The thing about designing e-learning content these days is that you have almost unlimited options. From the technology you use to the visuals you chose to include, there is variety everywhere, and at times it may feel overwhelming to make choices (as it is hard to know what the perfect one would be).
This is also true when it comes to voiceover for your courses.
The visual aspect seems to be the king of engaging content these days, but you might also have noticed that even in the best filmed, most action-packed Hollywood movie starred motion picture, the sound has a lot of bearing into how the scenes are perceived and remembered.
Personally, I am a reader. I like books and am also partial to e-books, but for the longest time, I thought the way to be immersed in a story was to have my eyes move across lines of letters. Then I gave Audible a shot, and guess what? Immersion multiplied.
If you are pondering whether you should include voiceover in your e-learning materials, here’s what to consider.
Your target audience
Your audience ought to always be the first to think of when you are making decisions about your modules. Knowing your learner persona should give you a clue about the necessity of using a voiceover. Having a clear idea about your audience’s expectations and preferences will make your decision (and, following that, your selection process should you find that a voiceover will be necessary) a lot smoother.
One of the greatest things that the digital revolution has brought about is an abundance of customer feedback. You should have no trouble finding exactly how the crowds you are designing for feel about any matter. If you don’t come across an already formed general opinion, you can simply go to wherever they gather virtually and ask your questions.
Read more: How to get feedback for your online course
The subject of your course
This is also highly relevant when you are pondering the necessity of voiceover. If it is something very engaging in itself, there is no need for further enhancement. If, however, the subject is a rather complicated or arid, a good voiceover artist would be able to make the experience more immersive.
A good narrator would know how to employ voice inflections and underline certain words or phrases to make them stand out. Of course, this is all pertaining to the experience and flair of the artist as well. But before you go into a selection process, you have to ascertain if the topic of your e-learning modules is something that would benefit from the voiceover, or it could very well stand on its own.
The delivery methods
The delivery methods included in your modules should be diverse and engaging. Since there are several learning preferences, and learners coming from different backgrounds and belonging do various generations, you need to incorporate as many of the course structure allows.
It’s essential to have a certain fluency, not just incorporate things for the sake of diversity. As I have mentioned before, learners can get easily distracted, especially when there isn’t an in-person instructor to help move things along.
If your course has several long lecture-type bits, then you should consider voiceover. On the other hand, if most of it is video, a voiceover artist would be redundant (provided your filmed material is not a tribute to the silent cinema of the 1930s).
Your budget is also relevant, and even if I placed it at the end of the list, it might sometimes be wise to start with it. A professional voiceover artist (and if you do want professional, your work is too important to risk negative feedback or disappointed learners) could bring your costs up over what you have decided (or are able) to invest.
Weigh all the pros and cons, and in case you find that it’s not an option for you, take another look at the design and find ways to cut the lectures shorter or convert them in other, more engaging, episodes.
Your ultimate goal should be to develop the best possible product with the resources you have available. It’s best to run this assessment once the outline and part of the course are ready, but not after you have put in the finishing touches. If you have to make changes or move modules around, it’s preferable to do so before they are in a set stance.
There is some debate in the e-learning world as to whether having voiceover in the courses is adding value or not. While I am in no way trying to join that conversation on one of the sides, I will say that it much depends on the learning designer and the subject matter. There is no one universally applicable recipe, but if you go through the discerning process I have described above, you ought to come up with the best solution for your work.
Raluca Cristescu has over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.