By Maureen McKeurtan

24 May 2019 - 20:43

Man looking at a laptop screen in front of a window
'Learners have control of the lesson and can review it as many times as is necessary, so learning can be self-paced.' Photo ©

Simon Abrams used under licence and adapted from the original

English language lecturer and instructor Maureen McKeurtan uses screencasts in her lessons and as a learning supplement outside the classroom. These are her favourite approaches. 

A screencast is a video and audio recording of a presenter’s screen

It can provide instructions in the form of demonstrations, short tutorials, digital storytelling and narrated slideshows. You can use them as part of a blended learning approach, which combines online and face-to-face learning.

Recently, I created a series of short videos to support learners to write short, academic essays. Each video focuses on a different component of the essay.

For example, this short screencast begins with one method of analysing an essay question. 

Screencasts are convenient for learners 

Learners can watch a process or an explanation at a convenient time and in a convenient place. They have control of the lesson and can review it as many times as is necessary, so learning can be self-paced.

Screencasts are visual and auditory, and you or the learner can follow them with practice activities. This is effective for a review, or for a learner who missed a class. 

Creating videos and activities can be time-consuming. When you create the screencast, you must communicate the content in a concise way, with a visual element that supports it. You might need a couple of rehearsals to get it right, or a second opinion from another teacher. That investment in making a clear and concise digital lesson is worthwhile, because you can re-use the screencasts term after term. You can align the content with lesson objectives or course outcomes, so that you no longer have to spend hours finding and pre-watching videos.

If your classroom doesn't have an internet connection or a device for viewing, you can encourage learners to access the screencasts at home. They can also be a great way to keep parents involved with class content for young learners.

What you need to create a screencast

You'll need:

  • a PC running Windows 7 or later, or a Mac with OS X 10.11 or later
  • a microphone (after experimenting with a few different microphones, I discovered that any set of earphones with an in-built microphone can do the job well)
  • screencasting software.

This is an article about the pros and cons of five screencasting tools.

You can use Jing by Techsmith, which is free and user-friendly, although it has limited editing functions and a recording limit of five minutes.

I have recently upgraded to Snagit by Techsmith, which has a fee but allows a longer recording time.

How to create a screencast

The goal is to produce a video with a short, easy-to-follow lesson, with visual and audio elements.

Make sure the video has a clear topic and that the learning objectives are specified. You might start your recording by saying:

'This video will discuss how to analyse essay questions for short academic essays. We will look at three important things to identify before you start planning your essay.'

From the topic and objectives, write a short script and choose the visual component. I often use a Word document that I annotate, highlight with colours and add to as I talk.

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Before recording, practise timing the script with what is on the screen.

Record. If your software allows it, you can edit afterwards.

Save the video or upload it to Youtube, or your preferred file-sharing location.

You can adapt the framework for different skills and systems. I use screencasts to develop and practise writing skills for academic essays, similar to IELTS writing task two. I have also made screencasts to practise question styles in academic reading tests.

Use screencasts as part of a flipped classroom approach

Ask learners to watch a screencast at home, on one element of essay writing. Give them access to a Google Form which asks a few concept questions about the content of the video. For example: 

  • What three things should you identify in an essay question?
  • Why is it important to identify the style?
  • After watching the video, is your understanding of this method excellent, good or not good?

This serves two purposes: to check learner understanding, and to check that the learners have watched the video.

When you meet in class, the learners will have more time to analyse more essay questions as practice, either individually or collaboratively, and ask questions of the teacher.

Use screencasts as learning support outside the classroom

Add a screencast link to a document that learners can access at home, or QR code if you wish to print the document. Include two or three practice activities related to the screencast content. 

At the bottom of the document, add another link to a Google Doc containing the answers, so learners can check for themselves.

Prepare for an assessment with a screencast

Learners tackle a practice activity, then watch the screencast and evaluate their own or a peer’s work, based on the screencast content. They can then make changes and try another practice activity. 

Use a screencast to organise peer feedback after an assessment

Learners can watch a screencast of a collection of common mistakes, which I discuss while annotating them with a correction code and correcting them on-screen.

Then, learners use the codes in class or as homework, to correct another learner's written work. After adding the codes, and after you have checked the work, they can return the written text to their partner to finish correcting.

Create a screencast to respond to learner feedback

After a unit or group of lessons, give learners access to a Google Form survey. They will complete sentence stems about what they learned, what they understand well and what they need help with. For example:

  • In this lesson, I learned about…
  • I understand...well.
  • I would like more help with…

Then, you can make a screencast to clarify any issues, which will be available to all the learners after the class has ended. 

Teachers, visit our TeachingEnglish website for more lesson plans and activities, and find out how you can become a TeachingEnglish blogger.

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