Marking journalism assignments with Camtasia 6 and a Logitech mic

Time to wave goodbye to old-fashioned lecture notes (Independent – 19th Nov 2009) reports on how Russell Stannard, principal lecturer in Multimedia/ICT at the University of Westminster, uses technology to mark student essays.

This got me thinking. I’ve been dabbling with Camtasia 3 for a few months. The software came free with an issue of .Net magazine. I was attempting, with not a lot of success, to create tutorials on how to upload content to Joomla! (a CMS) for my students. Camtasia is a screencast tool i.e. it records everything that you do on your PC screen in video format and you can also record an audio commentary. This is useful for a number of purposes, such as those listed on the official Camtasia site.

But after reading the article in The Indie, I’ve found it’s also very useful for providing feedback on journalism assignments. Students submit assignments electronically using our Moodle-based VLE. I then get a student’s Word file on screen and edit it, whilst simultaneously giving a live commentary on the changes that I’m making. This is like giving a student their own personal tutorial. The file produced by Camtasia is then saved, compressed in size and can be emailed to the student for viewing.

The system has worked so well that I have invested in a newer version of Camtasia – 6 is the latest edition. I also bought a decent quality Logitech USB desktop microphone

Pros of using Camtasia:

  1. An interesting way to deliver feedback: Getting students to read any feedback delivered in the traditional way (i.e. hand written corrections to their scripts) can be a problem – they normally just want to see the grade! This is a particular issue for weaker students who can sometimes feel intimidated when they see pages and pages of corrections. Of course, it’s the weaker students who really need to see (and understand) their feedback.
  2. It’s quicker than correcting scripts the old-fashioned way: It takes ages to mark 60 or 80 scripts, so I always have one eye on the clock. I’m sure that I’m not the only tutor who times how long it takes them to mark each paper. If a bit of software doesn’t improve my productivity – it’s gone!
  3. You can go into a lot more detail: It’s like a face-to-face tutorial. You can provide a lot more explanation verbally than you can using written comments. This is really handy for the weaker students. You can also ‘zoom’ in and ‘highlight’ individual paragraphs to provide detailed comments.
  4. Good feedback from students: I have done a really small test sample, but I’ve had some very positive feedback from students.

Cons: The files must be compressed quite heavily if you are going to send them via email and this can take up to a minute or so to complete. I move on to reading the next assignment, whilst Camtasia is busily compressing away.

Camtasia 3 is widely available for free, but it doesn’t provide brilliant compression. It’s worth getting hold of a new-ish version. Feedback has to be logged and verified by external examiners, so sometimes it’s best to have it in hard copy format.

Cost: Camtasia 6 costs $299 or around £180. But there is a free web-based screencast technology called ScreenToaster that seems to do a similar job, although I’ve not tried this.

I am keen to find out who else is using Camptasia or similar screencast software.

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