Sunday, 21 October 2012

Screencasting & learning to love the sound of your own voice

Ah screencasting....if you're anything like me you find recording screencasts a fairly unpleasant experience, where you have to talk out loud to a computer, feeling faintly ridiculous  and the only way to check your work is to then listen to the sounds of your own voice repeating over and over again. Not really my idea of fun!

But they're a great tool. I've created screencasts to demonstrate how to navigate databases and renew loans, and even in place of being able to attend a teaching session. I've used the free online tool Screencast-o-matic, which once uploaded to a Youtube channel you can then add annotations and a transcript, creating a very accessible resource. Here's an example of mine:

While I think screencasts of this kind are really useful resources I do think they have to be carefully planned, and videos of any significant length are never going to be useful to students - anything over three minutes can become very tedious very quickly (as perhaps the above video demonstrates? I'd be interested to know how many of the video viewers actually watched the whole thing). Interestingly, the video I created to demonstrate to students how to use their Microsoft Live Skydrive has received over 3000 hits, 10 times as many as my library screencasts - which probably goes to show the way in which students expect to learn: they expect IT information to come from the internet and is useful in video format. But library information - can students learn it effectively from videos? Will they understand the process and be able to transfer that learning to another searching need or just follow step-by-step? Will they even search for help in the format of videos or will they get sidetracked one they're on Youtube watching much more entertaining videos?

At the moment, my new role as a Faculty Librarian takes me away from the subject librarian role somewhat in that I don't currently have time to create subject-specific resources of the kind I would like to provide for students, including screencasts of using particular databases for specific subjects. While I don't know what kind of impact these videos actually have, I do believe that providing learning tools like these in as many formats as possible is great for meeting the different needs of students, and they're always a fantastic thing to have up your sleeve for those moments where you just can't bear to explain how to do a search one more time!

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