Using Screencasts to Augment Instruction


Ever since I saw what Jon Udell was doing with screencasts, I've wanted to use them to augment some of my courses. If you're not familiar with the term, a screencast is a short video that, usually, shows th screen of a computer and has a narrative explaining what's going on.

I think screencasts have a lot to offer instruction. In my CS330 class, we use Scheme. Learning Scheme is something the students have to do to complete the course, but it's not really what the course is about. Screencasts provide an excellent medium for introducing students to things they need to know, but aren't covered extensively in a lecture.

This semester, I got a small grant from the department to hire a student to create some screencasts to augment CS330. CS330 has a long history of being a class that experiments with technology to augment the educational process. It was, for example, the first class at BYU with a Web page and online lecture notes.

Michael Reynolds, the TA for the class, is creating the screencasts. So far, there are two, one that shows students how to download and set up Dr. Scheme, the IDE we use in the class and another that introduces some basic Scheme concepts.

Michael's using Camtasia to capture and edit the screenshots and then narrating afterwards. The production quality is pretty good. I think the audio could be better. So far, we're just experimenting. We hope to have a guide online soon to help others trying to do the same thing.