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Things to Consider:
Designing and Creating Slidecasts


Variously known as “podcasts,” “enhanced podcasts,” and “voiced-over PowerPoint presentations,” slidecasts are self-contained presentations combining images and narrations, which can be used in a variety of ways for teaching and learning.  Below are some things to think about when planning, selecting tools for, narrating, and saving slidecasts.

 

Designing slidecasts
Planning
Selecting tools
Creating slidecasts
Narrating
Saving




Planning your slidecast
What is the pedagogical purpose of your slidecast? Slidecasts may be used:

  • As part of the online portion of a hybrid course. For example, in a flipped classroom, students review slidecasts at home and use class time to ask questions, solve problems, and interact with each other.
  • To summarize or review important or difficult course concepts.
  • In place of in-class student presentations: students review each other’s slidecasts before class and class time is used for discussions and questions.

How long will your slidecast be? Shorter presentations are more likely to hold listeners’ full attention and result in smaller files, which can be downloaded and viewed more quickly. You can create shorter presentations by:

  • Breaking up a long presentation into several parts.
  • Preparing a series of 10-15 minute segments that can be viewed separately or as a whole.  These short segments can be used and reused in several related courses.
  • Using a program that generates a table of contents or offers ways to mark sections (e.g., Adobe Presenter).  This allows listeners to easily choose which section to view when. 

How will you design your slides to communicate information clearly? Presenting one idea per slide, using images to illustrate your point, and designing slides that are easy to read will increase the effectiveness of your presentation. These tips provide additional ideas about designing slides.

How will you make your slidecast accessible to a wide audience? To reach learners with different learning styles and/or learning disabilities, create presentations that follow the principles of universal design.

  • Add captions to the presentations or provide transcripts of the audio portions.
  • Include multiple ways of presenting information by using a combination of text, graphs, charts, animations, photographs, music and video.

Selecting appropriate tools
How will your audience view your slidecasts? Understanding the likely circumstances under which your audience members will be viewing your presentations will provide you with information about how to select a delivery platform and how to save the files for optimal viewing.  Will your audience be viewing the slidecasts on laptops, desktops, or mobile devices? Will they have access to an Internet connection while they are viewing the slidecasts? Will they have access to a high-speed Internet connection?

What kind of delivery platform will you use? Different delivery platforms support different file formats and delivery mechanisms. You will need to select a platform that is compatible with how you would like the presentations to be delivered to your audience (e.g.,online or offline, streamed or as downloaded file).

  • Streaming requires a steady, reliable Internet connection and may be preferable if your presentation contains copyrighted materials and you need to restrict access to class members only.  Platforms include YouTube, Vimeo, and the Hunter Video Network. Streaming videos can be embedded in Blackboard.
  • Downloadable files can be viewed on computers and mobile devices without a live Internet connection, which may be useful if your students view the slidecasts on the subway.  Small downloadable files can be uploaded to Blackboard.

Which slidecast creation tools are best suited for your delivery platform? You will need to save your slidecast in a format that is compatible with your delivery platform.  Some programs, such as Camtasia and Adobe Presenter, give you the option of exporting or saving your slidecast in a wide variety of formats; however, these programs can take some time to learn. Other programs that are less complex, such as GarageBand, ProfCast, QuickTime Player and Jing, offer a smaller variety of formats for saving and exporting.

Which slidecast creation tools best fit your recording style and editing requirements? A multitude of software programs are available for creating slidecasts, each of which offers different options for recording and editing. For example, some programs allow for re-recording of specific slides and detailed editing of the audio track while others cannot be easily changed. To discover which programs best meet your needs, consider experimenting with several and going through a complete workflow, including the process of editing and saving.

Narrating your slidecast
How will you make sure that all the important points are covered?  Here are some ideas that can help you stay focused:

  • Use an outline or script to guide you as you record.
  • Assemble and sequence all the components of your slidecast (e.g. slides, music, videos, screencasts) before you start recording.
  • Create a bulleted list of the main idea/s or example/s to cover in each slide and elaborate on them extemporaneously as you record.
  • Write out the entire script for the presentation, or at least the first and last few sentences.

Where will you create the recording? We recommend that you find a location with minimal visual and audio distractions. While you do not need to be in a sound-proof booth, preparing your environment so that it is adequate to do a recording can cut down on time spent re-recording or editing. You can cut down on extraneous noise by:

  • Turning off the ringer of your office, home, or cell phone.
  • Placing a "Recording: Please do not disturb" sign on your door.
  • Doing a short recording of the first few slides and reviewing it for sound quality (e.g. make sure there are no distracting background noises such as birds, vents, or air conditioners).
  • Increasing the microphone volume level, rather than placing it closer to your mouth, in order to avoid popping sounds.

How will you create an engaging tone for your slidecast? Speak naturally and to an audience. Talking to an empty room can be a new and awkward experience; some people speak too fast or over-enunciate or become monotone when ask to do voice-recordings.  You might try:

  • Speaking in an animated voice at a normal pace.
  • Placing a photograph of your class or a friendly audience within visual range to remind yourself of your listeners. You may also want to enlist the help of a willing listener to nod and smile.
  • Not aiming for perfection. Unless they are too distracting that negatively affect the learning experience, a few "um's" or "uh's" can make you sound more natural and human.

Saving your slidecast
What kind of audio and video quality will you need? Opt for a lower but acceptable quality for your slidecasts, but preserve a high quality original of your slidecast that can be later converted into alternative sizes and formats if needed.  In general, educational materials do not need to be produced in high fidelity audio and high definition video to be effective. Try to find a balance between audio and video quality of your slidecasts and the sizes of the files (and thus the amount of time it takes to access them). You can minimize file size by:

  • Converting print-quality images to screen-quality images.
  • Saving the audio portion in radio-quality rather than CD-quality.
  • Experimenting with the dimensions of the visual display, frame rates and compression schemes to find an adequate compromise between quality and file size.

How can you ensure that your slidecast is playable on a wide variety of platforms and devices? With the plethora of computer platforms, mobile devices, and browsers being used today, it is almost impossible to ensure that your presentation will be viewable by all. Your choice of format will be dependent, in part, on your delivery platform, which may have specifice requirements and recommendations.  Below are some suggestions about how to increase the playability of your slidecasts:

  • Produce downloadable files in the MPEG4 (.mp4) or QuickTime (.mov) formats. Files in these formats are adequately compressed, are playable on PCs and Macs, and can be viewed with a wide variety of video players (e.g., Windows Media Player and QuickTime Player). Small MPEG4 and QuickTime files can be uploaded to Blackboard.
  • Files can also be saved in Flash (SWF, FLV) format. The Flash player plug-in is installed on most web browsers, so files in this format can be played on PC and Macs; however, Flash files are not playable on iPhones and iPads.
  • If you are using a streaming server, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or the Hunter Video Network, refer to the documentation for file format requirements and recommendations.
  • State the technical requirements for your slidecasts in the course syllabus and direct students to a short test file.
  • Offer links to locations where students can download video players that can be used to view your presentations.