Screencast-O-Matic and Distance Education


Screencast O Matic logo
Screencast-O-Matic logo.

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

It used to be that if you wanted to browse a library’s bookshelves, check out a book, or ask a quick (or deeper) reference question, you had to visit the brick-and-mortar library building. However, that is not the case anymore – modern libraries have online catalogs that users can search, and those catalogs often include electronic books that can be downloaded into commercial e-readers and tablets. For those of us who prefer paper versions, those same catalogs offer features like remote requesting, book reservations, and even tagging options so you can tell other readers about the book using short and sweet descriptors.  

All of that is very exciting, but what happens if you’re not familiar with how libraries work (and you don’t want to drive/use transit to visit a library to find out)? After all, library anxiety is a real phenomenon that affects lots of library users. The term, coined by Mellon (1986), describes the initial fear that library users (in her study, college students) face when having to look for information in an academic library. Significant reasons behind their worries included:

  • the perception that their ability to use the library is lacking while others’ skills are good
  • their lack of skill is a source of shame
  • asking for help will expose their inability to use the library effectively  (160)

Subsequent library anxiety studies echo Mellon’s findings, expanding them to other library user groups and focusing on affective aspects  (Qun & Onwuegbuzie, 1998; Onwuegbuzie & Qun, 2000).

To help mitigate users’ concerns about the library (and to avoid that pesky physical library visit), I use tools that help me implement distance education. One tool I use is Screencast-O-Matic, which I discovered during my work here at KPK.

What is Screencast-O-Matic?

Screencast-O-Matic (SOM) is an online tool that records computer screen activity. The service also hosts SOM videos, creating a library for account users. Users can make their videos public via Screencast-O-Matic, download the files to their personal computers, or upload their files directly to YouTube.

SOM is a freemium service: a basic account with some features is free, and users can pay a yearly fee to get advanced features like longer recording times, video editing tools, and more. One cool feature that comes with the free version: users can annotate sections of videos – a great help for referencing web links, readings, and other important points that may be discussed in a teaching video.

Screencast-O-Matic at KPK

As I mentioned earlier, I learned about SOM while doing research for KPK projects. I needed a tool that would record Hallyu-related websites, and I also wanted to be able to keep videos showcasing artists and groups from the same entertainment company together. I also wanted to be able to host all of the videos in one place and download the files for future maintenance or archiving if needed. Since SOM allows me to do all of these things, I began using it for KPK’s Digital Documentation project. At post time, there are over 500 video recordings, which are included in other KPK projects, including KPOPIANA.

Distance Learning with Screencast-O-Matic

One of the things I do as an academic librarian is create tutorials that help people understand how to effectively use library tools like the online catalog, article link resolvers, and databases. I also give lectures to students in graduate Library and Information Science (LIS) programs.

SOM allows me to create on-the-fly tutorials for students when they stop in for Research Consultations or pop-in for a virtual visit at our library’s Ask A Librarian chat page. Since SOM creates unique links for each video, I’m able to send it to users and alert them to download the file for their own use whenever they need a refresher (yay, library anxiety reduction!). 

I also use SOM in tandem with Prezi, a presentation software, for my LIS graduate school lectures. That unique SOM link means that I can teach asynchronously – students can access my lectures on their own time and leave comments about my talk at the video site. I often use the video annotation feature to reference portions of my talk with readings they’ve been assigned.

Information Literacy Standards*: 1, 3, 4

The Screencast-O-Matic Interface.
The Screencast-O-Matic Interface. Credit: Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

SOM is very easy to use. All that’s needed is a computer, an Internet connection, and if you plan to talk, a good quality headset. Do you use screencast software? Which ones are your favorites and why? Share what you’re doing and what you’ve learned during your own screencasting activities in the comment section.

*ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education published in 2000. ACRL is currently updating these standards, and you may find the ACRL’s more current Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education document helpful.



Mellon, C. (1986). Library anxiety: A grounded theory and its development. College & Research Libraries, 47(2): 160-165.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J. & Qun, G. J. (2000). “I’ll go to the library later: The relationship between academic procrastination and library anxiety.” College & Research Libraries, 61(1), 45-54.

Qun, G.J. & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (1998). “Perfectionism and library anxiety among graduate students.” Journal of Academic Librarianship, 24(5), 365-71.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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