Why Screencasting?

So, why do I spend time one this screencasting process and software?

First a word on what screencasting is – Basically, it is software that takes between 10 and 50 pictures of the screen per second while it records your voice as you demonstrate some activity on your computer. Then it can convert those pictures into something much like a movie with audio and you can share that movie with others. In general, it is a great way to explain and share how you do things with software or computers. Video in the form of a camcorder or phone video recorder generally requires more storage than screencasting software, but is usually better used for showing processes not involving a computer. You see a lot of Youtube videos that use actual video recordings to demonstrate how to do things with physical processes, and screencasts for things on computer screens. But as we do more and more with computers, it makes sense that screencasts will become more useful in this way.

I spend a fair amount of time sharing what I know with people I interact with. I like to help, and I like the look on people’s faces when the light bulb goes off and they see how they might want to use some particular piece of software for something they are working with, or alternatively, when they say that they have been trying to find something to do a certain task or make a process easier for them and I manage to show them something that meets their needs.

But I started to realize that sending me around to train everyone was not the answer, and that creating screencasts that demonstrate doing something and then sharing that screencast was repeatable, on demand, and frees up time for me to work on creating new content instead of spending all my time teaching the same processes and procedures over and over again. This expands to training in general. If it is done on a computer, than screencasting gets you a lot of bang for your buck.

Furthermore, if you have a help desk, or a place where people generally can ask for help or questions, you can post a link to the screencast that addresses that problem or question and you may have just averted a trouble call or spending man hours helping someone else understand a process that has already been documented and explained fairly well. Another really nice thing about screencasting out the functionality or process that some piece of software or several pieces of software can do is that even if I did happen to give the training to someone at some point in time, maybe they forgot, or needed a refresher. Also, it can be delivered on demand, from any time zone, without cutting into my time of creating more content and dicovering what else needs to be explained.

So it appeals to me in several ways, it captures an idea and makes it easy to share with lots of others, and it can be recalled on demand as well as freeing me up to do other meaningful work. It also fits the learning styles of a good number of people that are visual learners. People that like to see it done, and think about how they might use it to do something they need done. So over all, I think of  savings, time, and repeatability as good reasons to use this medium for software or computing activities that you want to share.

Enabling your workforce to create these videos and help each other learn how to do things that they do could prove to be an incredible force multiplier. Think of it as the “self help” desk. If you have one location where the videos are stored, and if you incentivise creating the videos by your employees, the ones that get voted up as most useful could be a real hit, and share best practices across the command. Not to mention you can categorize them and tag them so that when someone needs help with MS Excel, they can find the help they need in video form, or hit one of the chat rooms on the subject.

What do you need to make a sceencast? Well, a microphone and the software I posted about in my previous blog posts. Beyond that, you might want to make a screencast of how you use that software to allow your employees to come to understand it, although if you can create one that helps with the correct settings, beyond that it is fairly intuitive.

Like I mentioned earlier, after you enable them to create content, and a place to put it, then find a way to incentivise it a little so that people create content and share the things that make them so successful. If you hang the videos in an environment where people can vote and comment on videos, you could start to find the folks that really know how to convey knowledge and share. It also captures some of the corporate or tacit knowledge before it leaves the organization.

I have seen screencasting used to help launch software that you are going to start offering at work so that people can see it and comment on it before you actually launch it

Other common uses for screencasts are:

* Screencasts can help demonstrate and teach the use of software features

* Software developers can demonstrate their work

* Screencasts are helpful to submit along with reporting a bug  where the movie takes the place of a written explanation

* Show others how a task is accomplished in a specific software environment

Cost/Savings:

* Presentations can be captured and shared for those that could not attend the original lecture, saving the cost of travel and hotel costs and the time lost in getting too and from the event

*Considering the high cost of instructor, faculty led training, and most computer based training, screencasting is a good candidate for imparting high-quality knowledge at a low cost from a larger distribution of expertise across your organization

* Screencasts usually capture software better than a video being taken of the activity on a computer screen, and take up less storage as well as easier to stream and share later in a downloadable form

* Educators are embracing screencasts as another means of integrating technology into the curriculum as well as sharing what a student may have missed if they could not attend class, and it creates the potential for online courses on that topic or subject

Limitations:

* You can capture a screencast using hardware such as an RGB or DVI frame grabber card. This approach does not have the OpenGL limitations associated with several Microsoft based solutions

All in all, I see it as an effective and fairly inexpensive to provide a mechanism for creating and sharing process, content, and ideas on demand and with little overhead. That is the reason that I encourage any organization to enable their people with this software and hardware.

Cheers!

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