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Screencasting Guidelines: Best Practices

This LibGuide outlines the best practices that must be followed when creating a screencast as part of the University of Waterloo Library.

Making a Good Screencast

Start with a plan

  • Creating a screencast requires similar planning and preparation as most other instructional endeavours
  • Establishing a set of learning outcomes and goals provides a foundation and helps determine the flow and content of each tutorial 
  • Longer screencasts may need to be divided into parts and produced as separate units


Analyze the needs of your users
Initial preparation for any screencast project includes a process of identifying the users and stating the objectives. Answer the following questions to set the groundwork for further planning:

  • Who will be viewing your screencast(s)?
  • What are their library information needs?
  • What is the knowledge base of the anticipated users?
  • Are the screencasts intended for a general academic audience, or for a specific course?
  • What are the learning goals? Try to be specific.
  • Will one screencast cover the material, or will you create a series?

Reviewing the answers to these questions will clarify important aspects to consider. For example, when preparing a screencast for users with minimal or no background knowledge of the topic, try to provide the following:

  • Detailed explanations of basic concepts
  • Links to underlying concepts
  • Instructor led examples
  • Active learning opportunities, for example, directed questions to the audience


Accessibility and government standards
The Information & Communications Standard, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, includes web accessibility requirements. The University has committed to meet all Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A requirements, and meet the Level AA requirements where feasible.
For Level A compliance, captions are to be provided for all pre-recorded audio-visual content. Therefore, all screencasts hosted on the Library website or Library channels are to be captioned.

A good starting point when planning for usability is to avoid making assumptions about who your users are, and how they will use the information. Instead of trying to compensate for every possible scenario, aim to reach as many users as possible through a clear, consistent approach.
Incorporate the following recommendations to increase the usability of your screencasts:

  • Provide a clean interface, clear navigation, and set of instructions
  • For example, provide directional descriptions such as, “click on the [Primo] link, which is the [first] link in the [left navigation] menu”
  • Be consistent in your use of graphics and style throughout
  • Show graphics in context, for example, a whole search screen, not just search box
  • Highlight important features with verbal cues and visual cues, such as callouts
  • Use red or yellow shapes, and red or medium blue for arrows
  • Keep the shape transparent, avoid any colour fills
  • Avoid special effects, for example, the drop shadow
  • Be succinct and avoid unnecessary graphics, text, and audio


Prepare a teaching strategy
Spend time considering the most effective way to present your information. Think through the process of what you want to teach, and then organize it into a logical sequence that progressively builds upon concepts and skills.  For example, begin with basic search strategies and then move on to advanced search instruction.

Review other screencasts
Screencasts and videos are fast becoming a popular tool for instruction amongst many academic institutions. Search on your topic and view screencasts by staff at other academic institutions, as well as those made by your colleagues, to become familiar with different styles and techniques.

One vs. many
As you work through the steps to reach your objective, you will need to decide whether your information can, or should, be contained in one screencast or in several, related units. Generally, the length of a screencast should be one to three minutes long.
A short tutorial will:

  • help keep the viewer’s attention
  • be quicker to load

If your instructional screencast is longer than a few minutes, then seriously consider dividing it into separate screencasts (e.g. chapters). Consider how the user will approach this information and how often they may need to access it. Write a description and keep a list of keywords for each screencast.

Each project should include the following information:

  • Title
  • Subject
  • Description (Abstract)
  • Keywords
  • Creator: Your name or name of group
  • Contact Information: Your contact email or other appropriate contact email 
  • Date Published
  • Copyright Information

The keyword metadata serves two main purposes:

  • search functionality, which is increasingly important as screencast(s) become integrated into a variety of resources
  • a record for maintenance purposes

Prepare a transcript
Each library-hosted screencast requires a transcript. A transcript is a text copy of the audio recording used to create captions. Captions are created by copying and pasting the transcript into Camtasia, and then tailoring the placement of the text on the screen. See the section on Captioning for more information.

Consider active learning exercises
When appropriate, include interaction or activities that create an active learning environment.  This will optimise higher levels of learning, such as evaluation and analysis, in addition to comprehension and application. Examples of active learning include:

  • Posing questions throughout the screencast
  • Practice exercises
  • Quiz

The Library Instruction Assessment Toolkit, developed by the Library Instruction Committee (LINC), explores the ‘Return On Investment’ (ROI) concept as it relates to the evaluation of effective instruction. Refer to the LINC webpage for more information.