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Kerry Pascall Should you use voice-overs in eLearning?

On almost all projects I work on, I get asked about ‘voice-over’ on eLearning modules.

It’s a difficult one, because it doesn’t suit everyone. It also means different things to different people, who often confuse three distinct elements:

  • “Voice-over” – for me, this is a bit like adverts on TV, you get a lot of imagery with a voice explaining what’s being shown.  The text being read out is not on screen apart from maybe a strap line or bullets.  The main point here is that the graphics speak for themselves.
  • “Audio” – this is sounds, music/jingles, video/audio clips with sound.
  • “Narration” – very much like an e-book, this is a voice reading out word for word the text you see on the screen.

From a personal point of view, as a user, I don’t like voice-overs in eLearning; as I feel it controls the pace at which I read and absorb the information on the screen.

Recommendations in books like Elearning and the Science of Instruction, say narration of every single word on the screen can limit the learner’s ability to take everything in and takes away their control. Not only that, but it could be seen as patronising, creating the impression that you don’t trust the user to read and understand the information displayed.

However, a lot of people consider voice-overs to be a fundamental part of the eLearning experience, and there are situations when the technique is definitely called for.

For instance, we recently completed a project involving the design and development of a set of highly complex medical eLearning modules. It was immediately clear from the intricate graphics, tables and animations being delivered that voice-overs would be key to the success of the project; users required an added guide to help them understand the complex graphical information involved.

My recommendations, if you decide narration is for you, are:

  • If your eLearning contains a lot of text and you want to narrate (i.e. read out everything which is on screen), it is worth considering cutting it down to bullet points/summaries and then allowing the narrator to give the complete overview.
  • For information such as clinical data graphs, mathematical or complex diagrams, you should allow the user to read and absorb the information at their own pace, accompanied by a voice-over which gives key information or explains the complex graphic.
  • If you are going to translate your eLearning modules into different languages, don’t forget the cost to also translate the voice-over or narration!

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Kerry Pascall, Head of Digital Learning, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs you can expect some tips on implementing eLearning, what to consider when commissioning eLearning, design tips, software and authoring pro’s and con’s, and general advice on everything eLearning!

Copyright © 2017 Bray Leino Learning

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