Screencast-O-Matic is a simple and effective tool for creating screen capture video. You can add audio and video from a webcam as well. The basic tool is free but limited to 15 minutes max which is more than enough (see below) and will run from a browser or you can download and install a desktop app. Click the “Start Recording” button to being or access the link to download the full desktop app. More information below.

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Video is a powerful tool for online, hybrid and even face-to-face courses. Video can often convey much more information in a short amount of time and do it more clearly than text. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using video in an online class.

Keep it Short

While the free version of Sreencast-O-Matic is limited to 15 minutes of recording time, Recent research has found that student engagement in educational video maxes out at 6 minutes and actually decreases with longer videos.For example, researchers found that students only watched about 3 minutes on average of a 12 minute video. As such, the free version is likely ideal for most educational uses.

While students may sit through an hour long lecture, you have at best 6 minutes to convey everything important in a video. This is certainly a challenge and instructors may benefit from working with an instructional designer to ensure the highest return on investments. Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours developing video content only to find students aren’t utilizing it.

I go over this in more detail and include some tips and suggestions in my post on Lecture in the Video Age.

Focus on Your Strengths

This may seem obvious, but as an instructor there are unique ideas and perspectives that you bring that go beyond what is found in a textbook or other resource. Focus on those personal aspects in your videos. One way to think about this is if the content or concept can be accessed somewhere else in the course materials then don’t repeat it unless it is to offer a new perspective. And of course bring in anything you feel is important that is not contained elsewhere.


In order to get started, visit and click the “Start Recording” button. If nothing happens, ad or Flash blocking plugins may be preventing it from running. I found the full desktop app was a better choice.

There are a number of online tutorials to help you use Screencast-O-Matic so I will not go into great detail here. Instead, lets look at how to use it to create effective course content.


Lets look at how to use screen casting to create a jumping off point for student learning. To do this, we give students a task and the opportunity to personalize it somewhat and then use the screencast as a way to show one example to help them get started.

In this example we will use quadratic equations. One use of a quadratic is to calculate the change in value over time such as for items that become collectable. We can use Screencast-O-Matic to develop a short demonstration of this type of problem and then ask students to develop their own quadratic model for a collectable of their choice. This is actually an example of “pull” learning which I discuss more in this article.

Here is a sample screen cast that demonstrates this approach. Please feel free to contact one of the instructional designers for help in developing content such as this for any course you teach or assistance with tools like Screencast-O-Matic.