Have you ever seen a watchman mending a watch? What a wonderful painstaking craftsmanship! But the traditional watchmen can’t possibly mend or make from scratch a large number of watches each day.

Although the old ways of doing things are beautiful, they don’t usually cut it in the modern environment. We live in the age of constant time shortage, where everything has to be done as fast and as well as possible. In order to achieve this high level of efficiency we need tools that help us increase our productivity.

This is true for the education system as well. Reading from textbooks is one of my favorite activities. It has a sense of nostalgia to it, and the texture of the paper and the smell of a new book instill more pleasure in the learning process. It has just one single drawback: it is time consuming. So I usually opt for audiobooks lately.

Today’s students are in the same situation; they need to take in large amounts of information in a short time, and plain reading doesn’t helps with that. Watching a video or listening to an audiobook will always be faster.

To make learning more efficient is the job of education professionals and they are trying to do their best. Along the way they’ve come up with great ideas — like the flipped classroom model — and they’ve found the necessary tools, like screencasting software, to bring their ideas to life. These tools were created with teaching and training in mind.

Getting a screencasting tool isn’t impulse shopping. You shouldn’t grab the first one that pops up in your browser. Here are some steps you can follow if you’re trying to find the right tools to record your screen:

1. Make a list of your needs

Different teaching methods need different tools. The first step should always be to clarify what do you need in the future software. Make a priority list starting with the most important needs you have. Based on these, you can identify the features you really want.

For example, if you need to create short videos with a small amount of editing, you could choose a free software like Jing. Although it has its limitations when it comes to output files, it is an easy to use software with which you can make short videos of your screen (maximum 5 minute recording).

If you want extensive editing visual effects and callouts you should look for a premium software.

Further on in the process, this list will help you to reduce the number of possible alternatives.

2. Search for alternatives

There are plenty of screencasting tools available and there are lots of information about them. Don’t take my word for it, just do a quick search on the internet.

The best way to start is to look at what others use in a similar situation, so ask your colleagues some questions and roam specialized forums for more tips and ideas.

Another good way to find alternatives is on comparison sites, where the softwares are compared based on their features and their price.

And don’t forget about review sites. User reviews can be an important source of information which can give a real image about the tool’s usability.

This phase shouldn’t be rushed. Be as thorough as possible, and make sure you get all the answers you need before you proceed to the next step.

3. Make a short list of contenders

The prioritized list of your needs will come in handy in this phase. You should be able now to narrow down the list of potential solutions. If necessary, eliminate softwares one by one and repeat the process until you remain with the top three contenders.

Besides the features you also should consider the price of different solutions, but this shouldn’t be the most important factor in your decision process. If you have high standards and complex needs you’ll need comprehensive set of features. Never settle with a software based on its price. Choosing the cheapest option could generate time and money loss later on, when you’ll need to change it because it doesn’t fits your needs.

4. In depth research

Now it’s a three-horse race among the top solutions for you needs. The next step is to learn as much as possible about each software. You should read their documentation, watch all their video tutorials and use their trial version if they have one. It’s important to see how they will work and how helpful they are in your daily activity.

You should document your experience with each solution along the testing period. It’s good to have a scoreboard where you can give points to the features and take notes.
At the end of the test period you should choose the software with the highest score, even if it isn’t the cheapest.

Now let’s take a look at a few alternatives:

Camtasia

I will start with my favorite screencasting tool, which is Camtasia Studio from Techsmith. If you want to make professional screencasts for your class, add effects, callouts and subtitles, this is the tool you need.

Take your time to learn all its features. I promise, it’ll be worth your while. They have lots of video tutorials that can help you in the process. After you’ll know all its secrets, it will be easy to use and your videos will look great and professional.

Good things come with a price, so this option isn’t a freeware. On the plus side, it has a version for PC and one for Mac, and they have an educational special pricing. If you consider getting a good tool, you should definitely try it!

Snagit

The second option is also a software developed by Techsmith, but it is considerably cheaper. If you want to create simple videos without effects, then this could be the tool for you.

It’s simple to use but it lacks some features that its bigger brother has. You will be able to trim, crop and cut your videos, but you can’t record with your webcam, the voice can’t be recorded separately and you can’t insert effects and callouts.

Snagit also has an education pricing, just like Camtasia.

Screencastify

Another simple tool is Screencastify, which offers both a free version and a paid one. Both versions include desktop and Chrome tab capturing, and also tab drawing tools.

If you choose the free version you’ll have to live with the fact that all your videos will have the Screencastify logo on them, and the maximum length of the video will be 10 minutes. The paid version offers the possibility to crop, trim, and edit the video, and it will have no branding.

Screencastify is a software for Chrome so it will run on all platforms that run Chrome (Linux, Windows, OS X).

 
Take your time when you choose the software for your screen captures it will spare you from headaches later on. Remember that a good work takes time, but a bad one takes even more.

Author: Zsolt B

Zsolt is a Marketing Analyst at CYPHER LEARNING and a University Teaching Assistant. When he’s not in the classroom, he learns about new ways of teaching, education technology, and everything about e-learning.