Do you include audio narration in the eLearning lessons you develop? Why? Or why not?
I was working on a project several weeks ago where the team debated whether to include audio narration in a series of eLearning lessons. The team was split in their personal opinions. This post outlines pieces of my thought process.
Let's think about this from a learning styles perspective...
To start with the obvious, listening to an audio narration would likely appeal to those with an auditory learning style.
I've read in various sources that the majority of people are visual learners (in fact, I heard 70% in a seminar I attended a couple years ago). One of the characteristics of a visual learner is a preference for flowcharts and diagrams over text. As a designer, if I know I can use an audio narration to complement an eLearning lesson, then I can focus on using images to convey information without cluttering slides with a lot of text. So it seems that audio narration would be beneficial for the visual learner too.
To further this point, I think a lot of us have seen various statistics suggesting that people are more likely to recall information that they see and hear (as opposed to just one or the other).
And what about those tactile learners? Well, I suppose if you have simulations and other types of hands-on activities built into an eLearning lesson, any guidance could potentially be in audio form, reducing the need for learners to toggle their attention between text instructions and the task they're completing.
(If you're interested in reading another post on this blog about learning styles, click here)
Pros and Cons of Audio...from the Blogosphere
I know there are other perspectives to consider beyond learning styles, so I also opted to scan the blogosphere to see where others stood on the issue of audio narration. It appears that the jury is still out.
Why might audio be worthwhile? Some of the reasons I came across were similar to what I had thought through in considering learning style preferences. Here are some of the pros I found:
- Appeals to the auditory learning style
- Can be effective for walking learners through flowcharts or explaining complex images
- Can create a sense of human touch
- Can be distracting for learners who prefer to read content
- Can slow down learners (since many would read faster), increasing the length of training
- Might promote multi-tasking, if learners opt to read email or do other tasks while listening to the audio
- Requires learners to have access to speakers and/or headsets to hear the audio
When I consider all of this, it seems to me that including audio narration is move advantageous than not. From a learning styles perspective, all signs appear to point to yes. And I feel like I can explain away most of the cons:
- Learners who find the audio distracting could opt to mute the narration and read the transcript instead (assuming this option is offered)
- Although audio narration might slow learners down, perhaps this is a good thing...I've received feedback from a couple of projects that some learners tend to click through eLearning lessons too quickly to really absorb the information
- If the lesson is designed in a way that strongly intertwines the narration and the images, this might deter some from multi-tasking
So here's my vote: Unless resource constraints get in the way, it seems like including audio is the way to go.
What's your vote? And why?