Of course elearning needs sound! Or does it? Here are some ways to build elearning without audio.
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Creating Engaging—but Silent—Learning Courses
Who doesn’t love audio narration in elearning?
Yet audio can be difficult, for both the learner and the training program. Learners need to have an environment where they can play the audio through speakers; or find headphones to plug in.
When developing a course, course designers (and training program managers) need to address additional concerns.
- Effective Voice-Over. If all a course is doing is reading the screen to a learner, there’s a good amount of research indicating that you’ll be hurting the learner’s retention.
- Accessibility Requirements. If your elearning needs to be accessible (complying with regulations like Section 508), you’ll need to include captions, and those captions will need to be synchronized with onscreen events.
- Iterative Development Changes. In addition, audio can significantly increase production time and cost. Audio needs to be recorded, checked, and synchronized with visual content (and if the elearning needs to be revised, the process needs to happen again).
So what are the options if you decide to rely on an approach that doesn’t use audio?
Rely on Text for Your Non-Audio Courses, but Use It Well
Most fundamentally, accept that you’ll depend on text to convey information, and take text seriously. Pay attention to fonts, reading patterns, and text layout. Don’t assume that learners will take the time to read dense paragraphs of text because the content is that great (it surely is; but they won’t read it anyway).
Dress Up “Silent” Course Text with Visual Elements
When designing elearning without audio, consider different ways of presenting text. Comic strips and books have been using a silent, text-and-image-based approach to convey complex content for over a century, and there are serious books on what goes into making an effective comic book. Leverage these approaches, and text can come alive on screen.
Use Non-Audio-Based Interactivity in Your Elearning
And note that relying on text and images doesn’t have to mean that content will be static and boring. Consider using non-audio quiz-based methods to create interactions. Multiple-choice questions can be used to develop short scenario experiences. Text-entry questions can encourage learners to think about content (and how it can apply to them). Labeled graphic interactions can be used to explore concepts without audio.
Conclusion: Elearning without Audio Can Be Engaging and Effective with the Right Approach
Deciding to not use audio in your elearning course doesn’t mean that you’re left with page-turning, click-next elearning. Think about text layout, comic-book style, and non-audio-based interactivity, and create learning that people want to take without needing to grab their headphones.
Until next time,
Dr. Kevin Gumienny (Bio)
Microassist Senior Learning Architect
For Further Reading on Course Development
- The Importance of Using Roles When Developing Learning — Want to offer consistently high-quality training? Here’s why using roles to organize your process is so important to developing learning.
- Using Pattern Libraries for Accessible Elearning: Insights from CSUN 2018 — Our senior learning architect shares tips on how to include accessibility in your elearning development process, including the value of creating pattern libraries to make the process more efficient.
- How Comic Books Can Cut Elearning Development Time — A quick way to get around using voice-over, saving time and money, is to use a comic-book style.
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This commentary originally appeared in our June 2018 Learning Dispatch newsletter. To receive more commentaries from Kevin, use the form on this page to subscribe to the Learning Dispatch newsletter.