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Reporting Course Issues with Screencasts

October 1, 2010

How do students and instructors report problems with an online course? Over the past year I have been working with one faculty member that posts issues with screencasts. It has been a successful experience both from her perspective, as an Instructor, and mine, as Instructional Designer.

What are course issues?

Typical problems associated with online courses include:

  • Links: broken, misdirected, error messages
  • Errors: typographical errors, formatting problems
  • Content: missing or outdated information

The usual reporting of a course issue involves filing out an online form with predetermined fields. One of the challenges of these forms is the field titled “description of problem”. Communicating an online program via text can be difficult to do.

What is a screencast?

Using a headset and a screencast application you can create a recording of your computer screen and your narration of what you are doing.  The screencast can be uploaded to another site, think YouTube, or accessed via URL. The instructor mentioned above was already familiar with Jing, but there are other options available – many of them free.

A recent example:

A file wasn’t opening properly for students or instructor, instead opening a series of error messages and warnings. I was not able to recreate the problem. When I contacted the instructor for more information she sent a screencast that allowed me to watch her screen as she tried to open the file. I could see that the file extension was the problem. She would not have thought to mention it, or look for that as a troubleshooting step, but I knew that the LMS could be a little temperamental with the .docx extension. The screencast made all the difference in the communication and resolution process.

Benefits

The potential for decreasing resolution time is the primary benefit here. Instructors are on the front lines with these kinds of errors and students, who are not aware of the existence or role of the instructional designer, often hold the instructor responsible for problems. Screencasts help to remove the uncertainty and the need to go back to the instructor for more information.

For more information about using screencasts:

  • Ferriter, W. (2010). Preparing to teach digitally. Educational Leadership, 67(8), 88-89.
  • Griffis, P. (2009). Building pathfinders with free screen capture tools. Information Technology and Libraries, 4, 189-190.
  • Rethlefsen, M. L. (2009). Screencast like a pro. Library Journal, 134(7), 62-63.

Have you used screencasts, or screenshots, to resolve course issues? Consider incorporating screencasts into your issue reporting process!

Image credit: umwditt, Flickr

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