2 Replies
T. Travis

Hi Liz,

My opinions here, are entirely subjective, based on narrating literally thousands of e-learning programs.  However the research (especially by Clark and Mayer) tends to support my opinions.

There are dozens of approaches that can be taken when combining text with narration.  It's wise, however to start with the "Natural" process of learning.  -How we learn things before we learn to read.  That process is using speech to provide the facts and emotion, using the visual to illustrate and reinforce what's communicated through speech.  This is how we're "hard-wired" to learn. 

When we read text, we are using additional brainpower to turn the text into words first.  In other words, text is actually "aural" information with added mental overhead.  We are using our visual channels to translate the material, when those channels can be put to much better use.  That's why its so frustrating and tiring to read and hear text at the same time.  - We're trying to do two things at once with still further overhead of trying to keep the two in sync - with little apparent payoff.

However, if we present aural information, using the visual to illustrate what we're hearing, we are actually dividing up the mental processes into segments which are best handled by particular sections of the brain.  You can use graphics or  titles or keywords to enhance a point.  For instance the narrator says "This is a caterpillar." You can use a picture of a caterpillar, you can display the word "caterpillar", or you can say something about the caterpillar in text ("It's green!"). All three approaches will work.  However, displaying "This is a caterpillar" on screen will cause mental confusion and eventually exhaustion.

So my advice is "Illustrate what's being presented via the audio". Any other approach is less effective.

Some examples:

An Essay on Sound:   http://youtu.be/ZpZzhuL0KdA

E-learning Engagement Techniques:   http://youtu.be/vGGtpE3LUI4

-Travis