I believe screencasting software can easily be used for slide-casts, and short snappy video based training.
Why Screencasts workAs we move further into the information age, screencasts are just the thing to create learning in a short space of time. You don't need too many tools to create this kind of training and anyone that has reasonable voice recording skills can speak into a mike and provide narration while recording a screen. We're all hard-wired to movies and the fact that a screencast is a movie of what's playing on your screen, makes it all the more appealing.
What can go into this movie then? Well, it could be anything. It could be a screen recording of how to use a tool. It could be a presentation that you want to run for your audience. It could be a series of media, that you sequence for your learners. In short, anything that can play on your screen, can be a screencast. As you can already imagine, this gives you a lot of power. I particularly like presentation-casts, where you can run a presentation on your screen and provide it a voice over and perhaps a video of yourself! Its perhaps the next best thing to delivering the presentation in person. Here's an example of what I'm talking about.
Here's another example of some fairly detailed training that you can do at extremely low cost and in absolutely no time, with Screencasting software.
What makes a good screencast?Marshall Kirkpatrick's written a great article about the best screencasters around - so hopefully you can draw some inspiration from them. For me, I've realised that the screencasts that usually work very well are:
- Keep 'em short: Unless you're the absolute guru about something, its unlikely you'll hold people's attention for very long with a screencast. The default length of a screencast should be no more than 10 minutes. Of course, there are exceptions and Don McAllister is a great example. Don's screencasts are usually quite long, but he obviously has a great narrative style and that keeps his audience engrossed for a long time. Most of us are not a Don in all likelihood, so the 10 minute rule should stand most of us in good stead.
- Stay conversational: If you look at some of the best screencasters around, they stay conversational and speak naturally. This is very important - Cammy say's so!
- Spend some pre-production time: Just like any other elearning, its important that you know what to say, so scripting and storyboarding are key to getting your story right. If you're doing presentations, then all good presentation wisdom still applies. Read Presentation Zen and Slideology for presentation best practices.
- Find a good place to host your screencast: If you have a corporate YouTube, then that's fabulous, alternatively you could try the free YouTube, Metacafe, ScreencastCentral, Blip, Vimeo. If you're constrained to host your videos internally, find a good web framework to support your screencasts. Moodle, Drupal, Joomla and Dokeos all have good video playback extensions, so this shouldn't be a problem if you're using open-source software.