In terms of learning effectiveness, I would argue that a student using a screencast has several advantages over the traditional classroom lecture, including, but not limited to: 1) Cognitive research shows that attentions spans of traditional age undergraduate students usually tails off after 15 minutes of a lecture; their mind simply goes astray or hits a saturation point and little time is left to reflection or processing. In short, a traditional one hour classroom lecture is a recipe for enhanced REM sleep, decreased interest in the subject matter, and a tremendous opportunity to catch up on Facebook contacts or shopping on EBay. A screencast allows the student to stop and reflect, be interactive and control the content “velocity”, take notes without haste, rewind and review if necessary, and all at their own pace. It also offers the opportunity for students to view lectures in small groups and have brief discussions while viewing the screencast. My students sometimes have “lecture parties”. Imagine those conversations! (Wish I could be fly on the wall for those…) 2) A traditional classroom lecture is at a set time and day, whether the student feels this is convenient or not. Screencasts can be watched at 3:00 AM while a student eats popcorn and is in the comfort of their own surroundings (while in their pajamas); a much more comfortable and conducive environment for learning than in a stuffy classroom. Psychological research shows it actually relaxes stresses and opens the mind to deeper learning. 3) Finally, because subject matter (i.e., content) is presented outside the classroom by way of a screencast, students must take responsibility for their learning, which they cannot do in the classroom. Information is simply “thrown” at them in the classroom sometimes at rather high velocities often “injuring” the learning process. Imagine a 95 mph lecture of quantum physics striking a student between the eyes. “That’s gonna leave a mark…” (more like a “learning scar”). Taking the responsibility for learning also emphasizes “time on task”.
I would argue that the learning taking place using a screencast is even more effective than that of a traditional classroom because of the “interactiveness” on the part of the student, and the convenience of engaging in the screencast only when the student is ready to learn on his/her own terms (convenience and accessibility). As a means of illustrating the effectiveness of screencasts, I have included the statements below, paraphrased from the Sloan-C Quality Framework and Five Pillars publication (Moore, 2005, p. 5), which align most closely concerning the use of screencasts: • Interaction is the key….through various interactions • Online course design takes advantage of capabilities in the medium to improve learning • Communications and community building are emphasized (i.e., “lecture parties” as an example) • Distinctive characteristics of programs are highlighted to demonstrate improved learning • On-campus and online instruction achieve comparable (I would argue empirically that online actually exceeds achievement of learning outcomes) learning outcomes
The Five Pillars achieved by the utilization of screencasts include: access, cost effectiveness (cheaper to produce screencasts once as compared to re-inventing the lecture each time in a classroom setting), student satisfaction (for a more interactive, accessible, flexible, convenient, and deeper learning experience), faculty satisfaction (after the initial screencasts are produced), and learning effectiveness, as described above.
One could argue that producing screencasts not only is an effective practice because it allows for accessibility on the part of the students at their discretion, but it also allows students to reflect on their learning and take responsibility for their learning outside the classroom. They can rewind and review screencasts, pause them, and respond to questions posed by the facilitator, as well as archiving them for later review. I feel as though it certainly improves the access pillar and strengthens the learning effectiveness pillar, but also promotes faculty satisfaction in that screencasts are semi-permanent and are consistent along several sections of a given course. Students all are on the same level by receiving exactly the same content, which is not necessarily true in an orally delivered classroom lecture. I would also argue that student satisfaction is achieved because of the connection with accessibility. A connection to cost effectiveness is also exemplified in that screencasts, while taking some time and effort to produce initially, are a one-time event and one time cost.
Screencasts can be created with software either pre-packaged (such as "Camtasia") or online (such as http://screencast-o-matic.com/). A microphone is necessary as well as a computer with relatively high processing speed., if using the pre-packaged software.
Price for educational license of pre-packaged software is approximately $179.00 (as of May 5, 2010). The online Pro version of screencast-o-matic is $5.00. There are other pieces of software available for producing screencasts, but these are the ones I have had the best experience with and have produced the most professional looking end products.
Moore, J. C., 2005, The Sloan Consortium Quality Framework And the Five Pillars, The Sloan Consortium, Needham, MA, retrieved on May 5, 2010 from http://community.sloanconsortium.org/mod/resource/view.php?inpopup=true&id=11829. Winterbottom, S., 2007, Virtual lecturing: Delivering lectures using screencasting and podcasting technology: Planet No. 18 June 2007.