Voiceover or not?

Jun 20, 2023


I'm looking to hear your thoughts on when it's absolutely necessary to add voiceover. In my last role, we didn't have the budget or the resources to hire voiceover actors, and we didn't have the recording equipment either. Only one course did I have the SMEs record using PPT, and it was okay, but not great. However, most of the courses didn't include audio at all. It's something I've worried a bit about. Did I shortchange my learners?

What do you think? Do you always use voiceover? Thank you for sharing!


14 Replies
Lisa Blasdell

My company also does not have the budget to hire voiceover actors so I end up doing all of the voiceovers myself. I have found that the Storyline360 editing options are good but initially started by using the Repplay360 editing is where I originally started.  Depending on your content topic and length it may be beneficial to even add your own voice to help elaborate on visual content. Some people learn better by hearing something vs. seeing/reading it. 

The downside of voice -if your topic content changes you not only have to edit the visuals, but you also have to edit the voice piece too. We have found this most problematic because we didn't have a record of exactly what things were stated so we ended up having to review the entire piece again and marking where edits were needed. I've since downloaded an audio script tracker doc so we don't have to do the full content review in the future.

Overall, I do think having audio or voiceover in some areas is definitely helpful and can help break up long content too. Hope this helps!

Judy Nollet

I almost never use voiceovers, by choice (and, yes, often by budget, too). 

If there's something to show on the screen, it's helpful to have a voice explain it (rather than describing the action in text on the screen). If a company can't/won't pay to hire a pro, then they'll have to accept the robotic quality of voice-to-text.

Otherwise, the audio doesn't help. In fact, it actually increases cognitive load if you include audio that's basically reading text that's on the screen.

Caveat: It can help some learners to have both. For example, if someone is taking a course that's not in their native language, hearing and reading the text could be useful. In such cases, I'd probably include the audio as optional, so someone would only hear the audio if they select to do so. 

From what I've seen, I think some folks want courses narrated just to force learners to spend a certain amount of time on the slides. It drives me crazy when I have to listen to what I can read much faster...

Bottom line: Don't feel bad about not including audio when it's not needed to describe action. 

Bianca Woods

Hey Kandice! First off, don't worry that you shortchanged your learners by not having a voiceover. E-Learning with narration isn't inherently better than that without. It's just different.

There are lots of ways to make a course engaging without a voiceover. And there are loads of times when a voiceover can make a course worse—like when the person doing the narration isn't a compelling speaker or, as Judy mentioned, the voiceover reads the screen content verbatim and ends up adding to cognitive load.

What I tend to do at the beginning of a project is ponder two questions:

  • Are there meaningful ways a voiceover could add to the learning experience?
  • If so, does that contribution outweigh the extra work and costs of creating it and supporting it over time?

If I don't have a compelling yes to both questions, then I don't feel any guilt about not including a voiceover. And if I say yes to the first question, but no to the second, that's an okay time to leave off a voiceover too. We don't always have the budget and resources for voiceovers to be a fit for every project. And for complex situations, like if the content is going to regularly change, managing voiceovers can be a logistical nightmare.

With so many other ways to make compelling e-learning out there, narration is just one tool of many. Not the pinnacle of what all good e-learning should include. 

Kandice Kidd

Judy! I was hoping that you might have time to weigh in on my question. Savior that you are!

So, besides the budgetary issues, my learners were doctors and neurosurgeons and they were non plussed by reading text, as long as it was interesting. Thus, I would lean on the problem-based Learning method (PBL)  to design courses that would appeal to the way they work and learn, and I figured the audio wasn't relevant. Now, in one course there was this super complicated visual so I used Vyond and TTS to explain it. Here's the link to see what I mean (click "Mechanism of Action in the menu).

The other thing is that I read Ruth Clark's book on Evidence-Based Training Methods which supports what you said about cognitive load. 

I laughed out loud about what you said about audio when you can read yourself. I totally agree! I absolutely HATE when someone puts a ton of text on a PPT slide because then I'm totally distracted by it or their voice. 

Thank you, Judy!! I appreciate you!


Kandice Kidd

Hi Bianca!

Thank you so much for your feedback on this question. What you and Judy actually shared is what I learned in my studies and by reading Ruth Clark's book on evidence-based training. I follow her guidelines about visuals, text, and audio, and when to combine or exclude these elements. 

I shared that I do have a course that did have a pretty complex visual AND explanation, and the audience is new physicians. I did add TTS and a Vyond animation to explain it to the learner. The SMEs loved it and it tested well. The rest of the course had no audio. 

 I also love your point about how complicated it is to update a course that has audio. When I was a product manager, the eLearning team would often have to rerecord the whole course!

Thank you for your help!


Eric Schaffer

I'll jump in here with some useless info. The company I work for put in a policy that we will have professional voice over. We found a good person to give use files to put in our projects. And yes, they are expensive. I think we paid for a new car for him last year. He sounds great but we are locked into one voice. When we do translations into other languages (non-English) we use a computer-generated voice. 

I like natural real voices, but they cost. If you need to make changes, these can add to the cost. If you voice person is internal, they may leave. Now you may need to revoice a whole project. Computer generated voices are not that bad anymore. I find many of the Articulate voices easy to use and can be adjusted when needed. I would like to see some improvements, but I'll wait. 

As for the learning. I don't like someone just talking to me. I like spoken instructions that I can follow. A slide with a lot of clutter that is being read can be boring. Look at presentation on YouTube or other channels that you are learning from. See what you like and what you learn from. There are so many different generations learning on-line today with many different preferences. 

Choose what works for you and present that to the stakeholders.


Good luck.