Question on narration

I've been wanting to do a bit of research, and think this is probably one of the better places to start.

Having narrated a fair number of eLearning shows over the years (including an award winner for the NECA), I sometimes wonder, from a design standpoint, when it's appropriate for a presentation to feature narration, when (if ever) it isn't, and how important course designers think strong narration is to the overall flow of a good eLearning experience.

I know some folks provide their own narration, while others rely solely on professional Voice Actors/Artists to say the words for them.  Is this a matter of preference, material, budget, or some combination thereof?  What other factors determine whether or not a professional narrator is brought into the scene?

Thanks, gang!

ab

63 Replies
Andy Bowyer

I thought as much.

I asked that last bit because I put out an inquiry today, and was encouraged--until I was told I had to be local to their office...which is around 2-3000 miles away from me.

I just can't see it as an advantage to have recording done on-site any more.  To me, it seems a waste of in-house resources and productivity time that could be better put to work on more immediate issues.

It'd be wonderful to be able to convince certain others of this.

Bruce Graham

Some you win....

Again, this is largely fear I suspect.

In 3-5 years this will be reduced.

I run projects using talent, and skills that complement my own, from all over the World. Some of the people I have never met, some I have, (mostly I have never met them).

Remote working like that is still in "Early Adopter" phase, but Skype, crowdsourcing etc. will make it more mainstream.

Bruce

Andy Bowyer

I did "state a case" for using remotely outsourced voice talent.

Sadly, I've yet to hear back from them...given the speed with which they responded to begin with, I suspect I won't hear back at all.  But I think you're right, Bruce, there is a fear/control factor here.  More over, "Well, it's the way we've always done it, so we'll keep doing it that way."

Ah well.  As you said, "Some you win..."

Paul Lush

In our organization, we have been working on "converting" some instructor-led sessions into e-learning modules.  We narrated a couple of small modules ourselves and, for the most-part, threw in the towel and currently post all of our narration jobs at voices.com.  The main point of consideration, in my opinion, is the audience.  We have employees who are very operational focused (transportation industry) and taking on-line courses is not part of their normal daily process.  Thus, we find that the audio is crucial in that it needs to be captivating and add to the learning experience.  If we truly value the time that they will spend involved in the learning experience, we must respect their time with professionalism (IMHO-that's why I give 3rd party vendors with mediocre generic offerings a difficult time).  I'm not sure if the same degree of "importance" is conveyed when it is one of our own.  Additionally, we are also encountering increasingly more new hires who communicate in English as a second language.  In certain cases, individuals may have a better verbal grasp of the language than a written one which is another key reason we now consider narration as non-negotiable.  In summary, to respond to Andy's original post, I think narration is fundamental in most cases.

Rich Johnstun

Bruce Graham said:

Rich Johnstun said:

The big issue I have is making courses multilingual. We support 11 languages so that's 11 different voice overs I have to deal with on a project. Then when I do get all the correct language voice overs, I have to sync my animations to  language I'm not familiar with (I can get most of the latin based languages because of my background with spanish, but the asian languages are killers).

Not all of my projects apply to all languages, so I don't have to go through this on every project, but when I'm told it's for the "whole company", I usually avoid voice overs. It's much easier to copy and past translated text. 


I just get the translators, (while they are at it...), to insert some sort of "marker" in the text and/or audio, so that I know where to make the animation happen.

Never failed me yet, and they usually do it within their fee, (at least...that's what I negotiate, so they do it, or I go elsewhere).

There's always a way...

Bruce


That is the exact tactic I've been using. The biggest issue is that I have a hard time even following the the script with what they are saying because it is so foreign. In most cases, if the animation is off a second or two it isn't a big issue and we work with it. 

T. Travis

Hi Andy,

...back to your original question.

Since we're both voice talents, I would expect that our first answer would be that it's ALWAYS appropriate.  But of course, we'd get a few arguments against that position.  However, since much of the research (i.e. Clark and Mayer) shows that audio-driven courses tend to be the most effective, most of the time, we do have a pretty good argument towards our viewpoint.  I haven't seen any research evaluating whether GOOD narration is more effective than poor narration, but I would expect that it would make a difference.

I believe that the classroom model (which is nearly always driven by audio and supported by visual materials) is still the best one to follow in e-learning.  It's how people have learned for centuries and it works (provided we have a good "teacher/narrator").

I also believe good narration can do a great deal more than other means to support student engagement. 

See: "Elearning Engagement Techniques" - http://youtu.be/vGGtpE3LUI4 for examples.

-Travis - http://www.training-vo.com

Richie Hewitt

T. Travis said:

See: "Elearning Engagement Techniques" - http://youtu.be/vGGtpE3LUI4 for examples.


I had to register for this site simply to say congrats for the excellent video. It teaches more in a few minutes than some books!

I'm not quite sure how I ended up on this site, I don't even use Articulate (I use ********* instead!). 

Richie

Richie Hewitt

Andy Bowyer said:

I've been wanting to do a bit of research, and think this is probably one of the better places to start.

 I know some folks provide their own narration, while others rely solely on professional Voice Actors/Artists to say the words for them.  Is this a matter of preference, material, budget, or some combination thereof?  What other factors determine whether or not a professional narrator is brought into the scene?


We use a couple of professional actors. As someone already mentioned, it  works okay until you need to do rework - then you find your actor is on holiday or too busy. Therefore, it's vital that you have an agreement in place that will cover small amounts of rework - possibly as part of the original price. 

The fee we pay varies, but it works out about 15 pence (about 20 cents) a word. However, the guy we use is well-established and has a great voice. I'm sure you could get a lower price - especially if you can find someone trying to break into the acting game. 

The other advantage is that actors all have their own recording studios. Of course, all you need to record voiceover yourself is a microphone, but unless it's a decent mike and you have a sound-proof room, it's very difficult to remove all background noise. 

Maureen Wilson

Here is a tip for non-profits.  Free professional VO Talent is available through acting schools an professional talent associations.  We had over 50 auditions to choose from.  New talent gathers experience while seasoned talent gets to give back to a worthy cause.  They make a charitable contribution and the non-profit get professional narration at not cost.  It has worked out well for us and what nice and generous folks they are.  The school we used also benefited from the venture as they got to listen to the auditions and recommend additional training to those who needed some help.It just took a letter.