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August, 2009:

Tips and Methods for Effective Screencasting

I have spent last week making a four-minute video tutorial on how to use a medical database called AccessMedicine.   It has been a while since I have worked on screencasting.  And of course, I lost all my documentation I have created in my previous workplace.  So, it took a while for me to remember how things are to be done to make a video tutorial effectively.

A little belatedly, I remembered that a crucial thing in making a video tutorial is doing things in the right order (meaning what works for you). So I thought I would share some methods I have experimented in the past.  I will call them method A, B, C.

The tools I used are Audacity-free sound-editor-and Camtasia. If you have a Mac, you can use GarageBand instead of Audacity. If you do not have Camtasia and would rather not use Jing or any other free screencasting tool because of the difficulty of recording both voice and screen at the same time, you may want to try MS Powerpoint.

Method A is what works for me best.

Method A

  1. Outline the tutorial and decide on what is going to be covered.
  2. Write the script while checking each and every item you want to cover in the tutorial.
  3. Re-read the script several times to make each narration brief and succinct.
  4. Record the narration using Audacity and a headset.
  5. After recording, import all mp3 files into Camtasia.
  6. Record the video portion of a tutorial while listening to the recording.
    (This allows one to create a video clip in which things happen in a way that matches the audio instructions, thereby saving a lot of efforts in video editing later on.)
  7. Create Title clips (slides or images) and other slides to be inserted into the Camtasia Project file.
  8. Import the video files, audio files, and slides.
  9. Add transition effects.
  10. While playing repeatedly,  arrange video, audio, and slides in the right sequence.
  11. Add special effects such as zooming, notes, spotlights etc.
  12. Do Audio Enhancement in Camtasia.
    (I even out the volume and increase gain by about 1/3 of the original to make the narration loud enough. The new clicking and clipping options are very useful. These sound editing and enhancement can be done in Audacity as well. But doing it en masse in Camtasia saves time. )
  13. Close all the programs so that the computer can concentrate on producing a smooth video.
  14. Produce the video in swf and mp4 format.
    (Make sure to fill in all the metadata.)
  15. While the video files are created, don’t do anything on the computer. It may cause bumpy transitions or flickering on the produced video file.
  16. Done!

 

This procedure works for me because I seem to be unable to focus on the mouse movement and the computer screen while I am also recording instructions at the same time. So I separate voice recording from video recording.

Method B

However, those who have no such problem can easily use Camtasia or Jing-a free screencapture/screencasting software – in order to create a video tutorial in a very short time in a much simpler manner. There are many simple but effective web tutorials out there made with Jing without any special effects.  Also, once-recorded, Jing can convert the recorded video so that it can be further edited in CAMTASIA.

Method C

Another way to make a video tutorial fast is to create Powerpoint slides. You can create Powerpoint slides with instructions and screenshots and then narrate your voice over the slides. If you can handle voice recording while simply moving slides, which is much easier than actually doing a live demo and recording the screen, using powerpoint slides for a video and focus on voice instruction is a great way to cut down time spent on creating a video tutorial.

This method works well for instructional tutorials which use a limited amount of screenshots but  less so for tutorials that are meant to be a demonstration.  I tried making demo tutorials using Powerpoint.  It required a lot of screencaptureing, Photoshop editing, and loads of special effects in Powerpoint and the heavy use of animation feature. Once you perfect your Powerpoint this way, you can create a PPS file (Powerpoint presentation) which can be downloaded and run like a movie. So you may not even need Camtasia to create a tutorial this way. But I would not recommend using this method in order to create a demo tutorial because importing sound and image files into Powerpoint and adding effects and using the animation feature heavily can be very time-consuming.

If the Help Desk thinks your question is stupid,

This is so totally hilarious, it deserves to get its own blog post I think.  Enjoy!!!

Source: http://digg.com/d310et4 ; http://imgur.com/E9ppQ.jpg

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Academic Librarians and Library Scholarship

What would be the difference between librarians classified as faculty and librarians classified as staff?  The first thing that comes to many people’s mind would be that faculty librarians are promoted based upon their scholarship/research outcome and are often given the title of professor just as other teaching faculty members in academic departments.

But, really, what would be the internal –and not external such as promotion criteria and job title– difference between faculty librarians and staff librarians? One may naturally assume that librarians who are faculty will be expected to spend more time on scholarship and research while librarians who are staff may focus more on daily library services. But is it really the case? Not many librarians in a faculty position actually can afford time for research and scholarship except outside their normal work hours and the weekends. Taking a sabbatical for research would be a rare luxury.

Although it is a nice thing for a librarian to be given a faculty status, there is a big difference between an academic librarian’s daily activities and those of a usual teaching faculty member. Not every librarian teaches regularly; no academic faculty is expected to provide services like what a library offers on a daily basis.

For librarians classified as non-tenure-track faculty, there is even a stronger inconsistency between their everyday work and what is expected of them. While there is no tenure issue that may justify spending time on research/scholarly activities, as faculty they are still expected to engage in some level of research/scholarly activities while performing all other library service-related duties.  It is problematic that while librarians are expected to spend most of their time on providing library services, research and scholarship may function as a more important criteria for evaluation and promotion later on.

On the other hand, there is a strong component of research in every librarian’s work. Particularly these days, librarians are expected to keep up with changing technologies and to be innovative in planning and executing both traditional and new library services. This requires a significant amount of research. But if you are a librarian classified as staff, your research activities may not be properly recognized and rewarded.

So we have problems in our hands. Should librarians focus on traditional scholarly activities such as writing research papers? Or should they rather invest more of their time on researching on and implementing new services and programs? Should librarians be given more time for continuing education and research? Or are librarians to be clearly distinguished from academic faculty because of the nature of each group’s daily work is significantly different?

In his recent article in Library Journal, “the Value of Innovation: New Criteria for Library Scholarship” Eric Schnell, Associate Professor/Librarian of Prior Health Sciences Library of Ohio State University argues that academic libraries need to create rewards systems based on the unique attributes of our field as well as individual departmental goals and needs and that recognition and achievement must be measured using criteria that both value the activities of academic librarians as they exists today and are flexible enough to adapt to future changes.

I think it is a high time to resolve the inconsistency between what academic librarians do on a daily basis and the criteria by which those librarians are rewarded, recognized, and promoted. And it should begin with admitting that academic librarianship is quite different from other areas of scholarship. Academic librarianship involves the continuous development of new customer services and the refinement of internal processes, as Schnell correctly points out. Furthermore, the continuous development of new customer services relates to many different areas such as metadata, collections, web services, systems, reference, and instruction.

The traditional model for faculty activity—teaching, scholarship, and service— is not a basis upon which librarians’ activities and academic librarianship can be properly evaluated, measured, recognized, and rewarded. We need to find a way to reward librarians who work differently and appropriately in the fields of their choice so that they can prosper no matter how they choose to pursue and develop their academic librarianship. We need a definition of academic librarianship that would represent well what successful librarians do most of their time, not what they may do during the weekends or outside the work hours in order to meet the promotion criteria.

Library Day in the Life – Day 3, 4, 5

This week has been so busy that I didn’t have time to write up  my posts for the Library Day in the Life project since Wednesday this week. So here is the summary of what happened on my day 3, 4, 5 this week.  People often think that being a librarian is a pretty undramatic job.  But it may not be the case. I  had pretty dramatic three days which even involved pulling an all nighter.  (Ah, well, almost.  Having four-hour sleep is tantamount to pulling an all nighter at my age I think.)

Wednesday

Morning

  • Catch up with Emails
  • A new printer set-up in the library site with IT.  This one is going to allow students to send print jobs directly from their laptops. Another printer that is hooked up with library PCs are already in a working order.
  • Install Flash plug-in and Quicktime Player on each public access computers.  Now that I put integrity management system on each PC last week, installing new program is more complicated.  I have to reboot before and after change to turn off and on the integrity management system.

Afternoon

  • Get the news from the web design company that they will give me an access to files that comprise the library website. I requested this several months ago and the day that I am getting access to the files is right before the site going live. The company wants me to finish anything I will do on those files today. That is only a few hours to work.  I plead and ask when they are “really” planning to move the site from the company’s server to the university’s server. I hear that I can work until Friday morning and then have to sign them off.  Much better than by today at 5 pm.
  • Start looking at the codes. Why there are no comments?  Spend more time to figure out where the files I need to change are located.
  • Figure that I will need to work all night Thursday. Get the permission to work from home Friday morning to push in as many web pages as possible to the company server before the site goes live.
  • More web work.  Tired and head out home near 6 pm.

Thursday

9 am – 5 pm

Attend SEFLIN (Southeast Florida Library Information Network)’s New Technologies: Libraries & Beyond” conference  During the keynote address, emails notify me that I need some kind of job description for a work-study student I am planning to get. Emailing back and forth while listening to the kenote presentation. Then three more sessions to attend. The conference had sufficient amount of free coffee available. I was very happy with that.

  • Keynote Address:
    Library automation after Web 2.0: Integrating Social Networking Concepts into the Library Infrastructure
    Presented by: Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Vanderbilt University
  • Tablet Computers for Public Service
    Maria Crespi, Victor Hernandez, Charles Roig & Jennifer Dewsnap Shipley, Miami-Dade Public Library System
  • Social Media: Gems from Computers In Libraries 2009
    Prepared by Karen Coussey, Computer Center Supervisor at Broward County Library, Weston Branch Library
    Presented by Loria Hyatt, Computer Center Supervisor at Broward County Library, African American Research Library and Cultural Center
  • Going Mobile with Library Services
    Rich Ackerman, Director of Electronic Resources and Web Services & Carrie Gits, Assistant Director of Reference at Nova Southeastern University

Evening to Next day Morning: 8 pm – 4 am

It was great spending time at a conference all day.  But now there is work waiting for me.  After dinner, I start moving the webpage files from work to my personal computer.  Start working on adding more library pages. Each deparment was allowed to submit up to 6 pages.  The library was no exception but we have + 50 pages more to go.  I had a test site set up with most of the web pages ready. I start creating new web page files that would fit into the new template created by a web design company.  The site and file structure are, in my opinion, not so optimal for those who will be maintaining and updating codes for a portion of the site.

I continue somewhat repetitive web work. The spell checker in Dreamweaver is a godsend.  Still there are many files to go and the night is short. I start to realize that while I will be able to add as many webpages as I can during the given time, it would be  very very difficult to drive to work tomorrow considering the sleep-deprived state I will be in tomorrow.

Friday

Morning

After three hours of sleep, I come back to my computer with a large cup of coffee.  More coding, more coding. I am adding JQuery and some Javascript files.  And more webpages.  Now the library site will have 30-40 pages instead of the initial 6.  Around 10 am, I check with the company.  More content may come in but the deadline is not changed. I start uploading my files.  But soon I hear back that other departments are going to submit more content by 5pm today.

So I get more time to work on webpages, which is nice but exhausting because I have been up very long without much sleep.  I take a short break and get a permission to work from home for the rest of the day.

Afternoon

More web pages, more javascript files, and more coffee.  I am missing some very important staff meeting today that will include some delicious cake.  I contunue my work wishing there would be some left Monday.  And of course, looking forward to the new updated site which I will be seeing Monday!

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