dan lasota's masters in education portfolio for online innovation and design


Online Function Grapher

1 July 2013

The screencast is encoded to HD quality. You may want to use the full screen option for clarity.

The software used to generate the video was Camtasia 2.4.1. After reviewing a few of the tutorial videos, and searching for specific answers on the vendor website, I was ready to record. A few of the lessons I learned while recording this:

  • Record in full screen mode. I used 2560 x 1440. This allowed me to down sample most of the video, and when I needed to zoom into areas of interest, the resolution was shown near 100% and the text was not distorted.
  • Camtasia has some nice annotation and highlighting tools. I used them at appropriate times to draw attention when needed. This method of directing focus is far superior to wiggling and jiggling a cursor on the screen.
  • I used a good head set with recording microphone for audio, this produces much better results than using the built in microphone from the computer.
  • I had the outline of a script and had practiced several times before recording. Still, I feel that had I used a complete script, the screen cast would have gone better, conversational pauses and incomplete sentences are acceptable in person to person communication, but it’s painful listening to myself at points. While I have told faculty at UAF that this natural sort of captured language is great for online presence, I would not take my own advice.
  • Ten minutes of speaking produces a very large text transcript. For the second part of the assignment, I selected YouTube’s auto-captioning to generate the initial transcript, exported it to a text file, and then edited it. This took me four hours to complete! That’s quite a ratio. I was rather amazed at the ability of YouTube’s software to turn the sound of my voice into text. I would estimate that it was about 90% accurate, but even then, key parts of the transcript made no sense. My favorite transcription error: ‘they give us X squared’ → ‘they give a sex korea’. Still, having an initial transcript to work from was a time saver.

What is the benefit of all of this? First and foremost, the goal was to create a resource that would be helpful to students learning the subject, in this case, the use of an online graphing tool. Secondary benefits include a greater reach to more viewers with the closed captioning and greater visibility to search engines. Now that the effort has been spent creating the text transcript in English, YouTube offers some translations into foreign languages.

Just as the online graphing tool would have been the envy of math teachers 30 years ago, I feel the screen cast with the ability to zoom, overlay text, and draw arrows, adds a dynamic that would not have been possible on a chalk board alone.

If I was working with an instructor on content like this and had selected a tool like Camtasia and the YouTube closed captions, I would have to be very clear about the effort involved. For typical course development one has to balance finite resources like time against the learning goals created. It might very well be that this type of resource, or something similar already exists online. If it’s possible to use already developed materials, then that option should be considered. A course does need instructor presence though, and with a personally developed screen cast, an instructor can simultaneously connect with students while attaining specific learning goals.

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