4 Better Ways to Approach Audio Narration in eLearning

Audio can bring your elearning alive. Whether it’s a ‘guide on the side’ taking your learner through the learning content, a professional narrator explaining the module’s key concepts or just a rockin’ soundtrack and well placed ambient background noise, sound makes your course engaging and a pleasure for you learner to complete.

Of course like with most things if you don’t do it right, it can detract from your learner’s experience and be more of an impediment than a complement.  Ever completed an eLearning module where the narrator read…EVERY…SINGLE…WORD….on the screen? You hit the next button with every fibre of your being to escape from the monotony, where even reading a PDF full of content would have been a preferable option? Yep been there with you.

AUDIO FAIL #1 – Mandatory audio narration that repeats EVERY word on the screen

Having exactly the same information coming in from two different sources (voiceover and text) is redundant, and contributes to cognitive load. Learners have limited working memory to process what is being presented to them. When you present the exact same information two different ways at the same time, the learner is processing not only what they are reading, but what the voice over is saying AND how that applies to the problem at hand.

All of this excess ‘load’ will have an impact on their learning capability, causing it to diminish, and be harder for them to process and understand what they have learnt. There is no point investing resources into a learning module designed to meet an identified gap, if you are sabotaging the learners ability to process and apply that information by introducing cognitive overload.

From the learners point of view, they can also read what’s on the screen faster than what is being read to them. So it is extremely irritating when they read ahead and the voiceover is still plodding along reading two sentences back, stopping the learner from moving to the next slide.

There are better ways to approach audio narration in eLearning to avoid this, some are better than others and rely on what you know about your learners and the content required to be covered.

1. Allow learners to trigger the audio

There are some reasons that you need to narrate every word in your eLearning, either to accommodate audience accessibility requirements or to their different learning styles.  If this is the case, its easy in Articulate Storyline to have a button or tab where the learner can choose to turn the audio off or on.

2. Audio and text the same but only revealing what the audio is up to

Rather than having all of the text on the screen as the audio is read, only bring up each paragraph as the voice over goes through it. This could still cause cognitive overload on a smaller scale, but it manages the amount of processing power the learner is using on the text as the same time as the audio. Beware though, this can still be irritating to those learners that read quickly.

3. Audio with only key points in text on screen

The audio still covers all of the information, but only the key terms or points are displayed on screen in time with the audio. This may be in the form of bullet point summaries, or short sentences summarising the audio content.

4. Audio and images – no text at all

We all know the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”, well this is true in eLearning too! In this format, all of the text is removed from the screen, and as the audio reads through the content, images come up in time with the voice over to illustrate and reinforce the message being shared in the audio. The images may be photographs, illustrations, graphics or icons.

Take a look at this presentation built by Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate that demonstrates some of these different approaches to using audio in eLearning.

Looking at developing some eLearning with audio narration, then contact us to help. We have loads of experience and a range of professional voice talents to choose from.

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