Screencasts in the Liberal Arts?

Screencasting — a video recording of a computer screen — has been in use for a while now, often as a way to demonstrate how to use software. We have not used it much at Wheaton, in part because like most small liberal arts colleges, we place a lot of value on personalized, face-to-face time. We have a 12:1 student to faculty ratio in classes after all and students, faculty, and staff at Wheaton have all come to expect individualized attention. This is a strength of a small college. So, the idea of putting a recorded tutorial up online seems antithetical to this environment. Why would a faculty member want to watch a recording about how to use software, when s/he can pick up the phone or in many cases just walk down the hall and ask for help from a faculty technology liaison? Why would a student want to watch an online tutorial when they can get face-to-face help with a faculty member, a librarian, or a technologist?

For the most part, this thought process still holds true… but I think it’s also changing, or has changed. Sure, face-to-face time is great, maybe even preferred, but so is getting the information when I want it, on my own terms, 24/7.  DVRs, online services like Netflix, radio podcasts, YouTube, 24/7 shopping on Amazon, the web itself — these have all taught us to expect access to information on-demand, when we want it, and where we want it. I’m sure face-to-face will always be the preference, but 24/7 information sure is a nice substitute.

So, when two faculty technology liaisons (Jeanne Farrell and Diane Demelo) said they wanted to do some screencasts for faculty about Moodle, my first reaction was … sure, I guess, but  who will watch it? Faculty want to learn directly from you, right? But then I remembered many faculty members who told me they had tried Moodle on their own and several others asking me over the past year whether we were recording our Tech N Talks, so they could watch them later. Many of our faculty members want to learn things on their own schedule, and — influenced by their experiences with the web — they want access to this kind of information 24/7. So, if you take their environment into consideration, screencasts make perfect sense. These screencasts aren’t quite a substitute for the personalized attention that we will continue to give, but I think they do address many of our faculty’s needs.

We’ll see. I’m curious to see how well they are received.

Here are three that we just started with. These are addressing new features available in our instance of Moodle after an upgrade. For those who are interested, these were recorded with Jing, which you can download and use for free. We bought the $14 per year license, because we wanted to post to YouTube (instead of http://screencast.com/) and edit the video. But I have used the free version of the software and have been quite satisfied with it. Enjoy!

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