Many courses rely upon voiceover to help connect with their learners. This is a solid approach and, when used well, can make for great learning experiences. But what I have found is that the narrated portion of courses is often written like something you would find in a textbook. The problem here is that all people, regardless of age or experience with digital media, generally expect the eLearning narration to be conversational. Reading straight from a book, of course, is not conversational.
Instructional designers and subject matter experts (SMEs) mean well; they want to share and teach all the content needed to understand and master a topic. But this can lead to “content fatigue,” where they try to cram in every last tidbit of information on a given subject. But longer narration can tend to cause the learner to tune it out.
Clearly, this is not what you want to have happen with your eLearning! So what can be done to combat this? Here are a few suggestions, taken from my experience with writing, recording, and directing audio narration:
- Communicate each idea concisely and quickly, in bite-sized chunks. One idea per screen is ideal. Put the highlights of an idea, the “bullet points,” in the onscreen text. Explain them a little more fully in the narration, but don’t belabor them.
- Keep all narration as short, to the point, and easy to say as possible. Even with closed-captioned (CC) text to follow along and re-read, longer narrated sentences tend to get tuned out. If the sentence takes up 3 or more lines in a paragraph, it’s too long. Also, if the narration is unnecessarily complex and long, it’s harder for the voiceover talent to say. That gets in the way of clear communication. Keep it simple!
- Read your narration aloud. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this makes. If, while you’re reading the copy aloud, if you feel as though it’s unclear… you’re probably right. Trim it down or rewrite it as needed.
- Commas are good. You’ll discover this if you read your work aloud and start running out of breath during or towards the end of a sentence. Commas allow the narrator to catch a breath, give the learner a visual checkpoint while they’re scanning the CC text, and keep the ideas small enough so that the learner can keep up with and understand the concepts as they’re being presented.
Remember, your goal is to communicate with the learner in a conversational way. Obviously, you don’t want to use too much jargon or cut your ideas down so much that the meaning is lost, but you do need to “talk” in a way the learner can relate to. Learners often feel like they’re being talked at. If they feel like they’re engaged in a conversation of sorts, and the narration is easy to understand, learners may comprehend the material better.
If you can minimize your narration while maximizing the information you convey in it, your eLearning will be that much more effective. Try it!
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