14 Replies
Cary Glenn

If you are using the character as a narrator I would stay with the same character throughout the course. I think it would be confusing for the learners to be having a bunch of different characters narrating the same course. It would be like, "I'm Not There" the movie about Bob Dylan where 6 different actors embody his work (including Cate Blanchett).

Nicole Legault

Hey Sheri!

Good question, and I would agree with Cary's answer. I often use a character to "guide" my users through my e-learning courses because I think the information is more engaging and interesting when its coming from a person instead of just plain text on the screen. I try to use characters that are most representative of my audience, so they feel more like they "connect" or "relate" to the character. For example if I'm designing a course for that has an audience of mainly 30-50 year old men, I'll use a male character in his 40s, not a young 20 year old female. I'll also usually name my character and give them a job title, just because it makes them feel more "real". So yes, for consistency and cohesion I would keep one character to guide the entire course. Multiple characters could be confusing.

Where I do like to use a mix of characters is when I build out scenarios for my courses. If you can use a narrator/guide character for your course, and then throw in a few scenarios that involve characters and decision-making, this is probably going to be an awesome course! Hope this helps!

Bruce Graham

OK...playing Devil's Advocate, (and maybe this is a completely different thread....).

Why do you feel the need to have a "Narrator" for courses?

Surely it is just something else to detract from the course itself?

I've just never felt the need or necessity to do it - I think my clients would find a narrator rather childish/superfluous.

I get the "it is more interesting than plain text" thing, but for me the text itself is often written in a "storytelling" sort of way, so there's an implicit "narrator" in the words - no need to add in something to "guide" people through something that is probably less complex to navigate than their phone or microwave.

A narrator just seems a bit 1980's to me - I feel we have passed that phase now. Haven't we?

Jackie Van Nice

I think I might be with Mr. Devil's Advocate, here. (Though if you're required to use one, I'd stick to just one. Cary's "I'm Not There" point is good.)

I got bored with narrator types, and they seemed superfluous. I reworked my approach so that the only characters I use are necessary and involved directly in content-specific scenarios. Invariably there's one character I expect the learner to relate to and identify with, but it's not a lurking observer or guide.

Joshua Roberts

I think this question changes situationally.

I have just introduced a character into a Charity's E-Learning to act as a guide through the module. Previously there has been little or no use of characters in any module.

Depending on the situation you may wish to use a visual aid in the form of a character in order to increase user engagement. Because there has been no use previously the users have enjoyed seeing a visual portrayal of the narrator. To give some background I created a scenario based module for data protection where you were taken around the office with the 'trainer/narrator' guiding you. The users responded really well to the new style and claimed it felt as though there was a trainer talking directly to them.

Again, this is dependent on the look/feel you need from the module and the requirements of those who you are designing for. I wouldn't input characters purely for the sake of having them, but if it fits the module and the audience then yes there is no reason why tasteful use of characters won't work.

Ashlee Smith

I agree with Joshua that it changes by the situation, and I think it's really just a matter of personal opinion and choice. 

In my opinion I prefer a course that has a narrator or character guide over the same content without one, and a few of my recent clients agreed with this (I know this because they wanted to use a narrator-type character in their courses). I feel using one is more personal and has a more "human" touch in your course when you see a face. I also like to write my course script (and/or narration) in a very conversational and friendly tone, and I like to put a "face to the voice" or a "face to the script" instead of just being the nameless voice in the sky. 

Partly I believe I feel this way because a few years ago I worked closely with marketing folks, and they would always emphasize using images of people in their work because, apparently, studies have indicated that using human faces in web design (which is similar in a lot of ways to e-learning design) gets people to focus more, and draws them towards a common point of interest. (Two great articles: The science behind using pictures of people in marketing, and 7 tips to boost your sites conversion rate using images). Again, web design and e-learning are not the same, but they have many similar and common elements, and I think the end goal is really to engage and illicit emotion and a reaction from your learners, which I believe images of people are great at doing!

This is a great discussion and I look forward to seeing other opinions!

Jeff Kortenbosch

Great points everyone. Off course it depends on your course as well as your client.

I've been doing quite a bit of development where the clients really just want you to convert a Word document into a slide based elearning module. They often have little time and interest to make something significant out of it, which is too bad but in the end their decision. Often that leaves us to making it look as good as possible and a 'presenter' character allows us to put a face to some pretty plain text, bringing in the human dimension. 

Tracy Parish

I once used a clipart character as the narrator within the course.  At first I had her shirt colour change to signify that they were now moving into a different section/chapter of the course.

Eventually I realized that she had about 10 different costume changes and even I was becoming more focused on "What is she going to wear next" than the learning material.

Lesson learned.  

Bruce Graham

Tracy Parish said:

I once used a clipart character as the narrator within the course.  At first I had her shirt colour change to signify that they were now moving into a different section/chapter of the course.

Eventually I realized that she had about 10 different costume changes and even I was becoming more focused on "What is she going to wear next" than the learning material.

Lesson learned.  

LOL
Nancy Woinoski

Just read Bruce's post and I agree with his views on narrators. Just plopping a character on screen does not add any real value and I don't think it adds to user engagement. You can remove this element and still use images of people throughout your course as long as they are integrated into the story you are unfolding. Having said that, there are times when an on screen presenter or guide makes sense within the context of the learning. In situations like this, I like to allow the learner to pick the presenter and have their selection persist throughout the course.