Online Class and Training Software

Grades for my Spring class are done, and now I get to focus on my online Summer class, which started this week.  All of last week, I was madly recording lectures (because I am behind, as usual).  One question that I keep getting asked is: What do you use for software for your class?  So today, I am going to tell you a little bit about the new software that I am using and my success (or lack thereof) with it.

My current arsenal of software includes:

  • Adobe Captivate 5 ($299 for Educational Institution pricing)
  • Bandicam  ($39)
  • Adobe Premiere Pro 5 (part of the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection – $999 for Educational Institution pricing)
  • Adobe Media Encoder 5 (also part of the CS Master Collection)
  • Media Encoder x64 (freeware)
  • Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate (my private software – $65.95)

Captivate has been one of my primary tools thus far.  The feature that I like best is the ability to import my PowerPoint presentations and record audio for each slide.  Thus, if something changes next time I teach this course online, I can pull out the slide(s) that covers the change and quickly replace it without messing up the rest of my presentation.  It also allows you to create projects such as software simulations and image slideshows.  I am not a fan of Captivate’s screencasting abilities, mainly because they are more complicated than I need.  Thus, I am using a piece of software called Bandicam, discussed below.  Another issue that I have is that the version of Captivate that I have produces a .f4v file.  This file type needs to be converted to another format in order to use it with a service like Vimeo, which is where we are placing our library videos.

Bandicam is solely used for screencasting.  I use it to record examples of using resources online, such as locating and using legal encyclopedias in LexisNexis and Westlaw.  The software allows me to narrate what I am doing as I go along, and I can stop and start the recording as necessary.  It is a fairly simple piece of software, but it meets my needs for the moment, and I was lucky enough to find it for free one day on Giveaway of the Day.

Of the programs listed above, I have not had much luck with three of the products: Premiere, Adobe Media Encoder, and Media Encoder x64.  When Premiere works, it is a great video editor.  However, I cannot keep it working for long.  I am not sure why, but after a couple weeks, it stops loading.  The IT folks here at UF Law keep trying to fix it, but the last time it required them to reimage my computer, which meant that I lost all of my settings.  I am currently pleading with them to find an alternative fix.

The two Media Encoder programs, which are essentially programs that convert from one file format to another, have also not returned good results for me, although I am not sure if this is their fault or mine.  All I know is that I fed both a 20 minute presentation and they returned a 6 second video for me. Since Media Coder x64 is also a free program, recommended by one of our IT folks, you have to deal with a lot of advertisements, too, which drives me a bit batty.  The Wondershare product, which does a lot more than convert video types, including allowing for video editing, ripping, burning DVDs, and recording streaming media, has worked the best for me when it comes to converting my Captivate .f4v files to .mp4 or .avi. I just add the file that needs converting, select the format that I want as output and click the start button. I actually like Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate enough that I bought it with my own money for my home computer.

One final comment on using software for online courses or training: make sure that you have IT support to help you when you get stuck.  The UF Law IT staff has saved my bacon more than once, and I am forever grateful to them.  I was also given the best advice ever by one of them yesterday (after this post was initially written) who told me that I can just rename a file from .f4v to .mp4 without having to use a file converter. Now I have an even more streamlined system!

For anyone who wants to see a sample of one of my videos, see below (please note, this is an early video, so it is still a bit rough).

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