Screencasting and its Implementation into Writing Centers

Whether you love it, hate it, or are afraid of it, Screencasting is probably here to stay because Edward E. would be very upset if it did not. With the official release of Screencasting as one of the now five appointment types we offer at The UCWbL, UCWbLers and writers alike have some questions and concerns about the software. To ease The Writing Center’s transition while they get accustomed to this new appointment, the Research team—with the assistance of Edward E.—chose an article that discusses the effectiveness and pros and cons of Screencasting.

 

About the Article

In the article Audio Feedback versus Written Feedback: Instructors’ and Students’ Perspective, researchers Andrew J. Cavanaugh and Liyan Song implemented the screencasting modality into four sections of an online composition course to see how it fares against the typical written feedback issued by professors. Seven students took part in this study, given feedback via Screencasting for two of three major assignments.

After receiving feedback for the three assignments, both students and professors felt that the feedback via Screencasting was richer in content and quality than written feedback. Students not only felt they got more from the Screencast feedback, but they also had positive things to say about the tone and structure, which they felt was more casual and personable in comparison to the more rigid, lecturing tone in written feedbacks. Instructors also felt that they provided more detail via screencasting, despite technological difficulties they were initially faced with.

 

So what?

This article, along with prior studies that have been cited, show across the board that screencast feedback is perceived as more personable and easily discernable than traditional written feedback. Moreover, screencasting seems to reduce “power play” between students and professors—blurring the lines between the two and diminishing formalities—thanks to the more natural conversational tone the modality allows for. Instructors use their own voice to give feedback that is characteristic of only them humanizing the experience for writers.   

Even though screencasting is more ideal in establishing rapport and fostering a more casual dialogue with the writer, it is not without certain drawbacks, especially concerning its applicability to particular assignment types as well as the types of commentary provided. Although the feedback has been said to be richer in content and detail, it has also been shown that much of screencasting feedback focuses on global issues rather than local. This means that errors in punctuation usage or grammar may be overlooked in screencasting in favor of overall organization and theses. This may not be an issue for writers who seek more general feedback on their assignments, but it may be detrimental for those who do need that specific feedback—especially if grammar and other local concerns aren’t their strong suit. This lack of localization indicates that screencasting may not be the best modality for copy-editing or assignments that are graded with much of the weight placed on mechanical usage. Written feedback seems to be the modality of choice in these instances.

However, screencasting could hold up well for many of the assignments that the UCWbL accommodates, those being centered around global aspects of writing. For instance, essays that have a greater emphasis on thesis and organization (e.g. argumentative essays) are more fitting for the modality. Additionally, screencasting is very interface friendly, with it being accessible on both mobile and desktop devices, which makes viewing this kind of feedback much more accessible for writers who can’t be on campus for extended periods of time because they commute, work, or have other personal obligations.

 

How does this relate to The UCWbL?

Screencasting, based both on what the article describes and anecdotal experiences, seems to postulate it as the new ideal appointment type for students, tutors, and professors—especially in comparison to written feedback. The authors seem to reinforce the notion that written feedback is less personable compared to the multisensory capabilities of screencasting.

In relation to some of the work we do here at The UCWbL, it might become a bigger part of The Writing Center in terms of how we do appointments and approach tutoring in general. Our core values here at the UCWbL, such as collaboration and transparency, seem to align with what screencasting seeks to do and what it is successful in doing when implemented properly. This new modality opens up a world of possibilities in terms of building rapport with writers, fostering positive peer-to-peer connections, and providing clear feedback accessible to all.

In terms of rapport building, the multisensory nature of screencasting, the leniency of tone, and the informality of comment delivery lends itself The UCWbL’s goals and tenets. With rapport being a key tenet of The UCWbL and our relationships with writers, this modality seems ideal modality to develop and foster positive tutor-writer connections.

 

Future steps

These different elements of screencasting may factor into how screencasting is taught to tutors in the UCWbL and tutors in other writing centers. For one, addressing both global and local concerns should be emphasized due to the diversity of the assignments and agendas we receive on a regular basis. This could be easy to implement by holding screencasting to the same standard as other appointment types: one tutoring approach may not necessarily work for all appointments, so adjustment and flexibility is key. Due to the audio-visual blend of screencasting, this could be done with relative ease.

Beyond this, the scope of training in screencasting will likely need to cover topics about the technology and tone mastery. This may require a repetitive training intervention that may last for a certain amount of time before diving into an official appointment with a writer. This would ensure that the tutor is not only well-versed in screencasting but also comfortable with the format and confident about being both effective and competent in providing feedback via screencasting. Adjustments to both the modality itself and the training method can be made if necessary.

It doesn’t have to stop there either: screencasting training does not have to be condensed into a crash course entitled Screencasting 101. The modality lends itself to the possibility of being divvied up into various training interventions. Perhaps we could see screencasting being taught and trained for through inservices or a Coffee and Commenting. They could cover a variety of topics, such as formalities in tone and awareness of the peer-to-peer dynamic, audio-visual activities and aids, or even the differences between screencasting and written feedbacks. The possibilities are endless!

 

Conclusion

In the wake of screencasting, many questions have come up both around how to utilize the modality to its full potential and what kind of effect it could have on writers and the UCWbL’s—along with other writing centers’—practices. This article implies that screencasting is ideal in maintaining an amiable, balanced relationship between the writer and whoever may be providing them feedback on their draft, which aligns with many of the values held by the tutors and staff at The UCWbL.
Moreover, screencasting seems to leak into various other domains, such as collaboration and of course modality application for both various types of projects and training interventions for new and returning UCWbLers. After reading the article, what are your opinions on Screencasting? Do you think it will become an integral part of the UCWbL?