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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Using Screen Recording Software To Make Educational Videos

We survived our vacation - 2500 miles and three cities, each with different groups of friends or family over an 11 day period. I haven't yet gotten entirely back into the swing of things, but at least I've been in the office for a couple of days, gone on a couple of rides (yes, the bike has been tuned up and de-tarred), and gotten a variety of paperworky-type thingies out of the way (like sending off material to the builder of our house for the 1-year follow-up, signing contracts for teaching CFA prep for the coming year, signing up to take CFA level 1 this fall, and so on).

I'll get back to serious work tomorrow, but for the last couple of days I've been researching screen-recording software. These packages allow you to record whatever displays on your computer screen (along with a soundtrack) and convert the recording into a video file. After a bit of research, I settled on Camtasia Studio by TechSmith. It's amazingly easy - I was able to create videos of a powerpoint presentation with a voice over almost immediately.

Off the bat, I can see a couple of good applications for the software:
  • There are some topics that are pretty involved and technical but I'd rather not spend a lot of class time on. As one example, I assign a financial analysis project that requires the students to use our trading room software. I usually have to spend the better part of an entire class period working them through how to access the various databases they have available. With this software, I can boot up the software in my office, go through the various menus, and record a voice-over to explain what I'm doing. Then, the students can review the video at their leisure as often as they need to understand the various processes.
  • Second, I'd like to record my classes. Since I use Powerpoint in class, I can have the recording software running while I work through my presentation. If I also have a portable microphone on me, I can post a record of my slides and a voice over to the web for students to review as many times as they like. Also, if they miss a day they don't have to ask "Did we cover anything important?" -- they can see for themselves that we didn't.
  • Finally, in the spring I'll be teaching an advanced Corporate Finance class. Some of the cases I'd like to use assume knowledge that the students might not have the best grasp of. With the recording software, I can quickly put together some quick videos that they can view on their own before they start on the cases. For example, one of the cases requires them to set up an Excel spreadsheet with circular references. This way, I can set up an example with lots of explanation and put it up as a resource.
I can eventually see my classes evolving to a model where I put a lot of the basic material up on the web and use classroom time to expand on web material, work problems, and answer questions. It could also make it pretty simple to convert my classes to online versions.

At least that's what I'm thinking now. But I just got the software, so we'll see. On the plus side, there's a 30-day trial version that's fully functional. So, I can work out the bugs before I get the Dean to shell out for it. But even if I pay for it out of pocket, it's cheap - less than $200.

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