Are you making these common audio mistakes?
Audio is an essential element of eLearning, but the problem is that many organizations get it wrong. High quality sound will lead to better learning outcomes. When we talk about sound quality, we’re not just talking about its technical nature. We’re talking about the value it provides to the overall eLearning experience. The most successful eLearning solutions are all-encompassing and provide students with an immersive learning experience. These courses achieve this by incorporating various media elements. Audio is one of the most popular features, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Course owners need to use audio in the right way to create the best learning experience and get full value from an eLearning program. Only by avoiding the pitfalls of audio can we hope to create the engaging learning experience your audience craves.
Pitfall #1: Text matching audio on screen
One of the biggest mistakes we see in eLearning courses is when the narrator reads the text as it appears on the screen. Many eLearning platforms struggle because their libraries are based on this approach. In the past this was considered acceptable, but today students expect a more efficient and seamless experience. Students process text and audio in different ways, so they gain nothing from audio that copies the text word for word. In fact, vital information is being lost. Numerous studies support us on this point, the most significant of which is Clark and Mayer’s Redundancy Principle. This study tells us that having an audio that reads a text word for word is redundant because people cannot learn from both at the same time.
Additionally, people process text and audio at different speeds, so their brains are thrown off by the mismatch in the speed at which they process them. Individuals listen to audio more slowly than they read. Students can play the audio, but they cannot speed up the audio. They don’t have the same level of control over content.
Text and sound require a unique approach if they are to be effectively combined. One example is merging audio with on-screen movement during a video tutorial. Another example is using animation to illustrate important points from audio. Students can focus on short visual bursts such as charts and still process audio. In fact, when image and sound are effectively merged, it greatly enhances the cognitive experience. Any text used on the screen must be brief and kept to a minimum so as not to overload the listener’s brain. Another option is to time the text so that it does not overlap with the sound.
Pitfall #2: Audio in eLearning is often dry and boring
Dry, boring audio narration is more common than you might think. Listening to someone read a PowerPoint presentation line by line is not engaging. Just staying awake takes all your energy. Which student wants to listen to someone reading a message? Save these messages for the general meeting of shareholders.
It all starts with a script. There is a big difference between writing text for readers and writing a script to be read aloud. Written text such as blog posts, articles, manuals, policies, and even PowerPoint presentations are not appealing when spoken. On the other hand, an instructional designer writes scripts with the storyteller in mind. They are short and to the point to provide information as succinctly as possible. An instructional designer carefully creates a scenario to bring the course to life and introduce key concepts. The script gives the storyteller the information he needs to get the message across, but leaves room for him to add his own skills and personality.
Engaging storytelling is a form of acting. A good voice artist requires attention. They provide sound with the right intonation and can add emotion to a voice. The voice talent will change their tone and add emphasis to certain points. He pauses when necessary to give the listener time to absorb the information. Voice talent also identifies with the target audience so they are able to find a voice that speaks directly to them. It brings sound to life in every direction and creates an engaging experience.
To overcome this problem, you need two essential elements – a screenwriter and voice talent. Having just one or the other is not enough. You must have both. If one is missing, the whole experience suffers. A well-written script is still essential even with AI-generated voices narrating. The use of contractions, welcoming language and friendly speech patterns are essential. Without it, the sound is both emotionless and difficult to understand.
Pitfall #3: Sound upgrades can be expensive
Audio is considered much less flexible than text when it comes to updating it. Using text, you can easily identify information and then quickly change the words you need. But for audio, updates require a stricter process. If you want to change a single word on an eLearning page, you will need to replace the entire audio file.
As a result, sound can seem like a less flexible approach. The training materials are outdated and the audio inevitably needs updating. Professional voice talent can upload new clips, but keep in mind that they may not be a perfect match. Voice talent can control ambient noise in a room, but they can’t always recreate the same vibrancy and expression in a recording. That’s why it’s important to create a voice for course content that isn’t likely to change and sign off on the script.
Pitfall #4: Audio in eLearning is prone to distraction
Audio in eLearning cannot be accessed all the time. Some environments have too many distractions. Therefore, a clear personality of the student is important. For example, if many students are attending training while commuting, they may not be able to fully engage in the lesson if there are noisy people around. We need to consider these scenarios when creating an eLearning environment.
Despite all the obstacles that arise, audio in eLearning can be extremely powerful when properly integrated. That’s the key. Integrate it the right way and you’re left with content that engages your learner based on your learner persona. Get it wrong and you’ll be dealing with one of the pitfalls on this list.
Pitfall #5: Poor sound quality
Quality is a word that is thrown around by everyone. But sound can affect how people learn your material. That being said, the right voice talent and script are essential to creating an amazing audio experience. If you decide to have someone create the commentary internally, make sure they understand they’re not just reading from a script. They engage the audience. This means that their tone, pace and intonation are critical to creating an engaging listening experience.
If you’re using AI-generated audio, choose a factual narration scenario. The AI voice will not be suitable for characters with emotions. Spend some time choosing a voice that can accurately read your text, correct pronunciation, add pauses, and correct abbreviations. Be aware that it won’t sound as polished or emotional as a human regardless. However, you will benefit from cost and editing savings, as well as the fact that there are no set-ups or sound studio fees.
Pitfall #6: Choking on your own recording
Perhaps, wanting to evoke both emotions and save money, you decide to record the audio yourself. If so, get the right equipment to create quality. Fortunately, microphones are affordable in today’s digital world. Do not use the phone or the laptop’s built-in microphone. You’ll also need the right recording app. Audacity is a great free option used by many content creators. There are also a number of premium tools that provide advanced capabilities, but it is not necessary to have all the bells and whistles.
The recording location itself plays a key role if you are recording the audio yourself. You must record the sound in a quiet place without outside noise. It must also be a place that does not fade away; otherwise you’ll be left with a sound that echoes. Some voice artists do their studio work in their closets using mattresses, foam and pillows to create the right recording environment. A little creativity can save you a lot of money on a recording studio.
Let’s recap so you don’t fall victim to the same missteps that so many eLearning solutions make. The use of sound is situational. It should be used in scenarios where teaching is enhanced with audio. Always allow the user to control the sound. Not only is this an accessibility requirement, but it improves the student experience. Not every environment gives students access to audio, so it’s important to give them choices about how they learn. Don’t use a voice that just reads the text on the screen. This is redundant and is only acceptable in limited use with an instructional text where the student is expected to complete a task. Even in this case, text-only instructions are preferable.
Finally, make sure you’re creating a quality audio experience. If someone internally is giving it a voice for you, then make sure they’re engaging the audience. Don’t forget that AI is also an option if you’re using a factual storytelling scenario. Even in this case, it is important that you choose the right AI voice. Must be able to read text accurately, correct pronunciation and add pauses. Overall, audio can be a great enhancement to the learning experience, but it can also hinder the experience if done incorrectly. Make sure you get it right!
Originally published on www.beyondthesky.ca.