Music in e-learning

Nov 03, 2020

Good Afternoon - I have a client wishing for music to be used within their e-learning module we are creating for them. A few questions:

1. Is music a good asset to include in e-learning or a distraction?

2. Is there a good resource to obtain free music that people have used? Any tricks to using the free sites?

3. Any tricks or recommendations when incorporating music into a storyline file that I should be sure to take care of?

Thank you for your advice ahead of time!


15 Replies
Sarah Hodge

Hi Tricia! The Youtube Audio Library has a variety of music options. I like using music and sound effects in some of my projects when it makes sense to include it. I think it can have a positive impact on the learners' experience if thoughtfully planned (i.e. with a purpose). I also wanted to share this article on tips for using sound effects in e-learning


If using JavaScript you can "stop" the music by just pausing it. If you don't want the music to pick up where it left off when you play again, you combine pausing the audio with moving the playhead back to the 0 second mark.

The JavaScript looks like this:
audio.currentTime = 0;

and you need to to add an action on the Storyline side that will trigger the JavaScript executing (like, when user pushes a button).

Ray Cole

I no longer use music much. But when I did, I used it for the opening and closing screens, and for transitional screens (e.g., a title slide that indicates you are moving into a new topic, activity, or module), never for content screens.

Instead of using pre-made royalty free music, I preferred to create my own in a simple loop editing tool like Apple's Garage Band (Mac) or Acoustica's Mixcraft (Windows). These tools come with little snippets of melody or rhythm patterns already recorded and edited so that the end of each snippet perfectly aligns with its beginning, allowing you to "loop" (repeat) them for a long as you need. You then stack these little loops on top of eachother to construct theme music for your course: Maybe a solo guitar or or trumpet plays a simple melody, which is stacked over a bass loop and a drum loop. Presto: you've just composed a simple jingle.

What I like about this approach is that it allowed me to use elements of the main theme from the opening screen of the course during the transitional slides. For example, I might play the full theme on the opening and closing screens, but only play the drum + bass elements on the transitional slides, or maybe just one short guitar lick from the main theme. This allowed the transitional music to be really short and not bog down the pacing of the course, while still being strongly related to the main theme.

This approach is hard to implement if you only have a fully mixed main theme of the sort you'd get from a stock library.

Ray Cole

Frank, I don't think bespoke music is used much (like, basically not at all) unless the instructional designer happens to have the skills to compose the music on his or her own.

My sense is that the market size for composers offering to create custom music for an e-learning course would be vanishingly small. The trend in the industry is toward single-person production, where one person is responsible for all aspects of design and development.

About the only elements that still get outsourced to specialists are voice-over narration (though many IDs record their own) or highly technical elements like medical animations.