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Free-to-Use E-Learning Development 19: Techsmith Jing (Part 3) – Conclusions

Over the last few posts, I have been discussing TechSmith Jing’s still image screen-shooting and motion-based video capture capabilities. In the end, what did I think of Jing as a rapid e-learning content creation tool?

Well, read on…

In engineering, a period of rigorous testing is known as a shakedown. The purpose of a shakedown is to stress-test the components of the object being tested; statistically, a proportion of the components will fail after a relatively short period of use, and those that survive this period can be expected to last for a much longer, and more importantly, are predictable. I jingshook Jing pretty hard – as I do any application I test or recommend – to see if it would break. And it did not succumb.

Jing is not Snagit, and it is not Camtasia. The functionality of Jing is nowhere near the sophistication and power of its commercially-available older siblings. But that’s OK – it’s a free to use tool.

Jing does allow you to take a screen shot of just about anything on your PC or Mac. The captured imagery is of high quality, but you may only use the Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format. Similarly, you cannot edit images as such: more accurately, Jing enables you to modify graphics by adding arrows, text and a few shapes. It’s quite minimalist, but it may well be enough to suit your needs.

Regarding motion-based screen capturing: a potential ‘showstopper’ for content creators may be the five minute video duration: can you get your point across or fully elaborate a learning objective in five minutes or less? Some would say that all e-learning should be delivered in learning objects of this size: I would assert that this is unrealistic – you can’t address most subjects in single five minute video bites. Of course in a Constructivist learning environment, you may aggregate learning objects to great effect.

Another severe limitation is on the lack of video editing capability: if you fluff up, it’s back to the start and do it again, my friend! That said, I do like Jing’s integrated audio recording feature, something that isn’t always successfully managed by its competitors in this market space.

For learning professionals, the lack of support for e-learning specifications and standards is a concern, as is the lack of any facility to generate even basic metadata to accompany your rendered media.

I’m discussing these points in detail more to manage your expectations rather than to be negative about the application; Jing has a lot going for it.

Where Jing really wins through is in its immediacy and ease of use: it’s a wonderful reactive tool. If you need to quickly capture and distribute a  screenshot or short screen capture video (especially for internal organizational or institutional use), then Jing is both effective and fit for purpose. The application’s TechSmith DNA is very apparent in its very high quality rendered media, which is better than most free-to-use tools, and on a par with many professional screen capture programs.

From a usability perspective, Jing is pleasantly free of bloat: it does a couple of things really well and has no ambitions to be anything other than a handy utility. It’s also incredibly easy to use.

In a rapid e-learning context, I would not use this tool to create a full-blown web-based or blended learning course, but it is genuinely the type of app you could distribute to SMEs within your organization or institution to enable them to quickly create tutorials, demonstrations, and ‘how to’-style videos. As I said earlier, it’s reactive rather than proactive, so it’s appropriate for certain modalities of informal and non-formal learning scenarios. Does it have a place in a formal, long-term learning and development strategy? Probably not – it’s horses for courses: if your organization is smart enough to invest in developing a comprehensive training and development strategy, the funds will most likely be available to purchase industry-standard content authoring applications like Camtasia, Snagit, Articulate, or Adobe Captivate, as well as content distribution platforms like Adobe Connect as part of your organizational strategy.

I’m not going to do anything so crass as to award Jing a mark out of ten, as I’ve always found applying scores in this fashion to be arbitrary and heavily colored by the adjudicator’s biases and preconceptions. Instead, I’ve listed the important positive and negative aspects of the program below, based upon my experiences in media authoring and content development and as a learning professional. Your mileage may vary.

Benefits

  • Free to use
  • Very easy to use
  • A quite flexible image- and screen recording solution
  • Supports audio and voice-over narration
  • Useful for reactive, informal and non-formal learning interventions
  • Suitable for subject-matter experts and those with entry-level media creation skills and aptitudes

Disadvantages

  • Not as powerful as its commercially-available siblings Camtasia Studio and Snagit.
  • Restricted media output types
  • No editing functionality
  • Limited video duration
  • Lack of metadata and specifications & standards support is a problem (for me)

Finally…

In the end I suggest that you should take the time to download Jing; give it a go and see what you think. You’ll know very quickly if it works for your unique environment and circumstances.

4 Comments

  1. I love it. Use it everyday. But I was you could edit just a bit easier and save directly to flickr or site our your choice. I guess they want you to use screencast.com, but I don’t want to.

    Good post.

  2. Michael:
    Good synopsis of Jing’s pluses and minuses. Was wondering if you’ve given Pixetell a whirl. Very easy to use, can handle the longer messages well, many more options than Jing but less difficult and hefty to download and use than Camtasia. There’s a free 21-day trial; it does cost to use Pixetell but pretty minimal ($9-$19/mo) given the capabilities.

  3. Pingback: Screencasting Tools: Jing - TESIC

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