Using eLearning Audio Can Make or Break the Success of Your Learning

Let’s get this out right now. People who don’t value audio haven’t been paying attention. Not just in terms of eLearning audio, but even in general.

Audio Driven Lives

eLearning audio is a way of telling a story for the learner. Famous storyteller at Guilfest Music Festival, Guildford, UK 12/7/09Our lives are based on audio. Look at the recent incredible growth of podcasting. Look at how our histories are shared. They are told in narrative. The storytellers are the ones who have taught. They informed. On many an occasion they even persuaded. Without the audio narrative of great storytellers, much of what we know would likely have never been learned.

With that knowledge it’s important to realize that our eLearning must tell a story. If we want learning to take place, we must teach, inform, and persuade. How do we do that?

We could provide lots of pages of reading in our course. Well, lots of usability studies over the years have demonstrated that people don’t typically read online content. They scan it. Quickly. Not likely to have the impact we desire.

Sound Learning

Therefore, audio is an essential part of our eLearning content.  The use of music, narrative, and even the occasional sound effect adds a critical component to the experience. If we do it right.

When you look at adding audio, it’s important to keep a basic rule of thumb in mind.

Anything you add to your eLearning must enhance the learner experience. If it doesn’t, then it is a distraction to learning.

Benefits of eLearning Audio

The use of audio in eLearning

  • Increases engagement
    People interact much more readily with audio than they do with text. With the right voice and the right wording, they feel more like they are in a conversation than in a lesson. In addition, background music helps set tone and attitude. Sound effects can make it a little more fun.
  • Helps enhance learning effectiveness
    Repetition and learning impacts are key to retention. If we read AND we hear it, we increase the impacts.
  • Improves comprehension
    Often when we hear it the message makes a lot more sense than when we just read it. Emotional content and expression factor heavily into this.
  • Persuades
    Like above, the human voice with it’s emotional content, expressiveness, and phrasing helps influence much more readily than mere text.

Some Tips to Optimize the Use of eLearning Audio

eLearning audio can be recorded by you or by a professional.As mentioned before, the use of audio is essential. For it to be most effective, however, it is critical that we use it so it has the greatest impact.

In view of this, here are some basic do’s and a few don’ts that will help you get started. Or if you have already started, this can help you evaluate what you are doing now.


  • Use music
    In the movies, the musical score is often hailed as the most impactful part of the movie. Why? It sets tone and mood. Music tells you when it’s funny, dramatic, or absolutely terrifying. Use about 30-40 seconds of music as an introduction to a course to help set tone and mood.
  • Emphasize narrative
    While it’s good to use a music lead-in, the main part of the audio is the voice-over narration.
  • Use a script
    You want impactful words. You want the right information said the right way. This is not a time to wing it. A word for word script needs to be written.
  • Professional voice
    If you have the budget for it, you should ideally use a professional voice actor. These are people who make a living off their voice. They know how to use their voice for greatest effect. Most will take your script and record it in their own studio. They will edit it based on your direction, package it in the file format you desire, and send it back to you.
  • Professional sounding recording
    Whether you hire a professional voice actor or do it yourself, you want it to have a professional sound. Be ready to invest a little money into the tools you need to do it right. This is no time for a cheap headset or desktop PC microphone. While you can pour out a lot of money on this, you can also make this work for less than a $500 investment.
  • Rehearse
    Don’t hit that recording button until you have practice the entire script at least once. You want to evaluate not just what you say but how to say it. You want to be confident in the words so it comes out right.
  • Minimize text, maximize audio
    Part of what the trends of today have shown us is how much we depend on multimedia. Combine that with how we scan and don’t read and it leads to the conclusion that you should use less text, more audio. In fact, your audio should tell the story. Your text should generally be about 3-5 bulleted points. No paragraphs.
  • Tone and inflection matter
    This goes along with the professional voice. The appropriate use of our tone of voice. The words we emphasize. It all makes a impact on the learner. Think about your own experiences. You ever have a situation where someone’s tone of voice just turned you off?
  • pace matters
    You want to speak at a rate so you can be clear. At the same time, don’t be intentionally slow. The learner’s mind can absorb a lot more than you think it can. Just keep your pace natural. Change pace for emphasis or to create emotion.


  • No word by word
    When you write your script avoid having the narration and on-screen text match word for word. People can’t read and listen well at the same time. One or the other needs to be their focus. Make it the audio.
  • Avoid overusing sound effects
    While some sound effects can help create a better experience it’s a good idea to be selective in how you use them. Sounds effects on navigation buttons and other features are generally annoying and distracting.
  • Avoid using formal language and structure to narration
    Just because you are narrating does not suddenly mean you need to sound prim and proper. You want learners to connect with your voice. Be natural. Use words and style that are natural to you.

In our next post, we’ll talk about some of the tools – both hardware and software – that you need to be successful with eLearning audio.





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