Richard Mitchell (School of Systems Engineering) writes:
Encouraged by students who felt that some programs I had written were a good visual way of demonstrating some fundamental concepts behind cybernetic systems, I have produced a few HTML5 web pages which students can run on PCs and mobile devices. They are designed to allow students to investigate the effect of changing key parameters and see graphically what happens.
I felt that these would be even more accessible if I could produce some short videos demonstrating these programs in action – and was thus very interested in screencasts and the GRASS project.
Various colleagues recommended Camtasia as the product to use, and I am delighted to find how easy it is to use. I set up the screen with an introductory slide from powerpoint, behind which I have my web browser with my programs; I set Camtasia to record the area where these are displayed, and press record. I then talk about the slide and then flip to the browser and demonstrate the program. At the end, I just save the recording (I don’t even edit it) and get Camtasia to generate an MP4 video, which I then put it on a web page.
Once I have rehearsed what I want to say and set the slide and programs up, I can produce a video of between 5 and 10 minutes long within about 15 minutes. A selection of the videos can be viewed at
I currently produce these for a first year course, and recommend students view them when reviewing material covered in the lecture to help verify their understanding.
It’s great fun preparing screencasts with the new Surface Pro3 that the GRASS project team has bought. With a stylus, it’s possible to annotate Powerpoint slides as you go, adding in mathematical derivations, underlining key phrases, and so on.
It’s also been a bit of a learning experience for me, too. When used as a tablet, swiping your finger in various directions is associated with making menus appear and changing between windows, which you (probably) don’t want in the middle of a screencast! It also took me a while to find the ‘eraser’ function of the stylus, too, for when I made mistakes! That said, it’s probably my favourite bit of kit at the moment.
All our kit is available to be borrowed (laptop & tablet with Camtasia Studio, 2 USB microphones), so do get in touch if you’d like to try any of it out.
Here’s a short screencast (2′) I prepared for my School Staff Meeting (with the Surface Pro3), plugging the GRASS project and highlighting one of the tools available in the new version of Blackboard.
I have been thinking recently about how to make the most of our Enhancement Weeks, so naturally screencasts came to mind. The challenge we are facing in our department is to help students to engage with activities in Enhancement Week whilst also offering long-term material to which they can refer both before and after that week.
We already have a couple of departmental screencasts which gave me ideas about how we could do this:
Now I am planning to produce a series of similar screencasts covering what I think are topics that will enhance the studying life of students. Topics identified so far are:
- How to succeed on Twitter (and/or LinkedIn)
- How to choose a dissertation topic
- The Professional Track Degree
- How to make the most of the personal tutor relationship
- Applying for postgraduate study
- Creative Writing in the Department of English Literature
- Study abroad
- Using the library
- How to use your reading list
- Budgeting for your study costs/book purchases
Now I face a decision and a new challenge. I have to decide whether to stick to Powtoon screencasts for all things ‘extra-curricular’ or whether to use a combination of different types of screencast, adn this relies to some extent on the challenge…I have asked a selection of colleauges to make one each of these screenacsts. I hope to persuade them that it is not difficult and is worth there while.
Watch this space for developments!