University of Vermont

Center for Teaching and Learning


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What is a screencast?

What is a screencast?
A screencast is a video capture of the activity on a computer screen, which may also include audio or webcam-video narration that can be viewed on the Web. Anything that you can do on your computer can be captured as a screencast.

What are screencasts used for?
Screencasting is becoming a popular method of enhancing learning in both face-to-face and online or hybrid classes. With screencasts faculty can:

review part of a lecture
demonstrate mathematical equations
draw graphs with audio narration
give slide presentations accompanied by audio narration
demonstrate a computer application
display the process of writing a diagram or calculation
provide audio/video feedback on student work

Many faculty have found that by moving parts of their lecture online, they free up class time for focusing on most difficult concepts, hands-on work, or exploratory discussion. This is commonly referred to as the "flipped classroom" approach.

Choose and Install the Software

Several screencasting tools exist for both Mac and Windows, but for simplicity the Center for Teaching and Learning focuses on two. As with all software, the features that come with each screencast program change as new versions are released and the price range varies depending on the features offered.

Here are two programs which the CTL recommends and supports:


$15/yr for Pro version
(or free for very limited use)

For editing and an array of other features, download and install the Pro version. This version allows you to

  • cut, splice and combine clips
  • zoom in to specific areas of the screen
  • add overlays like circles, text boxes, arrows, and cursor effects

Or, to use the free version, simply go to the website and start recording. The free version's screencast videos are not editable, are limited to 15 minutes and can be either saved to your computer or shared directly in YouTube. There are options to include captions if desired.


$75 for Mac (Educational price)
$179* for Windows (Educational price)
(Each offers annual maintenance and upgrades for additional 25%)

Both the Mac and Windows versions of Camtasia are robust and fully-featured screencasting programs. They include a host of editing features including

  • the ability to cut, splice, and combine clips
  • zoom and highlight specific areas of the screen
  • animations, transitions and a variety of video, audio, and cursor effects
  • title slides and captions
  • multiple video and audio tracks
  • a table of contents feature

* This reason for the higher price is that Camtasia Studio (the only version for Windows) includes several additional features such as the ability to embed simple quizzes and surveys.

Plan and Script

The most effective screencasts

  • explain what will be learned, up front
  • are carefully planned and scripted
  • stay focused a specific topic
  • include a variety of visuals
  • are no longer than about 15 minutes

By sticking to these guidelines, your screencast will be easier to produce, to watch, and to learn from.

Step 1:

Taking the time to write a learning outcome (or objective) statement can help you at each stage of screencast production. It also informs the students of what to expect.

Typically, a learning outcome is framed as a condition or activity ("After viewing this video you will be able to...") accompanied by a statement that describes a demonstrable competency. A few examples are:

  • Describe three key provisions of the clean air act.
  • Outline the procedure for calibrating a spectrometer.
  • Identify examples of active voice and passive voice.
  • Calculate the probability that two sample means will differ by more than 4%.

If your goal is to screencast a full lecture, it's best to break it down into segments. There are both pedagogical and technological advantages to keeping screencasts shorter than 15 minutes. Allowing videos to load faster and making it easier for students to study and review them are just a couple of the benefits.

Step 2:

Creating your screencast will be faster and easier if you create a storyboard. This need not be a complex artistic rendering of every moment of your screencast. It can be a simple list that includes the script, the shots that you will record, and any additional materials like images or links you will need. Your storyboard will take different forms depending on what kind of screencast you are creating.

Example title slide

A basic feature to include in your storyboard is a title slide. This might also include the topic (if it's not clear from the title) and your name. The next slide might present the learning outcome statement. You might also include a Table of Contents slide which will help keep your students focused on key points.


Writing a script and practicing it are essential. You may choose to read from the script while recording or, if you find your reading voice is not as natural as speaking off the cuff, you can still use the script for practice and to help with timing. A script will guide you and help keep your screencast focused and on track. It can also be used to help provide captioning for your video.

TIP: If you're using PowerPoint, refrain from filling your slides with text and reading them, a practice that interferes with cognition because we are forced to strain to read and listen simultaneously.

When developing your story board and script, remember that visuals are often better than text. Teach with photos, illustrations, pencil sketches, graphs, or charts to keep the eyes engaged as well as the ears.

Sample storyboards with scripts:

sample 1 sample 2

Step 3:

Collect the resources that you'll need before you start. If you're using PowerPoint, you may have already embedded images and included a slide with citations. But if there are other resources to capture, such as drawing on an iPad, Wacom or other device, or if you are showing websites or videos, set everything up before you begin.

You may find some of these sites helpful in collecting resources to work with:


Screencasting can be as simple as opening your screencast program and clicking “record.” However, some attention to your environment and your tools will save time in editing and make for a more polished screencast. Here are some suggestions to prepare.

A Checklist

At the minimum, I have:

  • written a script and practiced reading it to determine a good speaking speed and intonation.
  • a quiet place to record.
  • an uncluttered computer screen with a neutral background.
  • opened and minimized the files and programs I will need so they are readily accessible.
  • closed sensitive files and cleared recent searches that might be distracting (or worse, embarrassing).
  • turned off reminders, pop-ups, and have updated my applications to avoid interruptions.
  • ensured that the fonts for any text I use are clear enough to read after recording, especially on mobile devices.
  • decided to use a mouse and external keyboard to reduce clicking noises in the finished video (which usually sound more like hammering than clicking).
  • done a test recording with speaking to check audio levels.
  • done a test recording without speaking to determine if there are any annoying background sounds that can be prevented.
  • determined how I will handle "flubs" (for example, if I misspeak I will pause for several seconds then begin that section again so it will be easy to edit out the flub).

(Download PDF of this list)

Camtasia: Record and Edit on a Mac

Below, we've listed the most essential how-to videos offered by TechSmith, the company that produces the Camtasia products. All references here are to the most current version of Camtasia for Mac (v2).

More Camtasia for Mac tutorials.

Camtasia: Record and Edit on Windows

Below, we've listed the most essential how-to videos offered by TechSmith, the company that produces the Camtasia products. All references here are to the most current version for Windows, Camtasia Studio 8.

More Camtasia Studio 8 for Windows tutorials and documentation.


» See Quick Start Guide — SOM2 Web version, SOM2 PDF version

  • Comprehensive how-to videos from Screencast-O-Matic that apply to both Mac or Windows can be found at: SOM2 Editing Tools Help.

(Help for the older version of SOM can be found at: V.1 Quick Start Guide SOM1 Web, SOM1 PDF) and How-to videos can be found at v. 1.0 Help Videos).


  • Have you edited out extra footage, especially at the beginning and end? [SOM] [Cam-Win] [Cam-Mac]
  • Do you need any text or drawing overlays (callouts, annotations) to clarify specific points? [SOM] [Cam-Win] [Cam-Mac]
  • Have you checked your captions or overlays for typos?
  • Would zooms and highlights help your screencast? [SOM] [Cam-Win] [Cam-Mac]
  • If you have both speaking and music tracks are they balanced appropriately? [Cam-Win] [Cam-Mac] (Note: Multiple track feature not available in Screencast-O-Matic.)
  • If your screencast is over 15 minutes long are there points where you can split it?

Getting Help

The CTL has regular workshops on screencasting so keep checking our calendar

As with other academic technologies, you can bring your questions to us at the Dr Is In Program.

More Resources
Camtasia Tutorials:

Camtasia Studio (Windows)
Camtasia for Mac


Vendor tutorials page

How to Import videos from your device into Camtasia

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