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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Five Screencasting Tools Compared and Ranked - Fall 2020

The launch of Vimeo Record earlier this week made me think that perhaps it was time to write a comparison of popular screencasting / screen recording tools. For this comparison I selected the five options that pop into my head whenever I'm asked about screencasting (which has been almost daily since March). With the exception of Flipgrid all of the tools in this comparison have free and paid options. This comparison only addresses the features that are available to educators for free. If you'd like to see the comparisons in a chart format, I have embedded a chart at the end of this post (if you're reading this in email or RSS you'll need to click through to the website to see the chart). 

Common Features for All Five Tools
All of these tools allow you to download your videos as MP4 files which you can then upload to YouTube, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other video file hosting service of your choice.

All of these tools allow you to record your screen and your webcam although Flipgrid doesn't allow that to happen simultaneously (more on that below). 

My Rankings

1. Screencastify 
In the interest of disclosing my bias, I kind of didn't want to put Screencastify at the top because I'm still a little sour about getting rejected for a job with them. But after comparing of all these options objectively, Screencastify came out on top. 

Screencastify has the most integrated sharing options of the five tools in this comparison. The ease of integration with Google Classroom and EDpuzzle is particularly nice. What pushes it to the top are the drawing tools and editing tools that are available for free. There are some convenient tools for drawing on your screen while recording. That function is great for emphasizing a particular item on your screen or creating a whiteboard video with Jamboard. In the free version of Screencastify's editor you can overlay text on your video. That function is, again, great for emphasizing or clarifying what students are seeing. 

2. Loom
Loom offers a very generous package of features to verified teachers through their Loom for Education program. Those features include recording for up to 45 minutes per video, unlimited storage, viewing insights, and password protection of your videos. Loom also has a fantastic Gmail add-on that lets you record and send screencasts right from your inbox. If Loom had just a couple more editing tools (the ability to draw on screen would be great as would overlaying text) I'd put it ahead of Screencastify. 

3. Flipgrid/ Flipgrid Shorts
I have to clarify that for this comparison I only focused on the screen recording element of Flipgrid. Flipgrid has many other wonderful features that aren't directly related to screen recording. If you want to know more about Flipgrid's other uses, take a look at this playlist of videos

The nice thing about Flipgrid's screencasting tool is that you have access to it whenever you launch the Flipgrid recorder for any other video that you might make. You can also combine a screencast with a simple webcam video or whiteboard video that you make in Flipgrid. The downsides to Flipgrid's screencasting tool are that you can't use the drawing tools while recording your screen, there isn't a cursor highlighter, and you can't capture your webcam at the same time as your screen. 

4. Screencast-o-matic
I use the paid version of Screencast-o-matic for nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channel (an overview of the paid version is available here). The free version, however, doesn't measure up that well against the free offerings of Screencastify, Loom, and Flipgrid. 

The recording length limit on Screencast-o-matic's free plan is a generous fifteen minutes. And the cursor highlighting is fantastic. The ability to reposition the webcam cutout is also handy.

The shortcomings of Screencast-o-matic's free plan are found in the sharing and editing options. While you can download your video as an MP4, the only integrated sharing options are YouTube and Screencast-o-matic's hosting service. The post-recording editing options are also limited to just trimming your recording. 

5. Vimeo Record
This one only made the list because it was fresh in my mind after its launch earlier this week. It's so new that it might not be fair to even try to compare it to the well-established tools on this list. Vimeo Record doesn't have any editing tools, drawing tools, or integrated sharing options other than hosting on Vimeo itself. But at least you can download your videos as MP4 files.