1. Madson, Michael PhD

Article Content

In nursing education, feedback on student writing has conventionally taken the form of written comments. But as Bourgault et al1 noted, written comments alone might not be ideal for the "net generation," students who have grown up with access to digital technologies, such as screencasts. The purpose of this article is to describe the use of screencasts to provide feedback on student writing, underlining possible benefits and challenges.


What Is a Screencast?

A screencast is a digital audiovisual technology that records what is displayed on the user's computer screen. As such, many screencasts include visual highlighting generated by mouse movements and, beyond the screen, voiceovers captured by a microphone. Two popular screencasting programs are Jing ( and Screencast-O-Matic (, which are available for free.


To provide feedback, instructors generally open a student's paper, expand it to the desired size, and start the screencasting program. Instructors can then scroll through the paper, speaking their thoughts aloud and highlighting sections, sentences, or individual words. Until deactivated, the screencasting program records everything done on the screen and spoken into the microphone. The resulting screencast can then be saved locally and emailed to students or uploaded to a website.



Screencasts may offer numerous benefits when used to provide feedback on student writing, including feedback timeliness, quantity, and quality. With practice, screencasts can take less time to create than written comments. For example, Warnock2 reported that, with written comments alone, he could respond to 4 drafts per hour. His rate with screencasts, however, was at least 6 per hour. The claim that screencasts save time has been both challenged3 and supported4 across studies.


Screencasts may increase feedback quantity compared with written comments alone. In a recent study, the 2 feedback methods were compared in 8 different classes at the undergraduate level.5 Transcripts of teachers' 5-minute screencasts averaged far more words (745 per paper) than written comments (109 per paper) on the same assignments. Students similarly have expressed that audiovisual feedback, such as through screencasts, supplies more information than written comments alone.6


Screencasts may enrich feedback quality in several ways. First, in addition to pinpointing errors, screencasts can show students how to revise, as the Conference on College Composition and Communication recommends.7 Students can receive feedback through visuals, motions, and sounds-not just text-which may be particularly helpful in online nursing courses. Second, screencasts have been perceived as more personalized, more conversational, and less punitive.5 Such perceptions may be significant, since nursing students have identified overly critical and insufficiently detailed feedback as not helpful.8 Third, screencasts can reveal instructors' emotions, making the process of evaluating writing more transparent.5 Perhaps owing to such benefits, students have reported that, compared with written comments alone, screencasts were more effective in improving their writing on subsequent drafts.4



Screencasts may also raise challenges when used to provide feedback on student writing, including the learning curve and individual preferences. The learning curve involves both technical knowledge and on-the-spot performance. On the one hand, instructors must learn a screencasting program, finding ways to keep a screencast's file size relatively small for accessibility. On the other hand, instructors must learn to speak, scroll, click, and highlight in real-but limited-time. Jing limits screencasts to 5 minutes, and the free version of Screencast-O-Matic, to 15 minutes. Consequently, screencasts require some planning,9 especially for literature reviews, dissertation chapters, papers for publication, and other lengthy writing assignments.


Another challenge is individual preferences. Although scholarship generally supports screencasting, some students may doubt the usefulness of screencasted feedback on their writing, and some may prefer written comments instead. In a small-scale study of undergraduate students, for example, 5 (9%) of the 63 participants indicated a preference for written comments over screencasts.10 That preference may have been due, in part, to the screencasts' poor audio quality.



Possible challenges considered, screencasts may be used to enhance feedback on student writing-in particular, feedback timeliness, quantity, and quality. Granted, much current scholarship has considered screencasts in isolation from, or in opposition to, written comments. But the 2 methods are not mutually exclusive, and for many students, a combination might be best. Thus, when deciding how to provide feedback on student writing, instructors should consider what the assignment requires, what screencasts and written comments can do (and cannot do), and what may help their students most.




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7. Conference on College Composition and Communication. CCCC position statement on teaching, learning, and assessing writing in digital environments. Conference on College Composition and Communication Web site. Accessed January 9, 2017. [Context Link]


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10. Ali AD. Effectiveness of using screencast feedback on EFL students' writing and perception. Engl Lang Teach. 2016;9(8):106-121. [Context Link]