Recording lectures on snow days

Like much of the East Coast, we have been hit this week with snow storms. With the University closed last Tuesday due to the snow, it is a time when some instructors might be interested in recording their lectures and distributing those lectures to their students rather than holding class face-to-face. With that in mind, I spent some of today reviewing the processes for creating videos of slide presentations with accompanying voice narration in the two most popular platforms for creating slide shows, Powerpoint and Keynote. Both of these platforms have very nice features for recording your voice as you go through your slides. All you really need to make this work is the software, an existing presentation, and some sort of microphone attached to your computer. That being said however, there are some important differences.

Keynote, as you might imagine, is intuitive and easy to use. You can create your presentation in Keynote or open a Powerpoint file and build upon that. The recording features are equally simple to use. When one chooses to record a session, the software provides an interface that includes a visualization of the sound levels (so you know your microphone is actually working) and images of the current and next slides.  You can also choose to display presenter notes, a clock or a timer if you wish. As you progress through the presentation, clicking the space bar to forward to the next slide, your voice is recorded together with any audio or video you might have embedded in your presentation. When you reach the final slide and would like to finish your recording, simply press the record button again to stop the recording. You can then export your presentation as a Quicktime file (an m4v file) and that file can be shared with your students.

In Powerpoint, things are a bit more complicated, perhaps a bit less intuitive, but basically work the same way. Depending on your version of Powerpoint, when you click the ‘Record Slide Show’ button, you are taken to a recording interface in which you can see the current and next slides, pause button, and a timer indicating the progress of the recording. The interface does not include any indication of microphone audio levels which means it is very likely you will have to make a practice recording first before recording your actual presentation so that you can check the levels. Powerpoint is however in many ways a much more sophisticated recording tool and provides basic features that can be particularly useful when making longer recordings, which lectures tend to be. Powerpoint does not simply create a recording from beginning to end as Keynote does.  Powerpoint keeps track of the timings of each slide and captures audio for each slide in the presentation.  This means, crucially, that if you make a mistake, you can simply pause the recording, reload the current slide, and start recording again. Your new recording become the recording for that slide and the mistake is overwritten. This is an extremely valuable feature. It basically allows you to do in-line editing of the video while you are producing it. When you finish recording, you will have a continuous sequence of audio and timed slides. If you are on a Windows computer, you can export your presentation as a video file and share it with your students. If you are using a Mac, as I was, there does not seem to be any way by default to export a video file. I have no idea why this is so, but it is very frustrating. I was forced to send the presentation to a Windows computer, open it in Powerpoint, and then export as video.

Apart from these frustrations, the two software tools are not terribly different in terms of their ability to make video recordings of lectures. If you are the type of person who does not make mistakes or one who is not bothered by the fact that you do, Keynote is a very nice tool for recording lectures. If however you are someone who perhaps gets nervous when in the presence of a microphone, you might find the recording features of Powerpoint much more useful, but be aware that if you are on a Mac, it may be difficult to actually save your file.

If you would like to get more specific advice on recording your lectures in Keynote or Powerpoint, reach out to or drop by the Digital Learning Lab in the Lewis Library building.

Posted by March 17, 2017