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5 ways to save fuel and staff costs by screencasting webinars

One of the more painful big money issues facing churches and charities are upcoming energy costs that will consume more funds once allocated to other endeavors; while forcing some locations to have black-out dates to reduce the high cost of heating a facility during off-hours. Not to mention the rising costs to staff and laypersons to drive to said locations during the week.

With such exorbitant expenses in mind, there are many online technologies now available to an ever growing bandwidth-enabled congregations that will allow them to save money by moving mid-week meetings and classes out of bricks-n-mortar places and into the web space.

Screencasting

Save fuel & frustration by Screencasting webinarsA good example of this is Screencasting, which the WikiPedia defines as:

“… a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration … recent products support more compact file formats such as Adobe Flash and have more sophisticated editing features allowing changes in sequence, mouse movement, and audio.

Just as a screenshot is a picture of a user’s screen, a screencast is essentially a movie of what a user sees on their monitor.”

However, it is an ‘how-to-screencast’ article I found over at Smashing Magazine that finally got me inspired to post on the topic of remote learning – especially when the author of the article asserts:

“Some companies have made a living creating a sort of “virtual classroom,” allowing members to learn at their own pace when they have the time using video tutorials. The advantages of the classroom setting stem from a one on one experience and the ability of the instructor to show the ideas and theories rather than simply explain them.”

More on how you would apply this in a moment, but first, let’s talk about what we’re screencasting …

Webinars

Also known as web-conferences, webinars allow groups to conduct live meetings or presentations over the Internet. In a webinar, each participant sits at his or her own computer and is connected to other participants via the internet. This can be either a downloaded application on each of the attendees computers or a web-based application where the attendees will simply enter a URL (website address) to enter the conference.

In some cases, the audio is conveyed over a dial-in phone conference channel, though I’ve heard of cases where small conferences reduce costs by employing Skype for the audio portion – be warned though that such alternatives fall into the perilous category of “you get what you pay for.

Some companies that offer some moderately priced webcast solutions are (in no particular order):

Recite live once, record and re-use often
Some of the above systems also provide easy methods for “hitting the record button” to create screencasts of your webinar … allowing you to present once, but view often anywhere, at any time. That said, make sure you can move such videos off their storage (for which they charge) and onto a plaftform like YouTube.

That said, you may want to employ the tools cited in the Smashing Magazine Article including Snapz Pro X, iShowU, and Screenflow for the Mac or Camtasia Studio 5, CamStudio, Adobe Captivate, and Wink for Windows, or Screencast.com that works on both.

There are also some other high-end webinar solutions that certainly “have it all” but are as a result are more expensive to use are: WebEx, LiveMeeting, Adobe Connect Pro, and Elluminate.

Putting it altogether

Now start thinking along these lines:

  1. Screencasting the slides and audio from last Sunday’s sermon and/or Sunday school class for those who may be physically impaired or otherwise unable to attend in person;
  2. Providing a study series of Bible studies and/or how-to-lessons that you present once online live, then offer for view over and over and over again to anyone at any place on the planet at any time of day or night;
  3. Record an online tour of what a visitor can expect when they arrive, where to register, where to take the kids, and where to find the free donuts and coffee (.… mmmmm …. donutsssss);
  4. Leverage the relatively inexpensive international conference calling capabilities of some of these services to hold in-the-field meetings with missionaries and/or on-the-road lay-staff (like I should have done via ReadyTalk last year while in Jordan or Malaysia); and/or
  5. Hold committee and staff meetings – even if you don’t record them – allow staff and laypersons to simply conference in from the comfort of their den, library, kitchen table, man-cave, etc …

It’s not as expensive as one might think, and compared to the cost of heating an entire building wing to hold a single, 30-minute committee meeting in a single room, it might be a real steal.

(Oh who am I kidding? Who ever heard of a 30-minute church committee meeting? Gad, I crack myself up sometimes!)

There’s also the saving in gas and time realized by not having everyone – especially staff members – come (back) to the church during the evening for such weekday meetings.

With all these cost vs. savings issues cited, I strongly recommend you at least read the advice offered in the Smashing Magazine article entitled ‘Screencasting: How To Start, Tools and Guidelines‘ as a matter of of stewardship.

4 Comments

  1. One tool that might be useful (if you can find a copy – I’m not sure if Jono ever found a new maintainer) is RaccoonShow. Essentially it takes an audio WAV file, a PDF of a presentation, and a text file which lists at which point in time the slides need to change, and converts it all into a flash video of the slides + audio.

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