modern record machine player with creative commons text

The Sound of Teaching: Soundtracks and their Pitfalls

I frequently mention that YouTube and TedTalks have greatly impacted student expectations for what an e-lecture should look and sound like. There is a wealth of research on the apparently short attention span of students, so it is hardly surprising that short, flashy twenty minute topic-talks are starting to make their way into academic best practices. One common practice of the YouTube genre is the addition of low key soundtracks. These soundtracks play throughout the video, hiding edited pauses for breath, and generally bringing the content together by providing an interwoven emotional pull. But before you rush off to download your all time favorite soundtracks, let’s have a frank discussion about copyright.

Copyright and Lecture Soundtracks

Copyright and the music industry come hand in hand. Edited content on social media mainstays like Instagram and Facebook can still be removed for copyright infringement. YouTube also closely monitors uploaded content for copyrighted audio. For the average e-lecture, especially one hosted on Blackboard and behind the ATSU firewalls, you’d be right in thinking that your content is probably protected by educational Fair Use . That said, what happens when you want to share your content? How can you upload a sample lecture to YouTube or embed it on a personal website without creating potential liability?

I make no claims to be a Copyright expert. But I do monitor some of the best practices of educational content producers because I am a huge advocate of establishing a public, academic presence outside the classroom. Even behind the educational firewall, I’d recommend using music that is not as strictly monitored in case you ever want to re-use your content. How can you skirt copyright? By finding creative commons music that has been created specifically to be used “freely”.  I say “freely” because there are multiple layers of creative commons licences: some require attribution- allowing you to use the content as you see fit so long as you credit the original artist. Others come with conditions- that you must make your content open for use, or that you must not change or edit the content you are borrowing. Some require that your work be non-commercial. You can find an complete license list and explanation for the types of creative commons licences at the creative commons organization site.

You’ve made the decision to start using Creative Commons music- what’s next?

First, you have to find the perfect soundtrack. I’d recommend using Free Music Archive . This site allows you to search free or creative commons music, but be warned the process to find the right track can take some time. For the Free Music Archive I’d recommend starting by searching for Ambient, Instrumental or Electronic music. From there, you can use the search bar to get an advanced search where you can select “only instrumental” tracks and you can narrow down the creative commons licences. I’d recommend public domain or creative commons: attribution only (Remember to cite your music source if you choose the latter). After that you’ll have to click on a few tracks to find one that will work.

After you’ve found the perfect track, you can download the mp4 and add it to your presentation.

Top tips:

  1. Remember to add the attribution if the license requires it
  2. Keep the volume of your soundtrack consistently low- you don’t want it to take away from your content



Beyond PowerPoint- Boosting your Presentation Technology

As Faculty, you are probably familiar with PowerPoint. We’d like to show you some alternatives and options to make your presentation more engaging! With a wealth of technology available, why not take your presentation skills to the next level? Many of these examples draw upon PowerPoint, so you can easily adapt old slides and creating new ones will feel familiar!



Articulate Studio ’13 and Articulate Storyline are an add-ons to Power point that allow you to add quizzing, narration, and other interactive features into your slides. With Articulate you can publish your presentation in three different ways: in Flash; HTML5; and mobile, which is viewable, with a free app, on mobile devices, including iPads and iPhones.  You can import Powerpoints and do simple voice-overs, or you can create fully interactive scenarios that engage the learner.  Published files can be big, so they may take some time to upload to blackboard, but if you are familiar with PowerPoint, articulate should be just as easy. We have purchased licenses for this product for use by the ATSU community.

Your ATSU Lynda account offers training materials as well as this Articulate support site. We’d recommend checking out this site since it offers some great articles on course creation and improving student interaction.



Prezi is an innovative PowerPoint alternative that allows you to visually move through a timeline. You create content along the way in a manner similar to using PowerPoint. The Prezi conveys a greater sense of movement and interaction throughout the presentation. Like PowerPoint slides though, Prezi is not designed to be too text heavy. What is great about Prezi for classes is that it can be shared through a link. The link adds not only the presentation (with an audio option)- it provides access to slide notes too.

You can download Prezi here.



Camtasia is an integrated video and audio editing software that allows you to add captions, text, titles and transitions into your recordings. You can cut, edit, and split videos without having to re-record.   It can be used to capture screen activity with your narration and save it as a recording that students can play back. It also offers the ability to edit the video and audio after it has been recorded. Our instructors get free access to Camtasia, and it is installed on our ETDC computers if you wish to record in our offices. Camtasia also offers quiz features.

The ETDC has produced some quick tutorials and guides for using Camtasia.



Adobe Captivate is an amazing resource if your department has purchased a license. Adobe captivate allows you to use fairly standard Adobe Photoshop editing tools on slides. The software allows you to add and upload content. It also supports responsive movement, quizzing and drag-and-drop elements.Captivate also offers an iPad app and an asset store.



SlideDog is the perfect example of a way to create a glitch-free presentation that pulls from multiple resources. If you’ve ever wanted to open a link to a browser window half-way through class and then had difficulties either connecting to the Internet or navigating seamlessly back to your presentation, this may be something you want to look into. It works really well for transitioning between different formats (and diversity in formats can help improve student engagement). You can also live stream or record your presentations.




Projeqt allows you to weave together multiple sources into a single presentation. The website pushes live content, however you can add audio notes, stream videos and include web links. This is the perfect tool to pull in online resources that you’ve come across or that you previously had your students look at outside of your presentation. It doesn’t offer many layout options, but it does make for a visually compelling narrative.

Want to see an example? Check out WebMD’s executive creative director’s John Weiss portfolio.



Are you uncomfortable or tired of having your face on all your video recordings? You can easily create animations to talk in your place to add to your other presentation software. You can upload audio and in a couple steps manipulate your avatar to lip sync it, and then load your avatar into a variety of compatible presentation software.We don’t necessarily recommend adding an Avatar, but if you want to switch it up, we threw in this resource as a bonus!

Not sure how what programs you can use to record the audio or add screen capture to these presentations? Check out our LibGuides on Windows or iOS resources!