Technology – By Vijayshree Rautela
Audio is now a mandatory component of self-paced, online training
Our senses play an integral role in helping us learn effectively. Whether it’s an in-person training session or a self-paced one, what you see and hear helps you learn better than what you just
see or hear. That’s one of the reasons that audio has now become an important part of training.
Do you remember sitting through an elearning course that was interactive with visuals and animations, but had no audio, either as narration or sound effects? You probably remember less of the content, but more of the fact that you lost interest in a few minutes.
But in today’s technology world, this is not the case anymore. Audio is now an established, mandatory component of any self-paced, online training. The credit goes to certain compliances to ensure individuals with disabilities can comprehend information provided in the digital format.
Although text to speech is an option that individuals can use in various browsers and screen readers, the most accurate narration, voice over and/or sound effects communicating the content is what’s created, recorded and integrated with the original training.
The Training Impact
In Robert Gagne’s learning theory, the first principle advocates gaining the learner’s attention. It’s like making the first impression, which is what makes learners intrigued or interested in the training. It could be the main objective of the training put in an interesting format and should usually be on the first screen of an online training or the first opening dialogue of an in-person training.
That’s where audio can play a key role. If the learning audience is in their early 20sto 30s, try an animation with a currently popular, peppy music track as an intro or an engaging tone of voice of someone known to the learners welcoming them to the training.
Alternatively, it would be a good idea to have a narrated comic strip, or an anecdote related to the key content in the beginning of the course. These are just some examples.
The Learning Moment
The combination of audio and visual triggers a learning experience that gets embedded in our memory. And our brain recalls this learning experience anytime we come across any similar content or information. The sensory vibrations created in the ears to comprehend what’s being said or played gets locked in the brain as a memory unit.
It’s similar to the songs or beats that remind you of a certain event in your life or something that you keep playing in your mind to relive an experience. That’s how audio components work in training to create a memory in the learners’ minds.
The Learning Retention
Once you have the learners engaged, the momentum must be kept by using engaging content and audio. Audio can be an integral component to keep learners motivated to take a training. It could be sound effects to indicate a next section, pause, dos and don’ts, alerts, tips, additional info, pop-ups or just a rhythmic beat to move from one topic to another.
What goes into ensuring that audio in an online course is effective and high-quality? Let’s discuss that next.
Roll in the Expertise
The expertise to understand the use of audio also extends to having the experience in knowing when audio is required in a training and when it’s not. Audio should be used only if it is adding value to the training, besides fulfilling the main purpose of compliance adherence for individuals with disabilities.
A well-intentioned audio in a training could turn out to be a nightmare for the learners if the output is not clear and consistent and not well blended with the training. This is especially important for individuals with special needs or who are visually impaired.
It’s important to conduct an analysis of the audience for whom training is being created to determine the type of audio required.
In an audience analysis, learners are categorized according to demographics into different learner types. This helps evaluate how best they learn and what makes them learn better. It also helps determine the audio style, type and the tone of narration and voice overs.
The audience analysis also helps identify if any of the learners have auditory perceptual deficit. In this case, audio clarity becomes very important, ensuring each sound is distinct and there is no additional background narration, music or sound effects to distort what’s being communicated by the main audio track.
Remember to include any credits or copyright mentions for the source of the audio as applicable and mandated.
Identify the Right File Formats
There are so many types of audio file formats such as mp3, wav, etc., that it can be mind-boggling to select the appropriate one. Plus, if you are using an authoring tool to create the course, the audio file formats that are compatible with that tool also need to be considered.
The most common file formats are wav and mp3. If you have a file format that is incompatible with an authoring tool, you can use online audio file converters to get the desired format and then integrate that audio clip in the training.
If you are looking for free music clips and sound effects, usually one can find a wide variety in the sound gallery of the authoring tools being used. For more variety, one can search for music tracks or sound effects in different categories to download online. Once downloaded, you can convert them to the required format if needed. In addition, there are also free audio tracks and sound effects available online to download and use. There are also several websites that provide paid subscriptions to buy and download sound effects and music/audio tracks.
If authoring tools such as Articulate, Lectora or Adobe Captivate are being used to create elearning courses, these tools have high-end functionality and features to record, edit and enhance (improve pitch, loudness, bass, etc.) the sound quality. It’s like having your own mini recording sound studio within these tools!
Using the appropriate microphone to record also is key in getting a good quality audio output. If one does not have access to a recording studio and is using an authoring tool to record audio inhouse, a noise-canceling microphone is the best choice, so that background sounds are not picked up during the recording.
Get Audio on the Cloud
Soundtracks and audio clips can take up a lot of storage space. With cloud storage becoming so popular, it’s a good idea to have a digital audio library in cloud storage. You can access previously used or not used audio from the cloud digital library anytime you are creating a training for sound e ff e c t s .
It is also a good idea to short-list narrators with voice samples and contact information in your digital cloud library for reference. This helps in reaching out to them anytime you need narrators or voice overs in a training.
To Sum It Up
What is seen is remembered. What is heard is remembered. What is seen and heard together is remembered better!
Vijayshree Rautela is an instructional design & training specialist. Email her at email@example.com.