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Are Learners Really Listening?

Elearning| Visual and Graphic Design
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The main reason to use audio in any elearning is to increase learner engagement. But if you’re planning to add audio narration to a course, you could very easily end up pushing learners away.

Audio-driven elearning (a course that relies on audio narration to present information) ties learners down literally and figuratively. As elearning is provided on more and more devices, learning can happen anywhere. But anywhere doesn’t always have a strong internet connection. If a page can’t be completed until the audio plays, learners can get stuck waiting for it to load.

Even with a good connection, requiring audio narration means the course goes at the narrator’s pace, not the learner’s. When learners lose control, they also start to lose interest. They’ll work on something else while the audio plays out, and that distraction damages how well they learn the information.

Instead of inundating your learners with audio, add it in short, purposeful pieces to enhance the training. These short pieces require less loading time, can be viewed at the learner’s convenience, and will add more instructional value than full audio narration. Try these three tactics to do more with your audio.

DEMONSTRATE A COMPLEX PROCESS If you have to see it done to understand it, but video isn’t an option, then audio is the best choice for providing instructions. Text and visuals require learners to go back and forth, but audio and visuals allow learners to get the information all at once.

For example, a software simulation takes longer if the learner has to read text instructions, then compare it to the software interface. But it takes less work and time for the learner to hear the instructions while seeing the steps as they occur. In fact, one study found that groups with audio and visual instructions outperformed groups with other forms of instruction.

A word of warning, the visuals have to be closely related to the audio, or else your learners will get distracted trying to figure out the connection. Use this tactic for the most critical, complex processes.

PROVIDE EXAMPLES While it’s usually faster for a learner to read than to listen to narration, some things just don’t translate to text.

If tone of voice is important, then have audio samples learners can mimic. Have them listen to and critique a conversation with a customer. Or if the sounds of a machine will help your employees troubleshoot problems, then use audio samples so they can match the sound to the problem.

If the examples are the only audio in the course, they will stand out even more as something important to remember.

TAKE GAMIFICATION TO ANOTHER LEVEL Audio isn’t confined to just words. Sound has a powerful effect on our cognitive and psychological state. Why not use sound effects to engage learners?

Obviously, adding sound to signify correct or incorrect answers gives instant feedback and motivates learners to continue to answer correctly, but it can also create other feelings such as accomplishment. For example, if learners have to perform a set of steps to unlock another section, the clicking of an opening lock enhances that interaction and communicates the accomplishment to the learner in a more tangible way.

These subtle additions of sound may not be consciously noticed—in fact, in many cases it’s probably better if they’re not— but they can increase learner engagement.

Audio (and other rich media) is still a great way to get learners’ attention; it all just depends on how you use it.


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