Enhancing Language Learning

Through the power of screencasting, Joe Dale developed engaging learning and training content to describe how language teachers can enhance their teaching methods utilizing online tools and resources. In order to insure the quality and consistency of his content, Joe turned to Camtasia Studio to create clear and concise videos explaining these new web tools available for teachers.

Engaging Learning Content

Vital is an online learning platform delivered by The Open University. It is part-funded by the Department for Education and aims to support practitioners in sharing their expertise and enhance their quality of teaching and learning. Joe Dale is the Vital Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Portal Manager for the Open University.

As part of his role at Vital, Joe wanted to develop engaging learning and training content to explain how to use online tools for creating, collaborating, editing and sharing multimedia content online to modern language teachers. The project aims to show how to use the technology resources available to tutors, including how to create podcasts and use blogging platforms. Joe recognised explaining the tools’ functionality through Word documents and images alone would not be effective, so he looked to bring his training to life through video walkthroughs.

Using Camtasia Studio to Enhance Learning

Joe began using a technique called screencasting to create video tutorials to teach language teachers how to use web tools for creating podcasts and blogs. A screencast, also known as screen recording, is a video of a user’s computer screen. This recording often includes an audio narration and webcam video of the creator walking the viewer through the content.

With screencasting software Camtasia Studio, Joe could easily edit together a voiceover with a recording of the computer screen. For example; a screencast can use PowerPoint slides as part of a tutorial of how to use an online tool.

Joe comments, “When I first started using Camtasia Studio in 2007, very few tutors and school teachers were using podcasts and blogging as part of their curriculum. I saw these new web tools as a great way to enhance language learning, but also a real lack of knowledge amongst teachers. At that time there were video tutorials available on YouTube, as there still are today, but the quality between them was inconsistent. I had heard about Camtasia Studio through discussions with other teachers and was persuaded to try it out for myself. When I first started looking into screencasting, Camtasia had the best reputation amongst other teachers and it was always mentioned for PC screencasting.”

After using Camtasia Studio to create a few of his first video tutorials, Joe quickly saw the videos created were of a more professional quality and far better at explaining web tools than the free tools he had used previously.

Joe explains, “While free tools are satisfactory for creating videos, you often can’t edit within the application, limiting the level of engagement you can create. With professional standard tools, you can generate something more detailed and interactive for the viewer. Camtasia has increased video editing capabilities and the seamless workflow is really useful.

“The results from using Camtasia Studio were great. I was able to create clear and concise videos explaining how to easily make full use of new web tools. An interactive web tool cannot be easily explained by a Word document. The ability to easily share these screencasts with other teachers through our central server is really useful, as they can view the content as and when needed.”

Vital Screencasting

Joe has continued to use Camtasia Studio to create web tool video tutorials in his position of independent languages consultant and now at Vital, which he joined in 2011 as the MFL Portal Manager.

The training videos created by Joe at Vital continue to cover new web 2.0 tools. Recent subjects covered include Voki, which creates speaking avatars, and Wallwisher, an online noticeboard teachers can use for a plenary or homework task. The screencasts can be tailored specifically to a similar web tool or learning exercise, while maintaining a particular look and style that ensures consistency.

Joe comments, “With Camtasia you can easily set up specific templates to make sure that all the videos you create will have the same look and style. Consistency, such as a watermark and specific font and colour, are important in maintaining a professional look and providing the credibility of the training to the viewer.”

Once created, all screencasts are uploaded onto the Vital portal, part of vital.ac.uk, by each of the different subject area portal managers. These learning materials can then be easily accessed by tutors via the online portal.

Joe plans to continue using Camtasia Studio to create web 2.0 tool screencasts, but sees a future in tutorials that focus on using mobile apps. “An increasing amount of our time is spent accessing mobile devices and using apps, whether via a smartphone or a tablet computer. It makes sense to put an increased focus in the future of training for mobile applications.”

Top Tips for Screencasting

Joe Dale outlines his top-tips for creating engaging and effective screencasts:

Can you hear me?

Try to use a good quality microphone for any accompanying audio commentary. Using a low quality microphone can make the video difficult for the viewer to follow. One of the main problems with YouTube tutorials is poor audio will let down even the best looking content, making it appear less professional.

Block distractions

Where possible turn off any service like Skype or Twitter which can have notification messages suddenly appear while you are recording. Even though they are small disruptions, they can still interrupt a viewer’s focus and reduce the effectiveness of the tutorial.

Attack of the mouse

Avoid moving the mouse cursor on screen too much, as this again can be distracting for the viewer. When it comes to editing, a moving cursor can make it more difficult to edit together two recordings if there is a mistake. Very few screencasters will be able to make a perfect recording with no mistakes, so editing together different recordings will be necessary.

Keeping it short

Try to keep each screencast three to five minutes in length, as these make it easier for the learner to follow and can increase knowledge retention. For tutorials that are longer try splitting the video into separate chunks of information. Learners can then easily find a particular process or topic if they need to view it again to increase understanding.

Making it personal

Remeber that these videos will be viewed by a real person and, just like in physical lessons, praising your learners can be extremely beneficial for the learning process. By giving your audience a sense of achievement, they are more likely to continue onto the next part of the tutorial. For some tutorials you may want to include a webcam presentation to a physical classroom scenario, making the video more personal to the learner.


If your tutorial is referencing a specific website or web tool a hyperlink needs to be included either before or during the screencast. The latest version of Camtasia Studio allows for hyperlinking within the actual video. With this, a learner can interact with the website while following the tutorial.





About Joe Dale

Joe Dale is the Vital Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) Portal Manager for the Open University. Joe is also an independent consultant working with a range of organisations, such as Network for Languages, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. He is also the host of the Times Education Supplement MFL forum, a former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, a regular conference speaker and recognised expert on technology and language learning. He has spoken at conferences and run training courses in Europe, North America, the Far East and Australia.