Screen recording software – also referred to as screencasting software – can be one of the most useful tools there is when you want to create an online course or tutorial, produce marketing videos, or simply want a great, visual way to explain pretty much anything that you are able to view on your computer screen.
The basic idea is that you can video record anything that appears on your computer screen along with any relevant audio – including your own voice. You can also record yourself through your Webcam and easily switch back and forth between you talking and whatever you are showing on your screen.
All of this can be a fantastic way to create video tutorials in which your learners how to use a specific type software or a Web site. It can also be a great way to navigate through slides and narrate your presentation.
The more sophisticated screencasting software – like Screencast-O-Matic, Camtasia and Screenflow – offer some really nice video editing capabilities. I tend to prefer them for video editing, in most cases, over more complicated tools like Adobe Premier or even iMovie.
Screen Recording Software Options
Here are the top options I recommend for online course creators:
For all around, affordable screencasting software that also gives you great abilities to take, edit, and manage screenshots, Screencast-O-Matic is a top choice. It’s web-based, so it works on pretty much any computer and you can host your files on Screencast-O-Matic or export them to wherever you like. Best of all, you can get started with a free plan. About the only thing it lacks is the ability to export to SCORM (which you won’t really need if you are inserting your videos into a course authoring tool. If you do need it, check out Camtasia below).
Snagit is a simple but powerful tool meant both for capturing still images from your computer screen and for recording videos. It gives you tools to easily mark up your still images with text and graphics (e.g., arrows) that can help you explain whatever is going on in the image to your learners. It also has a very nice “magnifying glass features that enable you to zoom in on a specific part of an image. For video, Snagit provide simple tools for editing the length of your video and cutting out unwanted parts. This is installed software (as opposed to Web-based) that works on both Macs and PCs. For $49.95, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Camtasia is made by the same company as Snagit and offers a big step up in video creating and editing capabilities while still remaining quite easy to use. You can easily add annotations to your videos, insert professional-looking transitions, and use a range of special effects without having any previous video experience. If your goal is to create video tutorials or courses, Camtasia gives you the ability to include quizzes and you can also export your finished product as a SCORM package so that it will track in most learning management systems.
When you are done, you can publish your video easily to YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, or any of the other common platforms. Like Snagit, this is installed software (as opposed to Web-based) that works on both Macs and PCs. At $199, it’s price tag is quite a bit higher than Snagit’s, but it has many, many more capabilities. You are likely to find, as so many course creators do, that Camtasia becomes one of the most valuable tools in your toolbox. (More detailed review here.)
Adobe Captivate is the only tool in this group positioned primarily as an e-learning authoring platform. I list it here, though, because it has very strong screen capture and screen casting capabilities. You can do everything in it that you can in Camtasia or Screenflow, but you can also do things like “round trip” editing between PowerPoint and Captivate (i.e., do your authoring and updates in PPT and sync them with Captivate), quiz creation, output to SCORM, and publishing your course as an app. All in all, it is very powerful and definitely a tool to be considered is you are getting into serious e-learning territory. Captivate works on both Mac and PC. You can subscribe for $29.99 per month or purchase a full license for $1099 (with significant academic discounts available).
Screenflow is one of the most popular screen recording options among Mac users (no PC version available) and is the tool that I use the most for my own screencasting and general video editing needs. It can pretty much go head to head with Camtasia on features, but at half the price – $99 vs. $199. If you are a Mac user who makes any significant use of screencasting or other types of video, it is pretty much a no-brainer.
Because the output from your screen recording software is simply another type of video, you can use the same hosting options found on the video tools page. If you use Screencast-O-Matic, you can take advantage of its hosting. TechSmith – maker of Snagit, and Camtasia – also offers a hosting service called Screencast.com specifically for screencasts.
If you have questions, or want to share your own experiences with any of these tools, please comment below.