|Common Elements of Effective Screencasts Page 1 of 7|
|Written by Joseph Friedman|
However, screencasts are not limited to software tutorials. This genre is as versatile as it is powerful because screencasts can demonstrate abstract concepts in a virtual space by both showing and telling simultaneously. Screencasts can be adapted for differing audiences, content, or general purpose and they can convey credibility, transparency, and authenticity if created correctly. A screencast can be a personal experience, more akin to a one-on-one between the user and the creator. Screencasts can also become a polished, professional marketing tool. Screencasts are versatile; they can be used effectively by individuals, companies, and in education.
Individuals can use screencasts to their advantage in several different ways. Screencasts can be used to present knowledge, create a personal brand, and share one's experiences. A screencast can be easily created and uploaded to a personal blog. An individual’s screencast can demonstrate experience with a particular program or process, share opinions, and more.
Companies can use screencasts for both external and internal communications. Large companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe have extensive libraries of how-to screencasts. The Adobe Video Workshop is especially impressive; it has hundreds of professional screencasts that are searchable by specific product and/or topic. Screencasts can provide a dual role as support for users and as a marketing tool (Falaschi and Athey). Internally, screencasts can be used for training or perhaps as a method of capturing and sharing subject matter expert knowledge within the company.
Screencasts are also used in the classroom, both in distance education and as supplemental material for traditional courses. They can be utilized as learning resources, learning tasks, and learning support (Garner). They are used to illustrate abstract concepts and provide examples and support at the student’s pace. Screencasts are also used in libraries to help people learn how to use directories and other library resources.
The screencasting genre is so wide and its applications so versatile that it is challenging to understand overarching guidelines for effective screencasts. It is important to understand the context in which screencasts can be applied, but it is doubly important to understand the separate media elements and how they can effectively interact together to form a superb screencast.
Screencasting falls under the general category of linear multimedia, because it is a combination of different media (graphics, text, and narration). A screencast is considered a linear form of multimedia because it offers only linear interactivity: fast forward, rewind, play, or pause. Multimedia has been studied in depth over the years, especially in its efficacy as a learning tool and its use in documentation. I will draw on these studies to form guidelines for effective screencasts in the areas of learning and documentation.
Some general multimedia guidelines can be easily applied to screencasting, yet some are not applicable at all. It is important to look at these areas of literature and see what aspects can apply to screencasting. Plenty of information about screencasts can be found in blogs, forums, and magazine articles (Andrus; Hay; Kanter; Skibell; Tietjen; Udell). These articles can be helpful in offering practical guidelines for screencast creation, new ideas for screencast applications, or a comparison of screencasting software. These guidelines are based on experienced judgment, not empirical study and relevant theory. This fact does not mean that these articles should be ignored or devalued; it just means that other areas of research must also be applied to formulate guidelines for screencasting.
It is difficult to glean guidelines for all screencasts using current information on screencasts alone. That is why it is necessary to study and understand its underlying foundation: multimedia. How has multimedia been studied and used effectively over the years? I will start by exploring how and why multimedia is an effective learning tool, and then move into electronic documentation and the idea of using multimedia as documentation. Following that will be a list of common screencasting genres and a list of elements of effective screencasts. Then I will discuss novel ideas, techniques, applications and shortcomings of screencasting.
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