More and more learners are demanding voiceover in their eLearning courses and for good reason – a great voiceover can bring your content to life. But adding audio to courses creates several variables within the design process. This article will explore each of these in more detail.
I should begin by admitting that I am writing this article from experience. On one of my first client projects, I made the mistake of not clarifying how the final e-learning course would behave!
Whilst this didn't interrupt the project, it did cause me extra work and an extra review cycle for the client.
So it is important to identify exactly how clients expect the course to behave once it's finished. This enables us to deliver exactly what they need whilst streamlining the development process and removing the need for any additional development once the course is complete.
This led me to spend some time writing a list of questions that I now ask all clients before I start building courses. Asking these questions at the beginning of the design process achieves several things:
- Allows the client to start thinking about design aspects and course behaviour, which they possibly hadn’t previously considered.
- Helps to ensure I fully understand the client’s preferences before I begin development, which means I don’t have to go back and adjust the course once it has been completed.
There are 7 questions in the checklist, and in this post I’ll go through each in a little more detail.
Question 1: What is your voiceover preference?
Seems like a straightforward question – but what type of voice will engage with your learners? We have all battled our way through mediocre compliance training with a monotone voice, so what personality will bring your content to life?
List some adjectives that describe the perfect voice – relaxed, upbeat, professional, enthusiastic – most voiceover websites will use this terminology to categorise the voice talent. Listing this at the outset is a good idea.
Think about the audience – are they all in the same country or spread around world? Will a particular accent work better than another? Which style of voice reflects your brand or the subject matter being delivered?
Do you want a male or female voice? On longer projects, I think using a combination of voices is a great way to keep the content varied and engaging.
Click here to see some examples of courses with high quality voiceover.
Question 2: Would you like a visible seek bar to give the learner an indication of their progress within each slide?
It is common knowledge that giving the learner an indication of their progress within an eLearning course is sensible - it provides motivation to complete the course.
But this is also useful on an individual slide basis, and the length of slide can be visualised with the seekbar. (Shown here is the default seekbar provided by Articulate Storyline and a custom designed seekbar on the slide itself).
Question 3: Would you like learners to be able to click the Next button to jump to the next slide before the voiceover on the slide has finished?
The Next button can be Hidden or Disabled until the voiceover has completed if you want to force the learner to listen to the audio on each individual slide. Or it can be visible and active all the time.
I have heard other designers suggest that we shouldn’t be adding a button unless it’s active (i.e. why show a button if you can’t click it?)
However my preference is to Disable buttons so the learner gets used to knowing where it is, and then change the appearance of the button once the audio has completed, thus allowing the learner progress.
It is also important to specify how the slide behaves upon revisit, for example – if the learner has viewed the content once, should they be forced to view that information a second time or should they be able to skip through it?
I would guess there will be some frustrated learners if they cannot skip through the course – especially if they’ve already been forced to view the course once!
Question 4: Are you happy to include certain slides or slide layers without voiceover (usually activity slides, feedback slides etc.)?
An important question to ask – if you are delivering a course with voiceover, is your client expecting audio on every single instruction, slide layer, quiz question and all feedback slides?
If you don’t add audio to every single component, will certain slides feel like they are lacking something without audio?
Alternatively, if the audio takes longer to play than it takes the learner to read the feedback, maybe you can do without the voiceover feedback completely?
Question 5: Would you like to make a course menu permanently visible on the player template via a dropdown box with a Menu button?
Articulate Storyline is my preferred tool for rapid-authoring although my biggest gripe with the software is that the player template is quite restrictive. I always advise my clients against using a static menu, glued to the course – mainly because I think it detracts from the slide. Also, unless the player template is custom designed, it can look quite ugly.
But using the in-built menu option as a dropdown from the player template is a great way to harness the features within Storyline whilst maintaining a beautifully designed course.
If the client doesn’t like the design of the in-built menu design, it is possible to design a custom menu that could be accessed from the slide itself, but this would include more development work.
Question 6: If you have chosen to include a menu, would you like to allow learners to move around the course by clicking on this menu?
If you do decide that you want this menu to be visible, there are options available as to how this menu behaves:
- Is it there purely as a progress indicator and therefore unclickable? (Locked)
- Can the menu be clicked on to navigate back to slides that have already been viewed? (Restricted)
- Is the menu unlocked so that the learner can use the menu to go to any slide? (Open)
Question 7: Would you like any of the following to be options on the player itself?
This question is to find out what (if anything) the client wants to be permanently visible to the learner on the player template.
This could include:
My advice is usually that if the course is being hosted within a modern LMS, it is better to have any additional content separate in the LMS – this has several advantages, such as giving the learner the opportunity to download the additional content for offline viewing and providing more data to the administrator as to what content has been accessed (this cannot be measured if it is built into the course itself).
There are many things to consider when building an eLearning course with voiceover, but hopefully this gives you a good base to start from. Do you use a similar checklist? Have I missed any important questions?
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