Tips for Using Sound Effects in E-Learning

As e-learning developers, we’re always looking for new ways to liven up our content and engage learners. Sound effects can be a great way to do this: they bring content to life and make learners feel like they are part of an experience. Not to mention, it’s never been easier to find free, high-quality sound effects that you can use in your projects. Let’s talk about a few tips to make sure you’re using sound effects wisely and effectively.

Proper Rights and Attribution

First of all, it’s important to make sure you have the proper rights for the audio clips you’re using. You also need to check that you’re using proper attribution, if required. When you download an audio clip from the Internet, look for the associated Terms of Use (usually there’s a link) and read them carefully. The Terms of Use will indicate if and how you can use the audio clip in question.

Consider the Learner Experience

You may want to let the learner know on the starting slide that audio is included in the course in case they have their volume turned off. After all, you don’t want them to miss important info and have to restart the course! You may also want to give learners the ability to control the volume of the sound effects and to mute them if they choose.

Know Your Audience

Should you include funny, whimsical sound effects in a serious e-learning module for accounting professionals? Probably not. That would work better in a gamified course you’re building for new employees that is more playful in nature and casual in tone. Know your audience and topic, and make sure you select sound effects that work well with both.

Use Sound Effects Sparingly

Once you find sound effects that work well with your material, you might be tempted to add a sound effect to each slide and for each mouse click. That can get annoying really fast…so use them sparingly to make sure they remain effective for the learner.

Be Consistent

This applies to the type of sound effects you’re using, and also to the quality. Certain sounds work well together, and you should consider the quality and volume of sound effects to ensure they’re all consistent with each other.

Keep these tips in mind when you’re adding sound effects to your next course and it’s sure to add that extra oomph your learners will love.

If you're looking for sources for free audio, try this roundup by Tom Kuhlmann. Got any tips of your own for using sound effects? Let me know in the comments below.

You can always sign up for a fully functional, free 60-day trial of Articulate 360. And don’t forget to post your questions and comments in the forums! We’re here to help. For more e-learning tips, examples, and downloads, follow us on Twitter.

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