Desktop Lecture Capture Methods

From E-Learning Faculty Modules


Module Summary

If the classroom lecture is a central part of face-to-face (F2F) learning, then, too, the videotaped lecture / demonstration and desktop lecture (screen capture) also plays a fairly critical role in an online learning course or module. Such digitized lectures enable several critical achievements:

  • the conveyance of important information to learners;
  • the focus of critical learning points to learners;
  • the communication of telepresence and instructor personality and approaches to the students

Such lectures are digital artifacts around which learners may engage. These are replayable and reviewable. Further, if they are well-designed, they will also be fully accessible, with the contents delivered in multiple channels (such as audio, textual, and visual).

This module highlights a particular class of lecture captures—particularly—desktop lecture captures. These are lectures that may be created by an individual at his / her desktop using downloaded software, Web-based software, and the typical desktop or laptop computer with a webcam and built-in mics (or USB webcams and mics).


Learners will...

  • Explore what desktop lectures are (in their various forms) and how they are used in online learning.
  • Describe the methods for achieving effective desktop lecture captures—from the criticality of the prework, scripting, testing the technologies, the capture, and then the editing and post-production.
  • Consider some ways that learners can use desktop lecture capture methods for student presentations and projects.
  • Review some of the basic functionalities of desktop lecture capture software programs. Review some of the limits of desktop lecture captures.
  • Experience some online desktop lecture capture presentations that are state-of-the-art.

Module Pretest

1. What are desktop lectures? How are these desktop lectures used in online learning?

2. What are the various methods used for achieving effective desktop lecture captures? Why are the pre-work, scripting, testing the technology, sequencing, capture, and editing and post-production so critical?

3. How may online learners use desktop lecture capture methods for student presentations and projects?

4. What are some of the basic functionalities of desktop lecture capture software programs? What are some of the limits of desktop lecture captures?

5. What are some state-of-the-art desktop lecture captures that may be experienced?

Main Contents

Prior to the popularization of desktop lecture capture software, most lectures were videotaped using camcorders and delivered as video files to learners. Since the popularization of desktop lecture captures, though, the lower cost of entry for such captures has made these the preferred approach for some.

1. Desktop Lectures and their Uses in Online Learning

Desktop Lecture Captures

Desktop lecture captures are generally videos that may be captured while the presenter is at his / her computer work station or laptop. The software used for the capture may be desktop lecture capture software (or recorders), a web conferencing tool, webcam software, a camcorder on a tripod, or machinima capture software. These lecture captures may consist of various types of presentations (and combinations of elements):

  • simple lectures
  • brief video snippets
  • photos and diagrams
  • screenshots
  • audio files
  • laboratory presentations (even with multiple webcams)
  • narrated introductions of websites and software programs
  • interviews (as with a multi-way mic), remote audio-visual captures (interviews, panel discussions, and student work feedback sessions)
  • meetings and discussions (using web conferencing tools)
  • narrated slideshows and photo albums
  • machine cinema (or machinima) or video captures of 3D immersive virtual worlds

Virtually anything that may be depicted visually (still or in motion) and with sound may be captured in a lecture capture. These are often output as either proprietary file types (based on the capturing software) or as general video file types (like .mp4s).

Their Uses in Online Learning

Lecture captures play various roles in an online course. They may be anchors, with the instructor highlighting the learning in each module (or chapter or week or segment of learning). These may be used only for guest lectures. These may be used for student presentations of their work from distributed locations. They may be used to introduce technologies that will be used by the students.

In a learning module or in short courses, desktop lecture captures may serve as part of a learning sequence.

For online conferences, desktop lecture captures may be used for pre-recorded digital poster sessions. They may be used for “intersession” pieces for viewers who are not taking a break between live web conference presentations.

2. Methods for Creating Effective Desktop Lecture Captures

There are some basic methods for creating effective desktop lecture captures. The sequence of work will differ depending on the ultimate learning goals of the lecture capture and the type. However, the following offers some basic considerations.


Most lecture captures require some pre-work. This may mean building images, diagrams, audio snippets, video files, slideshows, or photo albums. It is critical to edit, revise, and spell-check all contents before they are finalized for use in a lecture capture. By the time the lecture capture occurs, it’ll be much more difficult to switch out slides or images or text—if mistakes are found (or if minds are changed).

Presenters may want to get the elements uploaded into the software for a live capture. Or, they just may wish to have the contents within easy access.

If websites are going to be part of the presentation, these should be opened in browsers and minimized or tiled behind the main screen.

If software is going to be introduced, it may help to have the settings of the software set up correctly.

Testing the Technologies

All the equipment and software to be used for the desktop lecture capture should be dry-run ad tested. This is to ensure that the microphone is capturing sound and that the level of sound capture is appropriate for the speaker (this may well vary between speakers). This also is to test the timings on the machine.

For the teaching and learning of math, chemistry, physics, computer science, and some other fields, some lecture captures involve sequential problem-solving on digital whiteboards / blackboards, with annotations made with a digital pen or stylus. Or the technologies may involve the use of an integrated development environment (IDE) for software technologies. Whatever the background technology, the pieces should be tested out and set for the optimal desktop lecture capture.


If the lecture capture will capture a narration, then there should be a light script created. This ensures that the presenter is able to hit the high points. If an automatic teleprompter is used, this may help the presenter time the elements appropriately. Also, having a script helps a presenter decide which words go with which visuals. Later, when the recorded materials have to be transcribed, the script should come in handy. The more complex a lecture capture is, the more useful a script is.


It is important to define the sequence of a lecture capture.

  • What is the opening like?
  • How will viewers be acclimated to the topic or context?
  • If there are procedures, what are the sequential steps?
  • When particular multimedia is brought into play and when?
  • What is the timing of the presentation?

It helps to hold some practice runs to see what works.


The actual lecture capture may involve the sole presenter at the work station or laptop with the various digital materials / software program / or other contents necessary for the presentation. Or, the lecture capture may involve a number of participants each with their part to present. Or the capture may involve multiple people interacting with each other.

During the capture, it is important to pace the work for clarity. Presenters should enunciate with clarity. The narration should follow the script fairly closely (unless the presenter prefers to “wing it”). There is room for innovation and going off on riffs, if that is what the presenter wishes to do. That approach gives a presentation a fresh and casual feeling and is often perceived by viewers more favorably than a buttoned-up presentation. (Context matters, so if the work has to be formal, that would be fine, too.)

A sequence or a lecture capture may be shot and reshot, recorded and re-recorded. A presenter may want to do lecture captures in segments, which may be stitched together for a coherent experience.

Editing and Post-Production

Some presenters prefer doing a once-through and then rendering and finalizing the presentation for upload onto a website or learning / course management system (L/CMS) or module or CD/DVD.

Another approach involves editing and post-production work. Editing allows for the omission of unnecessary video sequences. Some unnecessary sounds may be edited out. Digital imagery, video sequences, and lecture capture sequences may be integrated with a particular presentation.

Many desktop lecture capture software programs enable the creation of interactivity—such as short quizzes or activated URLs (for interactive video) or annotations of particular parts of a website or software tool. Editors may add in sound effects from the lecture capture software packages.

Once the changes have been made, it is helpful to run through the work. Some may even test the lecture capture with some students and colleagues for feedback and re-revision. Given the low costs of re-capturing a desktop lecture capture, some even decide to re-capture certain segments.

When the work is finalized, it may be rendered and uploaded for delivery to learners.

3. Desktop Lecture Capture Methods for Student Presentations and Projects

Some instructors require that their students create presentations for their online learning courses. This may be done using some free tools, like Jing and Skype or others. Or the online classes may include a third-party software package that enables such desktop presentation captures (such as Wimba or Adobe Connect or others).

Some presentations may be collaborative, with multiple students working together on a project.

Generally, instructors define the parameters of the work using rubrics, checklists, and directions—to describe the scope of the work and expectations for quality. Generally, it’s a good idea to plan in the incremental build-up work for the various pieces of the project. This way, students may get feedback from the instructor as the work progresses. The finalized presentation should not come as a shock to the instructor, but it should be a culmination of the coursework.

4. Basic Functionalities of Desktop Lecture Capture Software Programs / Some Limits of Desktop Lectures

Basic desktop lecture capture software programs enable the following:

  • the capture of any 2D visual that is represented on a computer monitor
  • the simultaneous capture of audio
  • some limited “motion capture” of videos
  • very limited capture of machinima from a 3D immersive virtual world (because of the level of detail in such virtual worlds and inherent latency challenges as well as rendering problems—depending on the size of the screen during capture)
  • post-production editing capabilities (adding and cutting various sequences, inserting transitions or segues, and other features)
  • the addition of textual annotations to a lecture capture
  • the introduction of some forms of interactivity
  • the design of some forms of branching logic in a learning sequence
  • the activating of URLs to be clickable
  • the exporting of the captured presentation as various video file types

Basic desktop lecture capture tools do not enable distance video captures (the way web conferencing tools enable). Functions vary depending on which software package is being used. It’s important to spend sufficient time comparing technologies before making decisions.

5. State-of-the-Art Lecture Captures

What the “state of the art” is in terms of lecture captures really varies based on the particular learning domain. Some subject matter experts (SMEs) and instructors have more practice than others in communicating using this method, and their materials may be slicker than others.

A lecture capture may be evaluated on a range of factors:

  • the originality of the information
  • the coherence of the presentation
  • its learning value and clarity
  • its accessibility (alt-texting of images, transcriptions of audio, and having multiple perceptual channels for information)
  • its sense of style
  • its effectiveness in communicating a sense of the presenter

Technologies that are effective in online learning should not draw attention to themselves but rather showcase the learning contents.

While desktop lecture captures are discussed here in the context of online learning, such captures may be delivered on a website for self-learning. Or they may be an augmentation to a F2F course. Many courses now assign students to review certain lectures before coming to class. In class, students are expected to apply the learning in groups, in problem-solving, and / or group discussions. Or they may be part of a massive open online course or MOOC.


Some Examples of Lecture Captures

Khan Academy

Prezi Samples


How To

Please see “2. Methods for Creating Effective Desktop Lecture Captures “ above.

Possible Pitfalls

Desktop lecture captures, if they are not designed effectively, may be less engaging than other forms of presentation and interactivity. If these are over-used in online learning, they may lose their effectiveness as well. In other words, desktop lecture captures are one tool to capture and present materials to learners, but these should be used in coordination with a range of possible options.

For lecture captures that are automated “built” systems that run in smart classrooms, there are some “pitfalls.” For these, instructors should get media rights releases from students. Further, whatever is captured should be made accessible, with transcripting of audio. Such captures are also more difficult to edit, so if contents are accidentally included, it may be a little unwieldy to edit those out.

Module Post-Test

1. What are desktop lectures? How are these desktop lectures used in online learning?

2. What are the various methods used for achieving effective desktop lecture captures? Why are the pre-work, scripting, testing the technology, sequencing, capture, and editing and post-production so critical?

3. How may online learners use desktop lecture capture methods for student presentations and projects?

4. What are some of the basic functionalities of desktop lecture capture software programs? What are some of the limits of desktop lecture captures?

5. What are some state-of-the-art desktop lecture captures that may be experienced?


Extra Resources

Voice over IP (VOIP) Tools

Some Desktop Lecture Capture Software Tools

Adobe Captivate

TechSmith Camtasia

Telestream, Inc. Screenflow

Jing (freeware but with some limitations)

Prezi: The Zooming Presentation Editor (a Web-Based Tool)

Web Conferencing Tools


Adobe Connect