Adding audio to e-learning—like ambient noise, narration, or sound effects—can be a fun way to create a more immersive learning experience, add context, or provide helpful cues to learners. But there’s a fine line between effectively using audio and misusing it. If misused, audio can be a nuisance, overwhelming, or cause important pieces of information to be lost. For example, if you play background music loudly throughout a compliance course, it might distract people from the course content.

The key to effectively using audio is to determine whether it will truly add value. And although trying to figure out if you should use audio might seem a little overwhelming at first, don’t worry! By considering these six things, you can quickly determine if audio is a good fit for your course. 

1. The Kind of Course You’re Creating

Think about the type of project you’re developing. By considering the context of what you’re designing, you can quickly decide what type of audio—if any—best fits the situation. 

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at some concrete examples:

Course Type

Type of Audio

Value Add?

Software simulation

Sound effects that play when learners complete certain actions.

Yes. It could provide learners with a sense of satisfaction. 

Gamified course

Subtle background music. 

Yes. It could create a fun atmosphere.

Course on communication

Audio clips of conversations. 

Yes. It could help make the content feel more realistic.

Technical training 

Voice-over narration.

Yes. It could reduce on-screen text and make complex topics easier to understand.

Compliance course

Background music.

No. It could distract from the main course content.

Anti-harassment training

Sound effects that play when learners complete certain actions.

No. It could clash with the tone of the course topic.

Task simulation

Voice-over narration.

No. It could distract learners from what’s on screen and make it difficult for them to perform the simulation.

2. The Timing of Audio Usage 

Just because you’ve decided that a certain type of audio could add value to your course doesn’t mean you should use it throughout the entire project. When it comes to audio in e-learning, in most cases less is more. To make sure audio doesn’t interfere with learning, take care not to include it at times when learners really need to focus. 

For example, background music that plays throughout an entire project is rarely a good fit because it tends to distract learners as they’re trying to absorb the content. However, it might make sense to use background music on the introductory slide to set the tone for the course. Since typically this isn’t a place where learners are processing key information, it shouldn’t take away from the learning experience. 

3. The Audio Control Features Your Learners Need

Even though the device your learners are using to take the course will likely have system volume controls, if you decide to include audio it’s helpful to give learners the option to adjust the course volume independently. You’ll also want to make sure your course has controls that allow learners to rewind or replay audio in case they need to revisit important pieces of information. This allows learners to adapt the learning experience to best suit their needs. 

If your course can’t or won’t include these controls, it’s best to avoid including audio.

4. The Speed of Your Learners’ Internet Connection

Although many of us have access to speedy wi-fi, not all learners do! Adding large audio files to a project can cause a course to load slowly, especially for learners accessing it over a slow or spotty connection. 

If there’s a chance your learners will be located in rural settings or areas with slower internet speeds, be mindful of the amount of audio you add and the file size of each clip. You might be better off minimizing or skipping the use of audio so it doesn’t delay the time it takes to launch or move through the course—which can frustrate learners or cause them to tune out. 

5. Your Learners’ Environment

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked: think about the setting learners are likely to be in when taking the course. If they’re going to be accessing the course on a noisy job site or with clients, audio likely isn’t a good fit because it will be challenging for learners to hear it. 

If you know learners are going to take the course in a quiet and controlled environment and have access to speakers or a headset, then audio could be a more viable option.

6. The Accessibility Features Learners Need

Many of the points we’ve already discussed are related to accessibility—like having proper controls in place—but there’s another consideration that’s important to keep in mind to ensure all learners can benefit from the course content, regardless of ability: text versions of your audio content. 

Whenever you include audio (or video for that matter!) you should also include closed captions and a transcript so no one misses out. Captions and transcripts benefit learners with permanent disabilities—like hearing loss—and situational disabilities—like those taking the course in a noisy cafe. It’s definitely something you won’t want to skip!


Now that you know what to consider when adding audio, you’ll be able to decide when it makes sense to use it in your course. For the projects that could benefit from it, explore some creative types of audio you can use in your next e-learning course by reading this article: 5 Ways to Use Audio in E-Learning.

And to learn even more about using audio in e-learning, take a look at these helpful articles:

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest e-learning inspiration and insights directly in your inbox. You can also find us on LinkedIn and X (Formerly Twitter)

1 Comment