Monday, September 14, 2015

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