How-To Create Effective Visuals when Screencasting

The visual aesthetics of your video lecture or screencast are an important part of the presentation of information to students. Effective visual aids are essential when screencasting. Learn how to improve your video quality with simple information design by following the steps below.

Before you Begin Screencasting

Ask yourself what students need to see to help them learn this material. Most likely, the answer to that question will include at least one of the three following items.

  1. You
    1. If you are recording the welcome video for your course, chances are your students will want to see you on screen. While different than traditional interpersonal communication, telepresence is an important part of computer mediated communication and helps develop a relationship to your students, makes them feel more connected to the online community within each course or program, and adds an element of your personal style and credibility to the content being presented.
    2. Gesturing and gesticulation are common non­verbal cues during communication, (check out this interactive article from the New York Times analyzing body language during presidential campaign speeches) so if explaining your content requires you to be able to use your limbs or body as a visual aid, make sure you have the appropriate amount of space to include that in the camera’s field of view.
    3. When creating anything with a camera, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the physics of light and optics as well as the ability to recognize some of the main components of photographic composition. Some tips on how to improve lighting for webcam videos are posted here. One key concept to keep in mind when recording with your webcam is to try to find an evenly lit space and keep your camera at eye level. This will prevent your image from being too dark or too bright and will make sure your facial expressions are visible to viewers.
  2. Visual aids
    1. These can be physical props or other items that you show to students on camera, or digital graphics that you create or find to help visually explain concepts. Whether used connotatively/denotatively, as symbols or signs, literally/figuratively, these can greatly enhance student learning by creating visual associations, simulating 3D physical spaces, or translating textual information into something multidimensional.
  3. Engagement prompts
    1. Most screencasting tools have built­in ways for students to interact with your video lecture. Engagement prompts allow students to think about the content during the video and respond to it. These tools can also help you measure their viewing habits and check their comprehension of the material. On longer lectures, breaking up the content into shorter segments with engagement prompts in between can help add variety and stimulate student attention. However, too many interactive components could overwhelm or confuse students and detract from the focus of the lecture. Find the right balance, depending on your audience and the content of your lecture, through iteration and experimentation.
    2. Engagement prompts can be built into the video, delivered through features of the Canvas LMS, or added on using tools like Thinglink or Camtasia. Depending on your skill level and the time constraints of your course development, you can choose to use some simple tools on your own or collaborate with a technologist or designer to create more advanced content.