One of the many skills that eLearning designers need is the ability to write clear and engaging audio scripts. Good narration should complement what the learner sees on the screen. At its best, the narration draws the attention of the learner to the key learning points, while at the same time making the learning experience far more enjoyable. In this post I will look at three considerations for writing good audio scripts.
1. Getting the tone right
Most eLearning courses require a fairly conversational tone for the audio. Usually there is one narrator (e.g. an SME, professional voiceover person) who guides the learner screen-by-screen through the course. The learners become familiar with that one voice, in much the same way as they do listening to a trainer/teacher at the front of a classroom.
So how does this affect the way you write the script? As a general rule, I would avoid overly formal language.
Compare the tone of these two sentences:
Example 1: Before the commencement of the course, you must understand the correct way to complete it.
Example 2: Before we get started, let’s take a moment to understand how to complete this online course.
The second example has a friendlier tone and is more likely to engage the learners. It is similar to the tone that would be used in the face-to-face context.
2. Complementing the visuals
It is best to avoid the narrator reading out exactly what is on the screen. If the narrator is simply reading out what the learner can read for themselves, it can make for a repetitive (and sometimes irritating!) learning experience.
When a new screen appears, the learners are instantly taking in the visual elements in front of them. Good narration supports what the learner sees. The narrator can serve many purposes such as provide background information, draw the learner’s attention to particular elements on the screen or provide more details about points as they appear.
In this example from a Fraud Awareness course, the narrator describes the fact that fraud against the Commonwealth is a crime (the script is on the left of the screen), and this leads into the specifics of the relevant legislation. In this way the narrator is providing the necessary background before the learner starts clicking the numbered tabs to read about the legislation.
3. Writing succinctly
When you write succinctly, it means you are not ‘waffling on’. There is no time in an elearning course for longwinded writing. Remember that learners are usually time-poor and they appreciate a narrator getting right to the point.
Compare these two sentences:
Example 1: Informal meetings are different from formal meetings. The latter have more requirements than the former. One point is that informal meetings are not so structured. Nevertheless informal meetings should still be called for a specific purpose.
Example 2: Although there are fewer requirements for informal meetings and they can be less structured, they should still be called for a specific purpose.
The second example gets to the point more quickly. It does not have any unnecessary words.
Good narration is clear and does not require a second listening to understand the meaning.
We also need to think about how much information the learner can digest on one screen. If the narration on one screen is too long, you may lose the attention of the learner. Consider shortening the text in the audio script and putting that information on the screen or in an additional document that learners can download. Alternatively you could split the content into two screens.
As always, it is best to put yourself in the shoes of the learner. Read the script aloud to yourself and decide if it is working well with the elements on the screen. Do this before sending the script off to be recorded. This will save you time and effort, while ultimately making the learning experience more enjoyable for the target audience.