Monday, September 14, 2015

Twitter by Kate Lavelle

As a Communication Studies instructor who specializes in issues of Advocacy and Communication Criticism, evaluating new and popular communication tools is a critical part of evaluating how Advocacy works in American society. In the Summer of 2015, I taught an online course which was a Special Topics class focusing on Communication and Sport. One of the major assignments in this course had students study the use of Twitter by a professional athlete.

Twitter is a popular social media tool used by athletes and sports journalists to break news, interact with fans, and discuss a variety of relevant issues. Numerous communication scholars have examined Twitter to evaluate how a variety of social, cultural, and political issues are expressed by Twitter users. While Twitter is not the most popular social media tool in terms of users, because it is a public site that doesn’t require a login or permission to follow for public accounts, important sports information and discussion takes place via Twitter. Students do not need to be active on Twitter (or even have a Twitter account) in order to complete the assignment.

For the Communication and Sport class, each student chose an athlete to follow on Twitter throughout the semester. Athletes were chosen who were active on Twitter, and students applied a variety of communication and sport concepts to the tweets. Popular concepts included parasocial relationships (where athletes interacted with fans through replying or retweeting posts), issues of speaker credibility, and a variety of public relations strategies (where athletes promote charitable works and other interests using Twitter). Students provided weekly updates on their Twitter athlete, and then wrote a final paper using a communication concept and evaluated how this concept was used by the athlete. The goal of this assignment is to encourage students to think critically about sports media discourse using communication concepts.

If you are interested in learning more about Twitter, please check out their website.

Kate Lavelle
Assistant Professor

Department of Communication Studies

Zaption by Lema Kabashi

Want to make online videos come alive?  Try Zaption!  Here is a video based learning tool with interactive content. Zaption is a way to take existing videos or videos you’ve created and add interactive elements such as multiple choice questions, open response boxes, text, images, or drawings. Students respond to the elements you embed. This is a great way to introduce new content, activate prior knowledge, create review activities, and insert formative feedback into your lessons. 

If you have a YouTube account, you can easily upload your videos directly to YouTube from within Zaption. These videos are published to YouTube as unlisted by default, meaning that they are not searchable on and can only be found with a private link or from within Zaption.

I use Zaption in my special education courses as a way to highlight different instructional strategies and as a way to be more engaging in content delivery.  I have created many of my own videos (called video tours within the tool) with Zaption and often use them as part of D2L courses.  With this tool, I can create more thoughtful learning experiences and the students really seem to enjoy the difference in this type of content delivery. It’s not the same old thing.  I think they like that.  This method offers my education students more opportunities to see different ways of delivering content.  Some of the students have said they have used Zaption outside of my classroom.

There are many other ways that Zaption can be used in your courses. A Zaption video tour could be used to create a screencast or video of yourself as a welcome introduction, or as a quick review of material, or even a way to spark a class discussion.  The possibilities are endless.

There are both free and paid accounts with Zaption. In both types of accounts you can create and view tours. However a paid account gives you more advanced authoring, permissions, and analytics.

More information about Zaption and all its capabilities can be found here:

Submitted by Dr. Lema Kabashi, Department of Educational Studies

Alternatives to mybrainshark by Larry Schankman

For the past few years many faculty have relied on myBrainShark as their go to screencasting solution. Unfortunately, this service discontinued in August 2015, though existing presentations remain accessible until January 4, 2016. Sadly, long-term reliability is one of the many shortcomings of free “cloud” (i.e. web-based) services. Though one can still pay for a commercial account, pricing is both costly and on-going (depending on plan, approximately $400 a year). For information on their discontinuation, with steps for downloading or exporting existing content to YouTube, see their FAQ.

As an alternative there are several options, both free and fee-based. UW-L community members should begin with the commercial screen capture tool, My MediaSite. While storage and editing rely on cloud access, the university fully supports this resource on a local server. Review the Video Sharing page then download the desktop software. For tips and advice view their many Training Videos.

If you’re willing to pay for powerful software, the best screencasting tool is arguably Camtasia. Though cross platform, the PC version ($179) is much better than the less expensive, but less capable Mac version ($75). As a compromise, you could purchase Snagit ($29.95). Intended as a tool for creating and editing screenshot images for instructional infographics, this inexpensive software can also create lower-resolution screencast videos. As the major disadvantage of free or inexpensive programs editing is limited to simple trimming functions, whereas full-featured applications like Camtasia (or the $99 Mac-only ScreenFlow) include a powerful editor.

If you prefer free tools and plan to record short, simple videos under 5 minutes consider Jing. Created by the same folks who make Camtasia (Techsmith) this tool is easy to use but includes no editing capability. For recordings up to 15 minutes, consider either Screenr or Screencast-O-Matic (SCOM). Though more powerful than Jing, SCOM displays a watermark with the company’s name on their videos, unless you purchase a subscription to their Pro version for $15 a year. Screenr, from the e-learning company, Articulate, adds no such logo plus has the advantage of working via your Web browser with no software to install (as long as your computer runs Java). Other free recorders, without editing options, include the cross-platform media players, QuickTime and VLC.

If you intend only to narrate PowerPoint, there are several pricey options from Adobe, Articulate, and iSpring, all with the name Presenter (e.g. Adobe Presenter). These tools are very sophisticated but probably not worth the cost. Alternatively, you can upload and narrate PPT presentations via the Web using Knovio, a tool resembling myBrainshark (but perhaps better). Simply run your presentation in slideshow mode and narrate as you display each slide. Knovio is easy to use but requires you to cede control of your content to the cloud. Like MyBrainshark, there is no guarantee that the free service will continue and you cannot easily save a local copy.

Finally, Microsoft has recently created a plugin for PowerPoint. Though available for Windows only, Office Mix is free and offers several sophisticated capabilities for recording PPT presentations. Of course, you can still record directly in PowerPoint, though this option often results in outrageously large files.

For more information about screencasting, please visit:

Submitted by Larry Schankman, Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning