Tips for non-narrated course

We have a course that we had originally planned to do with narration but have since decided to eliminate the narration.  The original intent was to provide a detailed script in the notes and short bits of text and graphics on the screen.  Now we have to put all of the content on the slides.  This is obviously more text than we had planned.  Haven't done it this way before and would like your advice on how best to approach it.

For example, is it better to display text all at once since user's reading pace varies, or do you still display the text in a staggered way to add interest?  How do you incorporate graphics animations with the text? Or do you just avoid animation except on the slide transitions? I can see where it might be distracting if new text is appearing when you haven't finished the other text, but obviously we want to avoid making the user wait for text to appear.  We'd like to add interest, and animation is a great way to do that, but we don't want to annoy the user with it. 

I would appreciate any tips or advice for creating a visually interesting course without narration.

14 Replies
Nicole Legault

Hey Pam, 

I've encountered the exact same issue when developing a past e-learning course. It was a text-heavy course and we were not using any narration at all. So everything had to be on-screen. At first I started with REALLY small chunks of text (1-2 sentences) and then I would make a "click" to add a few more lines, but quickly realized at that pace the users would be clicking, oh, close to a million times, throughout the course. Additionally, there was really no value or no reason for the content to be chunked that small. 

What I ended up doing is chunking my content into about one or two paragraph per slide. I would usually have a paragraph of text appear at a time, and I wouldn't generally recommend having too much more than that on an e-learning slide anyways. Additionally, I did a lot of work on wording my text in as compact a fashion as I could. Edit, edit, edit. Be really ruthless with the editing. Any words you don't need, get rid of them.  If you can say it in one sentence instead of two, do it. In ten words instead of twelve, great. Anything redundant or repetitive, remove it. 

With the animations, I avoided a lot of heavy or fancy animations. It can be visually distracting when people are reading, so I would usually just use fade-in animations to give things a more smooth look instead of the jerkiness of things just appearing out of nowhere. 

Another thing I found was that I had to do a lot of previewing and decisions on the spot about how much content was appropriate. Sometimes it's just really hard to tell if it flows or works well until you preview your output!

Hope this helps

Pam Richmond

PJ Babcock said:

I have no idea of what you are presenting, but what about just using closed captioning for the text?

I'd be interested in reviewing your course to provide more constructive feedback.

PJ, do you mean just putting the text in the "Notes" tab?  I'm not sure the client would be happy with just putting the text in the Notes tab because that is so easily overlooked and we want to show the outline/menu in the sidebar by default. If you mean something else, I'm not sure how to go about that and would be interested in more info.  I'll see if I can provide a sample of the course materials.

Rebecca Harnett

I have to produce all of our courses without narration as most of our users don't have sound cards or headphones.   I think it depends on what your subject matter is but I tend to go for small chucks of info and let the users click when they have read it.  It might be my personal preference but as a user I prefer it to large amounts of text as I feel that a lot of reading in one go can feel like more of a chore.    I also feel that having a single point or idea on a slide helps people absorb the information more easily as each point stands alone rather than as part of a group.   

It also means that the text can be larger so I get less complaints about not being able to read it!     We try and keep wording consise and try to use interaction as much as possible to keep it interesting so using scenarios with decision slides,  roll over captions, quiz type slides, having characters and using dialogue etc.

Pam Richmond

Nicole and Rebecca, thank you for the ideas. They are very helpful.  Attached is a Storyline file showing a few of the unedited slides that I will be converting.  Obviously the text needs to be cleaned up, shortened, and/or broken up, but I welcome your ideas on how we might approach these types of slides.  I could use some creative input on interactions to add interest. I've been using Presenter for a while, but I'm fairly new to Storyline.  Thanks.

Rebekah Massmann

I haven't had a chance to look at your slides, but here are some resources that may be helpful!

Really great overview of technical writing concepts, especially around being succinct and clear:

Check out Cathy Moore's blog for some excellent ideas on making your e-learning more engaging and sticky. Here are few that may help:

Hope this helps!


Elizabeth Miles

Hi Pam,

You could use a combination of Storyline's markers, built-in interactions and templates to pull this off.  The attached file is a little rough because I used your content to put it together quickly, but it might give you some ideas as to how this could look without narration. 

Good luck with your project!

(Just realized the slides are advancing automatically, so before you preview or publish you'll need to set them to advance by user.)

Sam Lincoln


If you have Storyline the solution appears to lie in using a scrolling panel. This tutorial explains (opens in a new window).

If you are using PowerPoint, you may be able to produce something similar to layers by deft use of buttons to reveal appropriate text in a layer/call out effect (just think about placement of the layer and other content on the slide.

An additional thought: if your client is concerned that the user will not read text in this way, you can always force the reader to take an action to confirm that they have read the text by, for example, inserting a check box at the bottom or a singe question relating to the text which they have to answer before being allowed to progress (i.e. a trigger before the next button appears).

blair parkin

Hi Pam

We are in the same boat as Rebecca an can't use narration either. Only two things that I would add to the advice you already have:

  1. try to keep the text to a readable size. We don't go any smaller than 12pt if possible and then allow that to dictate the amount of text on a page. You can usually tell if a page is too cluttered so either edit out what isn't absolutely needed, or move it to a second page
  2. where possible use images to help get the information across. A relevant image with markers or callouts usually means alot less text in trying to explain the information


Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Hi Pam,

I'm late to the party...happened to come across this a little bit ago. I agree with what everyone has said about using images as much as possible, really like what Elizabeth did.

Before I looked at Elizabeth's story, I looked at yours and saw the references to paths, routes, locations, movement, completed pathways, cycles (which are a path of sorts...thinking a looping walkway or looping bicycle path) and my mind immediately went to the metaphor of a path. So, that's what the attached is about.

Please excuse the badly drawn path and the fact that the photos are assorted styles. This was done quickly and just to "make the point." Clearly if you were doing this for a client, you'd have to work harder to make it all cohesive. Oh, and I don't really know the content, so it could all be wrong! Again, just the ideas here!

The navigation is "restricted" so that Learners see things in the order I saw on your first slide...maybe you wouldn't want'd need to decide of course.

I've only done 3 of the 5 items in the pathway. You  might need a wider story size. Or, you could maybe set this up so that it slides across the screen, to the left. Or, you could choose not to show previous layers as new layers are displayed and maybe show a summary a lightbox. Lots of ways it could work...

Anyway, it's REALLY basic...just wanted to share my thoughts with you!

In terms of (c), most of the images are from and I've referenced those that weren't in the notes area.

Please shout out with any questions!

Trevor Clay

Hi Everyone,

I am new to storyline and I am looking for how to use apply and use narration, that is can I have my slides read the text to the user?

Ideally the text would change color as the words are read out.

I can create a sound file and attach to each page but was more interested if there was a tool available for this?

Thank you


Pam Richmond

Rebekah, thanks for the resources.

Elizabeth, the examples you sent are wonderful. Thanks so much.  I will adapt them for use in our course. My goal is to incorporate some interactivity within my limited resources, and you've gotten me started.

Sam, thank you for the suggestion. I may give the scrolling panel a try on some screens.

Blair, thanks for the advice. I'm sure I can make use of markers and callouts on images.

Rebecca, fantastic idea. I appreciate that you put together a sample. And I didn't know about may have some images I can use as a starting point.

Do any of you have thoughts on pacing the appearance of the text?  I saw in the articles Elizabeth sent that some learners prefer to read the text at their own pace, but putting all of the text on screen at once seems rather boring. I won't be able to do interactive elements on each screen, so even though something like a tabs interaction is quite useful, it won't be feasible for the entire course.

I've attached a paced but non-narrated sample (the second slide uses comp images from as placeholders).  Thanks again for all who have chimed in!

Pam Richmond

Trevor Clay said:

Hi Everyone,

I am new to storyline and I am looking for how to use apply and use narration, that is can I have my slides read the text to the user?

Ideally the text would change color as the words are read out.

I can create a sound file and attach to each page but was more interested if there was a tool available for this?

Thank you


Trevor, Storyline will not produce the narration for you, and I am not aware of any tools that would automate this.  However, any automated audio would be obviously mechanical in its quality and would lack the emphasis, inflection, and character of an actual person.  This has improved over time, but it's difficult to replicate an actual person's voice. There are some low-cost voiceover services available through online providers (haven't used one but have heard they can be quite good for the price). 

Regarding the highlighting of words, that would have to be done manually.  It's possible to set this up as an animation, but it would be cumbersome with more than a few words.

Kim Schenk


Thanks for asking the initial question. I've gotten a lot of ideas for our next project from seeing everyone's answers. 

About the pacing: one thing that we found out was that our test users didn't care if information came onto the screen quickly as long as it didn't go away. As a matter of fact, when they weren't in control, they preferred only a small delay in information appearing (for those speed readers) again as long as it didn't come and then go without their control (for those who needed a little longer). Like you we had no narration and a lot of information. We found having a select group of testers (some more comfortable with the computer and some less) who were part of the end user group really helped us make changes to the learning in terms of navigation and pacing.