I’m no audio engineer. And odds are that neither are you. So I won’t get into all of the nitty gritty details of audio editing. If you want more details, one of the community MVPs shared some tips on how to improve your audio quality. It’s a good post and worthy reading.
Today I want to share some free or inexpensive ways to work with the audio in your elearning courses. Let’s start with narration.
Do the Basics Right
Your audio quality is never going to be better than what you originally recorded. So you need to do the best you can to record good quality audio from the start. The two best things you can do are:
- Invest in a good microphone. I’m surprised that organizations will invest hundreds of dollars in software, pay someone thousands of dollars to build courses, and then only let them buy a cheap microphone for $20. Makes no sense. Even if you’re on a limited budget, you can get a good microphone for about $50.
- Control your recording environment. If you record in a conference room next to the copy machine or at your office cubicle, odds are that you’ll have sub-par audio. Try to find a consistent place to record audio so that you can better control your environment.
I’ve mentioned Audacity before. It’s an audio editor that is free and easy to use for beginners. But if you want to do more than basic editing, you have a lot of features to work with. So it’s a tool that you can grow into.
Here’s a good tutorial from Brian that shows how to clean up your audio starting with those “little itty bitty” wave forms.
If you want a little bit more detail, David did a few tutorials that show how to edit your narration for greater impact.
- Use bass boost to add warmth
- Reduce background & ambient noise
- Equalize to add warmth and presence
- Clean up your audio (good tip from Brian)
Myna (out of business)
Aviary’s Myna is an online audio editor. It’s easy to use; and as long as you have a decent Internet connection, it’s a practical tool. It’s also free, which is a big plus. What I like about Myna is the library of assets available to you. I did a quick screencast to show how it works. If you want to learn more, go to the site and check out the demo and tutorials.
Levelator is a really simple way to make some improvements to your audio narration. I can’t think of any easier way to adjust your audio. Basically, all you do is drag and drop you audio files onto the desktop shortcut and the application does the rest. Levelator does its magic and provides edited copies right inside the same folder.
Below is a quick tutorial that shows just how easy it is to use. I’ve also added a before and after audio file to hear the difference. It’s a little richer and louder. You can also see the differences in the wave forms below.
Creative Commons Audio
The tools above ar
e free and help you get better sounding audio. But sometimes our audio needs aren’t just for narration. Sometimes we need background music or sound effects.
If you have some money you can always buy background music and sound effects on CD. When I did video production, we had a CD binder that held about 200 disks full of just about any music style you would need. It was a great resource.
Even if you don’t have money, there are some free resources available to you. Here are a few sites that offer sound effects and free music. Be sure to check out their Creative Commons License agreements before using them.
- CCMixter. Loved this song, Making Me Nervous, which I heard in a Tech Crunch video.
- The Freesound Project: I even included one. Do a search for “elearning.” 🙂
- Free Music Archive
Another idea is to contact an independent artist who may give you permission to use some music. It never hurts to ask. Of course, even a good song can’t make a bad course enjoyable.
Create Your Own Audio
When all else fails you can create your own audio files. If you want simple sound effects, record your own. Need ambient office noise? Just set up a mic in a busy area and record the audio. Or go to the cafeteria. That’s what Chris Kelly did to get the busy pub sound for his Beer Brewing Overview. Love the tips on sustainable brewing. 🙂
You can even create your own music. You can create everything from a hip hop beat to softer background audio. Musicshake and TuneAround are free tools that let you easily create your own music and soundtracks. Be careful, though. You can end up spending hours playing around and creating your own music. As an example, I used Musicshake to create Dr. Werner’s SMART Goals: The Musical.
You can always download and use Microsoft’s Songsmith and create brilliant stuff like this. The video kind of reminds of all of the lame training programs I’ve been in where we had to write and perform songs based on what we learned.
I’m not sure what Microsoft is thinking or why anyone would pay $30 for it considering the alternatives above, but Songsmith is available for free to educators. Based on how my kids have played with it, I can see where this could be a good tool to use in class as part of a creative exercise. For example, write a song about something you learned.
So those are some simple tools that you can use when including audio in your rapid elearning courses. Have any other free audio tools to recommend? Feel free to share them in the comments link.
Upcoming E-Learning Events
- May 22-24 (Atlanta). ATD International Conference & Expo. We'll be in booth 738. Swing by to chat.
- June 20-21 (San Diego). FocusOn Learning conference.
- Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general type e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. Learn more and sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
- There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.
Free E-Learning Resources
Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.
Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs
Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills
Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.