start recording for free, install the software and get started!

The following instructions use PowerPoint as an example:

  1. Open your poster file in PowerPoint
  2. Start Screencast-O-Matic and select the option to record full screen
  3. Select your microphone and check that recording level is good. You should see green and yellow bars in the Narration area when you speak. Adjust the recording level if necessary (Windows or Mac)
  4. Start recording your screencast
  5. Display your slides full screen (e.g. presentation view in PowerPoint)
  6. START > read your script
  7. Move through your slides in time with your script
  8. END > click ESC to quit presentation view
  9. Stop recording your screencast
  10. Trim (remove) the parts before START and after END of your recording
  11. Save as a video file (MP4) to your desktop
  12. Watch the video – are you happy with it? If not, learn from your mistakes and record it again! It only takes a few minutes.

If you have been asked to submit this video as an assignment, make sure you review these step-by-step instructions.