Audio and Narration in e-Learning: Pros and ConsPosted: 12.03.2012
First things first, I’m really glad to finally be writing a new blog post because I realize it’s been over a month since I’ve posted and I feel very guilty about it! October was pretty hectic due to the fact that I was attending DevLearn 2012 in Las Vegas. I am actually planning on writing a post about my experience at DevLearn in the near future since it was both my first time attending a conference and my first time public speaking/presenting. It was a great experience and a lot of new lessons learned for me.
That being said, I was recently inspired to write this latest blog post from something that occurred at work! I’m working on an e-learning project now and I was recently looking into the pros and cons of adding audio to the e-learning course I’ve developed. I decided to compile a bit of my research and write about it!
I’ve come to find out that adding audio to an e-learning project is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There is a lot involved in the process, there is lot to know before you get started and finally there is a lot of room for error! So how do you decide if you need narration/audio in your project? As with all media in your e-learning projects, you should only use narration IF there is a clear instructional purpose behind it (and not “just because”). From what I can gather, there are three types of audio used in e-learning:
- Narration (which has four “subtypes”)
- Elaborative (on-screen text summarizes the audio)
- Paraphrasing (audio summarizes the on-screen text)
- Verbatim (reading exact words on-screen)
- Descriptive (audio describes image on-screen)
- Sound effects
After doing a bit of research on the topic I’ve discovered that there is much debate surrounding which “type” of narration is best for learning. The kind of narration you should use in your projects seems to depend greatly on the specifics of the project (time, talent, budget) as well as what the subject matter is. So which content should you narrate? There are a couple of scenarios where it might be more worthwhile to use narration. For example, when you need to explain a complex definition or process, or when demonstrating situations such as interview skills or emotional interactions between individuals.
The pros and cons of using audio:
Let’s say you have decided there is indeed an instructional purpose for audio or narration, and you’ve narrowed down which type of narration you will use. The next question you might ask yourself is, who will narrate this course? Three ways to narrate your course include:
- A professional narrator
- An employee narrator
- Text-to-voice software
In addition to “the voice” you will likely need a couple of additional people to be involved in the audio recording process, likely:
- A scriptwriter
- A producer (this depends on the technical skill your narrator possesses, and if he/she can do the actual sound recording themselves)
Of course there are both pros and cons to using any type of narration in your project.
- Narration rule of thumb: 1 minute of talk time = 100 words
- Try to keep audio clips to 20-30 seconds (to retain learner attention)
- Find a balance between what learners should read vs. what they should listen to
- Allow users to have control over volume settings
- Have an instructional reason for using the narration or audio (not just because)
- Include a list of hardware and software requirements for learners to know ahead of time if they need speakers or a headset for audio
- Keep in mind that if your e-learning course requires audio, people who do not have audio capabilities will not be able to take the course
- Audio might slow down some learners since they have to go at the pace of narration
- Adding narration will impact on the amount of time it takes to complete your e-learning course
Finally, here are a few links to good articles about narration in e-learning that helped me write this post: