My (free) Software Toolbox
I handle a lot of the tech issues that come up for online education, which means I need a fairly robust software toolbox. Here’s a list of some of the software I use that make my job much easier. All of these are free, and many are open-source as well, which means they’ll run on almost any platform you use.
Handbrake is a video transcoder. This means it’ll convert video files from one format to another, as well as recompress them to make them smaller. It even supports non-encrypted DVD format videos (if you have permission from the rights holder). MP4 format is pretty much the gold standard for online video compatibility, so I always throw any .mov, .wmv, or .avi files through this first before posting them online.
Audacity is an excellent piece of software for editing audio files. Even though I have access to a number of commercial sound editing software suites, I always end up just using Audacity. I use it to convert formats, trim, apply filters and clean up noise.
Our IT department installs VLC media player on all of our campus’s PCs, and yours should too. Simply put, it’ll play practically every video you throw at it. When students have trouble viewing videos embedded in Blackboard, I skip the formalities and send them to VLC.
Windows-only unfortunately, but 7-Zip will open pretty much any archive you throw at it. Windows has built-in .zip file support already, but 7-Zip is just so much better at it. 7-Zip also has the benefit of being able to open .iso files, for those times when you don’t want to mount/burn the disc image.
Jing is free screen recording software. It limits you to five minutes, but sometimes being forced to be concise is a wonderful thing for clarity. You can automatically upload the recordings to a screencast.com account, and then send links rather than having to figure out how to embed/post the video files. The only downside is the requirement of Flash to play the videos, which prevents iOS users from viewing the videos.
FileZilla is an open-source FTP client, used for transferring files to and from ftp servers. Okay, I don’t actually have to use FTP too often, but FileZilla is priceless for when I do need to. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is just to put the file on a web server and link to it that.