If you’re new to creating software training—and even if you’re not!—you might use the terms screencast and software simulation interchangeably. But did you know they’re actually two different things? It can be easy to get these terms confused, so let’s walk through the nuances that differentiate these two methods and explore the use cases for each.

Screencasts 

Screencasts are videos that show a recording of your computer screen. They’re often used to demonstrate the use of an application or software. They include all of your mouse movements and typically have audio narration that gives learners more contextual information about the process they’re seeing—such as the names of various software features or steps. Because screencasts are simply videos, they’re not interactive. 

When to use a screencast 

 Screencasts are great for creating simple “how-to” videos. This kind of visual walkthrough is beneficial when you’re trying to explain a process that’s too complicated to explain with written text alone. And if the process isn’t something learners will be doing frequently, screencasts can be a helpful performance support resource that learners can easily reference in the future. 

How to create a screencast

If you have Articulate 360, you already have access to not just one but TWO apps that are specifically designed for screencasts: Peek 360 and Replay 360. Learn more about when to use each app in this article: How to Decide Which Articulate 360 App to Use for Screen Recording.

Want to see an example? 

Watch the “How to Add Comments in Review 360” screencast I created with Peek 360 below. This screencast provides a short overview of how to provide feedback on courses in the Review 360 web application. It’s perfect for an audience who may be comfortable with web-based technology and already have familiarity with Review 360. The screencast focuses on a simple process. It’s clear, concise, and to the point. 

 So, how does a software simulation differ? Well, I’m glad you asked. 

Software Simulations 

While you also have to record your screen to create a software simulation, the major difference is that instead of simply showing the learners what to do, you give them the opportunity to try it out for themselves. They’re called simulations because you simulate the software’s interface by recording it and turning that recording into an interactive practice environment for learners. They can go through and click on all the buttons—like you did when you recorded it. It’s almost as if they’re using the software themselves. 

The advantage of doing it this way—versus simply having them use the actual software—is that you can build in on-screen explanations and feedback to guide them as they practice. Software simulations are usually the go-to for creating software training because they provide learners with a risk-free environment to help them learn a new app or process. 

Another thing that sets simulations apart from screencasts is that you can test your learners’ understanding by creating a simulation that’s graded. For every click in the right spot, learners can earn points. And for clicks in the wrong spots, points can be taken away. It’s a great way to ensure learners have understood how to complete specific processes within an app or software.

When to use a software simulation 

Interactive software simulations are ideal when you want learners to physically practice using the software themselves—including entering data, interacting with drop-down menus, and identifying multiple steps in a more complex process. Software simulations give learners an opportunity to practice using the proper click-path of a specific process or software without fear of impacting the actual production environment or ruining any real-life data. With software simulations, you can put your learners in the driver’s seat so they can deepen their knowledge of a process, gain experience, and build confidence in using an app or piece of software. 

How to create a screencast

Articulate 360 subscribers can use Storyline 360 to create software simulations quickly and easily. Want to learn how? Here’s a tutorial that’ll help you get started: Creating Software Simulations in Storyline 360

Want to see an example? 

Explore the software simulation created with Storyline 360 below. In this example, users learn how to get started using the Review 360 web application. This simulation walks through four basic steps that you need to know how to do if you’ll be using Review 360. You’ll notice that because learners actually click through the software themselves, they must pay closer attention to each step in the process. 

This simulation is perfect for an audience who might not be as familiar with web-based technology or for users who are brand new to navigating Review 360. With simulations, learners can confidently navigate a new application because they’re practicing in the safety of a learning environment.  

View example

More Resources

Now you’re well on your way to identifying the nuances between screencasts and software simulations and you should be able to use these terms confidently when tackling your next project! To help you keep everything straight, I’ve outlined the differences in the handy table below. 

 

Screencasts

Software Simulations

Use case

Demonstrate a simple, straightforward process. 

Train learners on a complex process through interactive practice and/or assessment opportunities.  

Interactive

No

Yes

On-Screen Hints & Feedback

No

Yes

 

Looking for more best practices around creating screencasts and software simulations? Check out these resources! And let us know in the comments what screencasts and software simulations you’ll be creating next. 

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