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The Best Screencasting Tools for Classrooms

After dozens of hours testing screencasting tools, we recommend Screencastify for students and teachers.

Tanner Higgin | August 31, 2021

The beauty of screencasting tools is how easy they are to use, whether your students create videos to demonstrate learning or you record your own lessons to share with them. It can be tricky, however, to determine the best screencasting tool for the classroom, as most options have a limited free version along with a paid subscription.

If you currently have access to a premium Zoom account or a Google Workspace for Education account (with Google Meet), the recording capabilities of those video-conferencing tools might be all you need. Take a look at this tutorial on screencasting with Zoom or this tutorial on screencasting with Google Meet to learn more about their features.

For those of you looking for a standalone screencasting tool, we've explored the options available and picked apart everything from price to ease of use. An overall winner emerged, but depending on your needs, one of the alternatives (or free plans) might be a good fit. Check out our favorites below to find the right screencasting tool for your classroom.

Our selection

This is the tool we feel best balances everything you'd want in a screencasting tool, including simple controls, useful editing features, and an attractive price.

Best overall: Screencastify

While it's only available on Chrome, out of everything we’ve looked at Screencastify offers the best balance of functionality and usability. Screencastify is an extremely polished experience; it’s so well designed that there’s not much you’ll need to get started. The developers have also done a great job of adding the core features most people would need without going overboard. They’ve also innovated, added unique things that set Screencastify apart. This is the case with the Submit feature. With Submit, teachers can generate a quick assignment and then share a URL to students. That link lets students hop right into a recording -- no sign in or account required. It’s super simple and efficiently stores all the recordings in Google Drive. It’s one of those tools that could become a core part of your classroom workflow.

Like many screencasting tools, Screencastify offers a free plan along with a subscription. The free version, unlike some of the others on this list, lets teachers do everything the paid version can do, but with limits. The big limitation is that recordings are capped at five minutes. Still, this means if you an work within the five-minute limit then you'll get more features and functionality than the free versions of other tools.

Paid plans (starting at $29 per year for educators and $49 per year for everyone else) release the five-minute cap and allow for unlimited Submit assignments (among other things). 

Read our review of Screencastify.

 

 

Runner-up: Screencast-O-Matic 

Screencast-O-Matic is the most full-featured platform on this list. With a full upgrade, you can record and edit videos as well as capture screenshots. It’s also available to just about anyone (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook); although, unlike others on the list, it’s a software application, not a web-based extension. The tricky thing with Screencast-O-Matic is that it’s not as slick of an experience as Screencastify and to make use of the best-in-class video editor you’re going to need to do a lot of learning. (You also might need to fight through some frustration.) But once you come out the other end, you’ll have a set of tools that can make videos (not just raw screencasts) at a level of sophistication not possible with other screen recording tools.

With the free plan, teachers and students can make screen recordings and do some editing. Free recordings are capped at 15 minutes (unlike Screencastify’s five-minute cap), but include a watermark. The paid plans open up a whole host of advanced video-editing features from drawing to green screens to blurring. There’s also a handy automated speech-to-text captioning feature.

Read our review of Screencast-O-Matic.

Other recommendations

These tools were also rated well and are worth a look depending on your needs.

Best option for simple screen recording: Vmaker

Vmaker logoIf you've got simple needs and just need to record basic screencasts, Vmaker is worth a look. The free version doesn't have a watermark and there aren't any recording limits. While you won't have drawing tools or much in the way of customization in this version, you can quickly and easily record a video (screen, webcam, or both screen and webcam) and then download or send it. And if you do find out you like Vmaker, you can upgrade to the paid version and get drawing tools, 4K video, and more.

Read our review of Vmaker.

Great free option for creating and sharing lessons: Loom 

What earns Loom recognition on this list is that other people can comment on and discuss the screen recordings (without needing an account).  The catch is that, with an Educator account, only teachers can record and share the recordings, so students won’t be creating. There are other consumer-focused accounts that allow multiple creators, however, if you’re fine with having students sign up for individual accounts. The Educator version is a great option, though, if you’re just looking to create lessons that might get students more engaged with the content.  

Read our review of Loom.

Best for dynamic student presentations: Explain Everything Whiteboard

While not your typical screencasting tool, Explain Everything Whiteboard has everything students need to create lively presentations for iPad, Android, and Chrome and in a browser. Instead of recording their browser window, students start with a blank screen and pre-load slides, websites, images, videos, and more. Then, they record the slides as they speak, draw, and direct the presentation. The pre-loaded content guides students to plan ahead and arrange their thoughts before pressing the record button. It's a great model for building organizational skills.

The editing features can take some getting used to, especially for younger students, but once they've had some time to practice, the potential for creation and collaboration is off the charts.

Read our review of Explain Everything Whiteboard.

Others to consider

While we don't have full reviews of these tools, they're still worth checking out.

Easy and totally free option (if you have a Mac): QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player comes bundled with MacOS, so if you want a no-frills (and free) way to play and record audio and video, this is it. While there aren't many editing features embedded into the player, students can still record their screen or record through their webcam. Editing is limited to clipping, trimming, and rotating, but QuickTime Player gets the job done quickly.

Read our review of QuickTime Player.

For creating professional-looking videos: Camtasia

If your goal is to give students a platform for creating expert videos, Camtasia is one to watch. The particularly powerful video editor lets students add animations, sound effects, and even their own quizzes. It's not as easy to use as Screencast-O-Matic, and there's only a paid version, but it may give your advanced students the perfect place to demonstrate their talents.

Read our review of Camtasia.

See everything we've considered

The tools we've called out here are a small slice of everything we've looked at. If you prefer to do your own evaluation, find every tool we considered below.

These Top Picks lists feature every tool we think passes muster.

You can also use our site's search to browse our full library of reviews.

Our criteria

To help organize our evaluation of screencasting tools, we looked at a few key features and functionality:

  • Ease of use.
  • Design and engagement.
  • Video-editing features.
  • Customization options.
  • Classroom extensions.
  • Sharing capabilities.
  • Price.
  • Platform availability.

Why trust us?: Our evaluation process

Our team of editors and reviewers (all current or former educators and/or researchers) have painstakingly looked at dozens of screencasting and presentation tools for this article, and narrowed down 11 of them for deeper evaluation and consideration. Each app goes through a rigorous evaluation process by both a reviewer and an editor. This involves hands-on testing (including, in some cases, in classrooms or other real scenarios), rating according to our research-backed 14-point rubric, communication with developers and other educators, and finally a written review. We also consult our vast library of from-the-field reviews submitted by practicing educators. All told, each app undergoes at minimum four to six hours of testing and evaluation.

More information on our ratings and reviews.

Is there something we missed? You can request a product for review using this form.