Tips for Writing Narration Scripts for eLearning

“How can I write a good narration script that makes sense with what the learner can see on the screen?”

This is a question we get asked quite a lot during our training sessions. For some of us, writing meaningful narration whilst describing what the learner can actually see on the screen can be difficult and can also take some time to create. This blog post shares some tips and tricks to help write your narration scripts.

Tip 1: Think about the learner’s experience

I get a lot of courses to review and sometimes they are just rehashed PowerPoints with no thinking about the learners experience. Usually people just want to get their content on screen or are sometimes in a rush to please their managers, Subject Matter Experts, etc. This will not make a memorable learning experience! During some of my workshops, I try and get the audience to really think about the learner experience. Would you be happy hearing the audio read the text word for word? Probably not. Most of us will just read ahead or think the course is so boring, that we’ll keep clicking the Next button until we get to the end! We’ve all been there. To get people thinking what it’s like to be in the learner’s shoes, I like to show this example by Tom Kuhlmann. It’s an old, simple example but it usually gives people the idea. We look at which slides actually explain the concept in the best way. Then think about our own courses and how we can use these examples as a starting point to improve.

Tip 2: Write your narration script first

This was one of those ‘aha’ moments I had when I first started out designing elearning modules. One day I was chatting to a colleague about how I really struggled to build a course when I had been given the PowerPoint slides. I felt the text on the PowerPoint slides was really influencing how I designed. I couldn’t let go of my ‘PowerPoint baggage’!  My colleague gave me this great tip: write the narration script first and then design the slide the match the message. This involved me taking all the text off the slide and reworking it so that it would become the narration script. Then I designed the slide to illustrate what I was saying. This may not work for every single module you build but it’s a nice trick to keep in your eLearning toolkit when you are handed one of those really text heavy PowerPoints to convert to an eLearning module.

Tip 3: Write your narration script in plain English

So what is plain English? It’s not dumbing down or oversimplifying your message.  It is a message, written with the reader in mind and with the right tone of voice, which is clear and concise. The main advantages of using plain English is that it’s faster to read and you get your message across more often, more easily and in a friendlier way. Which is kind of the point of an eLearning module…right?

Some tips for writing in plain English are:

  • Keep your sentences short
  • Prefer active verbs
  • Use ‘you’ and ‘we’
  • Use words that are appropriate for the reader
  • Don’t be afraid to give instructions
  • Avoid nominalisations
  • Use lists where appropriate

All of the above tips will take some time to master and it may take a while before they are seamlessly integrated into your eLearning design. In the long run, it will hopefully lead to richer, more meaningful experiences for your audience.

If you have any tips that you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

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