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The Ultimate Guide to ELearning Voice Overs - Man records voice over on laptop
The Ultimate Guide to ELearning Voice Overs - Man records voice over on laptop
Alex Mcomie 107x107
Jan 19, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to ELearning Voice Overs

The Growth of eLearning

Online learning would have sounded like science fiction just a generation or two ago, but it’s quickly becoming a major part of the educational landscape.

With increasing internet speeds, the development of remote work, and the demand for digital educational content, it’s no surprise that eLearning is growing so rapidly.

Learning has evolved greatly and is “consumed” through multiple platforms, from organizational eLearning modules, through podcasts to online universities like Udemy. SkillShare, Coursera, EdX, and others.

The truth is that audiences want to learn — they just need content that’s more interesting than a traditional textbook.

Creators are responding to this by adding more dynamic elements such as games, virtual reality, and eLearning voice overs.

We’re already seeing these trends play out in practice.

In fact, the global eLearning market was worth nearly $400 billion in 2022, and that figure will only continue to increase as more and more educational content goes online.


Sizing Up the Global eLearning Market, from Budget Allocations to Growth Drivers

Key Insight: The global corporate eLearning market was estimated at $22.5 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand to $44.6 billion by 2028.

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[Source: Statista]


Key eLearning Trends Include Blended Learning, Cybersecurity, and Training for Educators

Key Insight: Content creators, educators, and other stakeholders are working to develop the future of eLearning.

According to CIO, VR, and AR will become more and more common in the classroom in the years to come.

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Assessing Disruptive Technologies Such as Gamification and the Rise of Wearables

Key Insight: The game-based learning industry grew to more than $15 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at 15% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2022 to 2028.

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People in Learning

While eLearning introduced new opportunities and challenges, some elements of learning are the same as ever.

People still engage best with other people, and they engage better with learning when there is a human voice involved in its delivery.

The key element is personality; it’s what learners connect with, and a good voice over artist can easily inject it into a project.

Speaking and listening are one of the most natural interactions that humans do. It’s been shown that the brains of speakers and listeners even synchronize during storytelling.

We’re not telepathic, but the same areas of the brain activate for someone who is talking as someone who is listening to them.

This suggests some form of deep connection that we are hardwired to find engaging.

This isn’t much of a surprise given that we are such social creatures, but it’s nice to see research starting to uncover and acknowledge these things.

It’s also no wonder then that eLearning voice overs can be so powerful.


Types of Narration

Voice acting is narration, and the practice of narration has four subtypes: elaboration, paraphrasing, verbatim, and description.

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The narrator offers more detail or context for the on-screen text.

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The narrator provides a shorter summary of the on-screen text.

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The narrator reads out the exact text on screen.

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The narrator describes images or other on-screen visuals.

There is a lot of debate about which of these types of narration is most useful for learning.

For instance, a concept called the redundancy principle states that the verbatim subtype is not useful.

While voice acting can be effective, narrating every single word may backfire. Getting the same exact information from two sources can be more confusing than helpful.

It may also seem patronizing to some learners, giving them the impression that they can’t be trusted to read the text by themselves.

With that in mind, you should view narration as a supplement to the on-screen content.

Look for ways to use audio to provide additional context or information — don’t simply repeat what the user is already reading.

The only possible exception is when there is a need for extra emphasis, perhaps to drive home an important point, such as, “When you hear the fire alarm, leave the building by the nearest exit.”

In the end, there’s no hard and fast rule for eLearning narration.

The best approach is the one that leads to the best experience and retention for your students.

Knowing that these different subtypes exist will make it easier to experiment and see what’s right for each situation.

If your eLearning content contains a lot of text, have your narrator summarize the information in bullet-point style summaries.

Long monologues will make it less interesting and more difficult to remember.

In situations with more complex information, the reader should be allowed to absorb the information at their own pace.

If you have diagrams or graphs, for example, let readers view them for as long as they want before moving on to the next page.

The voice actor should provide an explanatory summary without overloading the learner with information.

Consider the typical airline preflight safety video. It isn’t a traditional classroom setting, but it is still a form of eLearning.

While clear communication comes first, you’ll notice that airlines always pick bright, cheerful actors for these videos.

Tone has to be a consideration when you’re providing boilerplate safety information to an audience that mostly wants to put on their headphones and sleep.

As well as the redundancy principle, we wanted to highlight two more concepts from “ELearning and the Science of Instruction” by Ruth Clark and Richard Meyer.

The modality principle is a grand name for something simple.

It states that your narration should be used in place of written text when the screen is focused on video or graphic elements.

In other words, information should be delivered in multiple ways rather than all in the same way.

The contiguity principle states that you should play audio at the same time as the graphical elements described on-screen.

Most learners won’t retain the audio information as well if it’s left until after.

For example, if you’re designing a course to show cash counting methods for a bank, you would have the narrator describe the procedures while the video shows them being demonstrated.

This may seem obvious when you read it, but it’s the kind of thing that can be overlooked in production, and it’s more efficient and cost-effective to get it right the first time.


Tone of Voice

Tone is a key part of the identity of your eLearning content.

The voice that explained how to inflate a lifejacket in the airline safety video might not be effective for describing how to assemble a carburetor.

A professional voice artist will maintain the same tone throughout an entire series of eLearning modules.

This consistency is important to maintain authority and authenticity and will seem jarring if it drifts.

A voice over artist will try to help learners feel as if they are listening to someone who is pleasant and approachable, rather than someone just announcing train times.

Audio delivery is crucial for auditory learners who retain information more effectively via listening compared to other methods.

A pleasant voice with the right tone will give a much-needed boost to dry educational content.


Using Professionals for eLearning Voice Overs

When cost is an issue (and when isn’t it?) you may be tempted to cut corners.

On the face of it, creating an eLearning voice over might look like a fairly straightforward task.

Why pay somebody to speak when you can speak, right? Not quite….

As well as having great sounding voices, professionals have already ironed out all the kinks, snags, and pitfalls that can dog a production.

Time is money, and you will be encountering all the roadblocks for the first time if you do it yourself.

Do you want to invest in your own recording equipment, or leave it to an experienced professional?

In the end, working with an experienced voice actor will likely save you both time and money.

Besides, you’ll have your hands full just preparing your production.

To do that, here are several practical tips gleaned from the eLearning industry for producing more effective eLearning voice overs.

Map It Out

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Create an outline of what you plan to cover in your eLearning voice over.

Start with a list of key ideas and objectives, then map out the flow of the script.

Remember to note the tone as well as the images, graphics, and videos you’ll be using.

Even a rough guide will help to solidify the shape of the piece in your mind.

Write in Active Voice

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Active voice sentences clearly identify an action and who is performing it.

They are much more direct than passive voice sentences.

Not sure if you’re using active voice? Look at the subject of your sentence.

Is the subject performing the action (active), or is the action being done to it (passive)? For example:

Passive voice: Further information (subject) can be found (action) by learners on our website.

Active voice: Learners (subject) can find (action) further information (object) on our website.

Consider Time Constraints

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A voice actor can typically narrate about 100 to 150 words per minute.

If you don’t keep time constraints in mind while writing, you may be forced to make significant edits later on.

Read It Out Loud

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Speaking and writing are very different, and you need to hear your script out loud before you can really evaluate it.

There is no shame in rehearsing — just consider it a necessary part of the process.

You’ll save a lot of unnecessary time and effort in the end.

If hiring a professional, ask for auditions to make sure they read in a manner that aligns with the subject matter.

Leave Room for Pauses

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When it comes to narration, sometimes less really is more.

Learners need time to contextualize new information, and you don’t want to give them too much to think about.

Focus on Developing a Cohesive Experience

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ELearning content involves audio, visual, and sometimes even interactive content.

It isn’t enough to work on them separately — you need to consider how they come together for the learner.

Recording Quality Is Everything

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If you’ve ever watched a poorly made school or corporate video, you understand the importance of a professional production.

Your voice over recording shouldn’t have any background noise or other noticeable imperfections.

You can use free tools such as Audacity to reduce background noise later, but it’s better to avoid it in the first place.

A professional eLearning voice actor will have the equipment and experience necessary to create a high-quality recording.

Make It Conversational

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An engaging, conversational style will improve both retention and interest. Try to write a more casual script that doesn’t sound too much like a textbook.

Use Simple Language

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Language and word choice should be tailored to your specific audience.

If you’re writing an introductory course, you should use everyday terms to explain the basic concepts.

Don’t assume that all students will have the same context or background.

Paint Word Pictures

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Sometimes, the way you present a subject can be just as important as the subject itself.

There’s a reason that talking about “climbing the corporate ladder” sounds better than “rising through the corporate hierarchy.”

You shouldn’t overdo it, but judicious use of rich descriptors will stick in the memory of your learners and help them to hold onto concepts.

Keep Editing

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A script (or any other written work) is rarely perfect from the first draft.

You should expect several rounds of edits before ending up with a final version.

If possible, have a few coworkers (or just friends/family members) review the script and provide feedback.

Revisions from several different people will help you catch issues that you might have missed.

Of course, the best way to ensure that it’s perfect is to hire a professional editor to comb it for errors and improve the flow.

This should all be done before you start recording.

Format your script in a way that is easy to understand and leaves no room for any doubt about pronunciation or other direction issues.

See this guide for more details on script formatting.


With any luck, your final eLearning script will sound to your learners like something that was written just for them.

Your script will also give the voice over professional that you hire the best chance of delivering their best performance, so it’s well worth your time and trouble to make it perfect.

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