How Audio Can Improve Online Learning

student wearing headphones
As the methods for seamlessly including rich media assets in eLearning continue to improve, instructional designers are finding creative uses of audio and video to supplement their text-based courses. Audio-enhanced lessons help make the learning experience much more robust, functional, and accessible.

How Audio Enhances Instructional Design

Audio is a powerful way to convey information and subtext at the same time. In fact, a speaker’s voice can provide memorable cues that help students retaining and retrieving the information later. Other benefits of audio-enhanced lessons include:

  • Context through Vocal Inflection: Even brilliantly written and artfully designed text and graphics may not be able to convey the essence of a concept or theory the same way spoken words can. (For example, if you’ve ever read a transcript and then watched that same interview, you know how how much context from body language and vocal inflection doesn’t make it onto the page.) By differing your tone and varying your speech pattern, you can provide additional context to the subject matter through vocal inflection – something that even the most effective slide decks can’t accomplish!
  • Encourages Critical Thinking: Text can seem authoritative by nature, while listening to a speaker encourages learners to process not just the content (what’s being said) but also the context (how it’s being said, and what it implies).
  • Elicits a Learner’s Emotions: Listeners are more apt to connect with a voice – especially if it is clear, articulate, and convincing – than they are to form an emotional response to reading text. As mentioned, these emotions can also be a critical component of recall and retention.
  • Accessibility: Learners who are visually-impaired or who have special needs can often access audio lessons much more easily than text. However, be sure to also include a text transcript of your audio assets so learners with reduced hearing can read any lessons they might not be able to hear easily.

Finally, some content is naturally better-suited for audio learning than it is for text-based teaching methods. For instance, training on language skills, interpersonal communication, and other subjects where vocabulary, pronunciation, and the nuances of language play a key role are best accomplished via audio-based or audio-enhanced lessons.

Optimizing Your Audio

Like other modes of learning, audio makes learning more functional only if it is used appropriately. Some best practices to employ here include:

  • using bite-sized audio files rather than lengthy lectures
  • selecting a narrator whose voice is free of heavy accents which may complicate the delivery
  • using light humor as needed — especially when covering “drab” content
  • employing playback tools that allow a listener to easily pause, rewind, and even slow the audio down

For more tips on recording your own audio, check out our best practices for voiceovers.

PRO TIP: Don’t Make Your Audio Compete with Your Other Assets

How often have you seen adult learners “tune out” during presentations or slide shows, no matter how fascinating the topic might be? There are many reasons for this, from the robotic tone or low energy level of the presenter to the dry (“boring”) nature of the material. But there’s also a cognitive duel happening: our brains simply can’t read and listen at the same time.

This means that when we’re faced with wordy slides during a lesson, we have to make a choice: read the words and ignore the speaker, or vice versa. Due to text’s prominence in our culture, from our familiarity with textbooks to our experience obeying written warnings, we often feel compelled to read instead of listen. When that happens, the audio component of a lesson will go to waste — so the key to optimizing the use of audio in your lessons is to deliver it as its own discrete media asset that doesn’t fight for attention with lots of words and images.

How Can CourseArc Help?

Our new audio block makes it a snap to include audio files in your courses!

Just follow these easy steps to embed an audio file within a module. Also, a transcript form is built-in to the audio block, so your hearing-impaired students (or anyone who’d rather read than listen) can choose the learning method they prefer.

Watch our demo video today to see how CourseArc can help you create high-impact courses from scratch!

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