Loud and Clear: Best Practice Use of Audio in E-Learning

Loud and Clear: Best Practice Use of Audio in E-Learning

So you read our last blog, 4 Questions to ask before using audio in your E-Learning and decided that it’s for you – great! In this blog, we’ll explore the different ways you can incorporate audio into your E-Learning to help you achieve higher learner engagement and enjoyment.

There are 5 main approaches to using audio in your programme:

  1. The audio and onscreen text are exactly the same.
  2. Part of the onscreen text is read aloud.
  3. The audio summarises the onscreen text.
  4. The audio elaborates on the onscreen text.
  5. The audio replaces the need for onscreen text.

 

We’ll explore the pros and cons of using each approach and recommend which one suits each type of content. It is often not a case of choosing one or the other, but rather using a combination across your programme, depending on your content.

1. The audio and onscreen text are exactly the same.

This approach involves the narrator reading aloud each word onscreen verbatim. It is often the first approach most people think of when they consider adding audio, but it is often the approach that frustrates the learner the most.

According to a survey conducted by Don Bair and Mike Dickinson from Learning Solutions Magazine, employees almost unanimously agreed that:

  1. They do not want the entire course to be narrated, and
  2. They do not want text on the screen read to them word for word.

From a practical point of view, extensive audio content adds to the file size of your programme and therefore places a major burden on loading times. This is particularly frustrating for learners with low bandwidth.

This approach is particularly difficult to manage and maintain. Any time you update your content, you need to update the audio to match, and the transcript!

The only upside to this approach is that it accommodates learners who prefer to listen to large amounts of text rather than read it, but these types of learners are few and far between, and you may prefer to explore the use of screen readers for such learners.

 

2. Part of the onscreen text is read aloud.

This approach involves the narrator reading aloud key text such as introductory text and onscreen instructions.

It is minimal text but it is enough to guide the learner through the programme and encourage them to read on and learn more. We prefer this approach because it doesn’t burden the learner with too much audio but instead gives them autonomy over their own learning and to go at their own speed.

From a practical point of view, it results in a smaller file size and is much easier to update.

There aren’t really any downsides to this approach, except it might be difficult (at times) to identify which text to include in the audio and which to leave out, and it may sound formal reading aloud onscreen instructions.

 

3. The audio summarises the onscreen text.

This approach involves the narrator providing a summary or gist of the onscreen text.

If done badly or excessively, this approach may actually confuse the learner. While they are trying to read onscreen text, they may get distracted and confused by a different voice over.

If done well and minimally, this can guide learners through the programme – setting the context in a much more conversational and informal way than reading aloud all or part of the onscreen text. This is where audio really comes into its own – when the narrator talks directly to the learner in a much more casual and friendly tone.

If you decide on this approach, be aware that you need to create and update two different scripts – one for the onscreen text and one for the audio.

 

4. The audio elaborates on the onscreen text.

This approach involves the narrator elaborating upon onscreen text such as bullet points and key words. It means that you can have minimal text onscreen and full audio over the top.

This is quite a traditional approach since it emulates the standard teacher-led or PowerPoint approach of explaining key concepts and ideas. Learners are familiar and often comfortable with this approach.

Although this type of approach exists (and is often requested), we do not recommend it – good E-Learning is more interactive than this! Why not instead provide learners with a series of engaging scenarios to spark their interest and get them actively involved instead of passively listening to a voice over actor talking at them? You can always provide pre-reading materials or supporting information explaining the concepts and ideas that you want to get across, which learners can read at their own pace.

If you choose this approach, you must heavily rely on the use of quality audio and ensure that it syncs up precisely with onscreen text. When amending your programme in the future, it can be timely and difficult.

 

5. The audio replaces the need for onscreen text.

This approach involves the narrator reading aloud from an audio script that the learner cannot see onscreen. It is often used to explain complex concepts or processes, while showing visuals or animations onscreen.

This approach is best if you have suitable visuals to represent the subject matter. However, it is more expensive and time consuming to create visuals so you may want to use this approach sparingly or in combination with another approach.

 

We hope that you have a good idea by now of how you’d like to deliver your audio content, but we’ve created a nifty table to help summarise which approach we would take with different types of screens:

Type of Screen: Use Audio:
  • Interactive scenario screens (with introductory text or instructions).

 

  • Introduction.

 

  • Summary.
Approach 2: Part of the onscreen text is read aloud;or:Approach 3: The audio summarises the onscreen text.
Highly visual (explaining complex concepts or processes). Approach 5: The audio elaborates on the onscreen text.

 

About Maresa

Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning

 

Maresa is an Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning. She is also an avid fan of hill-walking and would love to be stuck in a lift with Andy Murray!

In her role as Instructional Designer, Maresa is responsible for working closely with Aurion client Subject Matter Experts and the in-house e-learning development team in the design and production of online and work-based learning materials for a range of programmes.

 

We would love to hear your experience with using audio in E-Learning – both successes and failures. Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

 

 

 

Loud and Clear – Four Questions to ask before using audio in your E-Learning

'Loud and Clear - Four Questions to ask before using audio in your E-Learning' and a picture of a speaker

Not all E-Learning programmes need to have audio, but it can help learners and create interest, if used well. This blog forms the first of a two part series which will highlight the different questions you should ask before using audio in your E-Learning and the different ways to incorporate it.

There are a number of practical questions you can ask yourself before you think about using audio. These will not only help you decide if you need audio but also how you might manage the recording and updating of it.

1. What technology do your target audience use?

 Is it likely that your target audience:

    • Have speakers or headphones in which to hear the audio?

 You can of course add audio transcripts for those that don’t have speakers or headphones, but it would be unnecessary providing audio if the majority of your learners don’t have them.

    • Have sufficient bandwidth to cope with a larger file size?

 Audio increases the file size of your E-Learning and it can significantly slow down loading times.

 

2.    What are your budget limitations and timescales?

Consider if you are willing to:

    • Invest in good quality audio.

This can be as simple as investing in a good quality microphone, and investing some more on soundproofing equipment. But don’t compromise on your audio. According to Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass at Stanford University, audio quality matters a lot so online learners are unforgiving when it’s recorded badly. If you are in doubt about the quality of your audio, have it recorded professionally.

    • Take the time to add audio to your programme and sync it up with onscreen text.

 This can take some time, especially if your text builds onscreen. Be prepared to add your audio at the end once all of your text is finalised and agreed, otherwise your audio will be out of date very quickly.

    • Provide and update an audio transcript.

 An audio transcript will help users with hearing difficulties read the audio at their own pace. If you add audio, make sure you are prepared to add this and update it when you make any changes to your content.

 

3.    Will your programme require any updates and if so, how often?

If you anticipate that you will make a lot of updates to your content over time, consider if you are willing to record new audio each time you make the changes. This is why deciding on the approach to audio is especially important from the onset – if you choose to record all of your onscreen text, are you prepared to record all of this content if you make even minor updates to your content?

 

4.    What is the nature of your content?

The subject(s) you will be covering will of course help you decide how much audio you will use in your programme. We’ll cover this in our next blog where we’ll explore the different approaches for the use of audio.

 

About Maresa

Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning

 

Maresa is an Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning. She is also an avid fan of hill-walking and would love to be stuck in a lift with Andy Murray!

In her role as Instructional Designer, Maresa is responsible for working closely with Aurion client Subject Matter Experts and the in-house e-learning development team in the design and production of online and work-based learning materials for a range of programmes.

 

 

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.