Crafting the most informative training module in history is pointless if the audience doesn’t retain the information, or worse yet, completely checks out. In a field of increasingly remote learning, how can instructional designers safeguard against the disconnection common in eLearning? Incorporating voice is a proven method for improving retention, and today’s technology makes using it more achievable than ever.

The eLearning industry is expanding exponentially, surpassing $315 billion in 2021, with a 20% compound annual growth rate between 2022 to 2028, according to Global Market Insights. Many companies are moving in-person training online and investing in technology to keep learners connected. As eLearning gains momentum each year, organizations are seeking ways to increase eLearning effectiveness.

But what exactly makes a presentation transform from boring to engaging? How can remote learning modules help learners in their roles? What strategies help learners retain information better? One critical way to improve eLearning and better connect with learners is the use of voice content.

The Rise of eLearning

As remote work and education have become more prevalent, organizations are looking for strategies to boost eLearning success. Over 70% of learning and development (L&D) professionals expect investments in online training to increase going forward.

Today’s learners are also savvier than ever, requiring more sophisticated content to stay engaged, a far cry from the slideshow presentations that may have hooked their attention in the 1990s.

Supporting a learner-friendly environment through company culture is essential. To connect with audiences from all backgrounds and learner preferences, eLearning designers are seeking ways to improve trainings.

Audio — especially voiceover and narration — can be the secret edge that transforms content from dull and repetitive to clear and compelling. However, it can’t be just any voice content. Poor quality recordings or unnatural robotic voices can backfire on content creators, distracting learners and detracting from the information.

Why Add Voice to eLearning Modules?

At first glance, adding narration or voiceover to eLearning modules could seem like an unnecessary extra step. High-quality audio can be challenging to record and to sync correctly with visuals. Companies may lack access to sophisticated recording equipment or voice actors, adding steps to their production process. But voice isn’t an afterthought, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Rather, voice is as critical to eLearning content as visuals themselves.

Benefits of Adding Voice to eLearning Content

Voice narration helps hold attention and reinforce ideas. Beyond solely reading a slide or watching a demonstration, with voice, learners can hear an audio track that drives information home or further explains what they see on a screen.

Learners benefit by having more than one of their senses engaged — that is, listening while reading or watching. According to a research study about the interplay between audio and visual inputs, implementing both offers a clear benefit: “Simultaneous audio and visual speech cues can result in substantial sensitivity improvements, relative to single sensory modality based decisions.”

By adding an engaging voice with the right personality, training materials avoid becoming monotonous. Especially with extended modules, learners could glaze over when presented with slide after slide of copy. Music, voice and sound effects maintain momentum and set the right tone based on the context of the learning modules (serious, upbeat, technical and so on).

Voice adds emphasis and simplifies complex material. In-person trainings (and even everyday conversations) have a natural ebb and flow. Learners may struggle when faced with slides and pages without voice as a learning complement.

Strategies for Adding Voice to eLearning Modules

When adding voice to eLearning modules, there are a few ways to do so.

    • Summarize visual elements: Imagine you are teaching learners how to edit photography. By summarizing the parts of a camera appearing on screen, you could help learners understand what they are looking at, as well as more technical terms like “aperture” or “shutter speed.”
    • Read text from the screen: If eLearning content contains an excerpt of prose or a famous quote, you could use voice to narrate the copy aloud. This helps cement the content in the minds of learners, who otherwise might gloss over long sections of copy, or have a hard time understanding the tone, emphasis and personality behind it. Imagine introducing new employees to your company culture by featuring the voice of your founder, mascot or different department heads. Voice clarifies the personality and brand behind the copy.
    • Elaborate upon visual elements: Voice is also an excellent way to elaborate upon visual elements when you have limited space. For example, slide-based presentation platforms typically only allow for a few words on each bulleted line or slide, and you wouldn’t want to overwhelm learners by adding much more.

Questions to Consider When Integrating Voice with eLearning

Instead of voicing over every line of copy in a module, it’s vital to choose when to focus on each communication strategy (and the right times to combine them). Effective eLearning designers understand when to implement and combine audio and visual tools in the best possible ways, including knowing when to dial back and not overwhelm learners.

Adding audio isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Various eLearning content requires specific choices, opening up opportunities for innovation and creativity with audio and visuals. Instead of simply adding narration to existing slideshows and recorded lectures, consider how voice wouldn’t merely duplicate your current content — but elevate it.

Below are some specific questions to ask while adding voice:

      • Should the tone be more formal or conversational? Training for health care topics may require a more assertive, informative and educational tone, whereas training for tech companies may be able to strike a balance of smart, sharp and personable.
      • Should the narrator read the exact text on the screen or summarize when needed?
      • Is the training split up properly for remote learners who need more flexibility to start or stop modules as their schedules or attention spans allow?
      • How can narration help people with pronunciation or language learning? Are all learners familiar with the terms and acronyms mentioned, or should they be voiced aloud?
      • Is gamification a good option? Gamification refers to adding games or competitive aspects into eLearning. Some designers find success by making educational steps more compelling through storytelling and rewards. Voice makes gamification more effective by connecting with learners, adding depth and emotion to online modules.
      • How many voices is ideal? Some topics could benefit from pre-recorded sessions with one instructor, while other topics could benefit from multiple instructor voices. Other topics could benefit from no instructors at all — merely an unidentified voiceover that elaborates on what the visuals show.
      • What technology do you need? Voice doesn’t have to require extra steps, voice actors or sophisticated recording equipment. Sophisticated text-to-speech platforms enable you to choose from natural-sounding voices and translate a script into voices in minutes.

By considering the context and goals of each project, designers can fine-tune their eLearning modules for maximum impact and effectiveness.

Voice and eLearning of the Future

Based on current trends, the value and impact of good remote learning is here to stay. Organizations with better eLearning stand a greater chance of success: retaining staff, increasing learning understanding and representing their brand professionally.

Voice plays a key part in learning, memorization and communication methods. Narration elevates simple presentations, providing extra emotion, clarity, and retention — benefiting both the learner and the business alike.