The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for June, 2021


audio narration tips

In e-learning software like Storyline 360 and Rise 360 you can record (or import) audio narration into your courses. Since many e-learning developers tend to produce all media that belongs in the course, recording audio narration usually is one of those responsibilities. That means there are a lot of people that record audio narration who aren’t trained voice over talent.

If you have money and the time, using professional voice over talent makes sense. But most of us don’t have that luxury. So here are some tips to help you get started and get the best audio narration that you can get.

Audio Narration Script

  • Script approval. Narration (especially for non-professionals) can be time-consuming. You don’t want to do a lot of re-work. Get the script approved before you start any work on recording the narration. That will save a lot of time.
  • Text-to-speech. Use the text-to-speech feature to create demo narration for the review process. This way the subject matter experts and reviewers can hear the script and not just read it. And if you need to make changes, it’s just a matter of typing new text and not going through the process of recording new narration. Settle on a final, signed-off script.
  • Sound like a real person. Audio narration should sound like a real person. That means you need to move past the legalese and corporate way of saying things (assuming the legal department lets you). Write a script that sounds conversational and how you would talk and explain things in real life.

The Right Environment to Record Audio Narration

In an ideal world, you have a recording studio or one of those fancy whisper rooms. But odds are you have a cubicle or empty conference room.

  • Cubicles are good. The walls are designed to absorb sound. Unfortunately, in an open-air cubicle farm, you don’t get a lot of privacy and there’s a lot of background noise, so you’ll need to record when there aren’t many people around.
  • Minimize noise. Turn off office machines, fans, and air conditioners (if possible). Record about 15 seconds of ambient noise. Sometimes you can use that to create a filter and edit out the background noise when you do post-production. But the best option is to record the best quality you can. As a general rule, the best recording is the original recording.
  • Use sound buffers. Listen to the difference between using a sound box and not. There are several ways to buffer the sound coming into your mic. There are professional options with sound proof panels, mic boxes (you can make these with a fabric cube and foam wedge panels), and panels that connect to your mic. In my home office, I have a clothes rack and drape a thick blanket over it. Then I roll it behind me. Here’s an emergency option: the foambrero. If you have a budget, this recording booth looks interesting and seems very portable and easy to set up in a small office.
  • Headset mic. Sometimes you’re stuck in an office and cannot control the background noise, but a headset mic helps because it is unidirectional and will only record audio from one direction. This helps block out a lot of ambient noise.

Prepare Yourself to Record Audio Narration

  • Read the script aloud a few times. You’ll quickly identify areas where it doesn’t sound natural and when it doesn’t roll of the tongue right.
  • Record it first so you can hear it back. Just the act of recording often helps identity where it doesn’t sound right and where you flub over words and sentences.
  • Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key.
  • Don’t worry about being perfect. Remember, you’re not hiring a pro, so you’re not getting a pro.
  • Stand rather than sit. Standing helps you breath better and take in more air. The most important thing is to be comfortable and of course being able to reach your audio controls between takes.

The Right Tools to Record Audio Narration

I created a list of good audio accessories and mic recommendations that won’t break the bank. And there are plenty of affordable or DIY options like building a sound box or using an Ikea lamp as a mic boom. Regardless, here’s a general rundown of what you’ll need:

  • Good microphone: headset or desktop. I usually prefer a desktop mic, but a headset is much more mobile and the sound quality is decent.
  • Pop filter to remove those annoying mouth sounds and popping p’s.
  • Mic stand. I use a boom mic mounted to my desk. I like to swing it in and out of position. The Blue Compass is a nice-looking boom if you don’t want to make your own or break the bank.
  • Teleprompter (better than reading from a paper script). A lot of people use a second monitor or tablet.
  • Sound buffer to control ambient noise and get fuller sound quality.

How to Record Audio Narration

I won’t go into a lot of detail about recording because there are a lot of different applications. But I will narrow it down to a few basic tips.

  • Record in the authoring tool or outside? You can always record much of the audio narration with the e-learning software. That makes it super easy, especially if you’re doing all the work by yourself. Storyline 360 even has a simple audio editor for some post-production editing. However, I prefer to separate my multimedia production into distinct groups: video, audio, graphics, and course construction. I find it helps keep me focused on one thing and I can get it done right the first time. Because of this, I like to record my narration outside of the authoring tools. Then I can make any edits I need and upload the narration into the software. This works in both Storyline 360 and Rise 360.
  • Free audio editors. If you don’t have any money, Audacity is a free audio application that works fine for recording narration. Here’s a list of a few other free audio recording options. Levelator (although no longer supported) does a respectable job cleaning up your audio narration. There are also all sorts of apps you can use on your phones and tablets to record audio (iOS and Android).
  • How to save audio files. You can save as .MP3 or .WAV. Both should be fine. MP3 files will be much smaller and you won’t notice any degradation. It’s also a good idea to have a consistent naming strategy when you save your files. “Audio1.mp3” isn’t very good. However, “Safety101-Intro-Layer4.mp3” makes a lot more sense and you know where it goes in the course when you have to import it.

These are some good, basic getting started tips when recording audio narration. If you have some to share, feel free to add them to the comments.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




free portfolio

A guest post by Elizabeth Pawlicki, Training Program Manager, Articulate.

You need a portfolio! Even if you’re not currently looking for a new job, maintaining a portfolio is important as an archive to highlight your work and experience.

In previous posts, we covered what should be in your portfolio and how to build one (with links to some potential sites).

However, I continue to get questions on how to host and manage a portfolio.  That’s what I’ll cover today.

Free Portfolio Site

Recently I came across a free tool called SpreadSimple, which is really cool because it builds websites out of Google Sheets (something many of us already know how to use). You create columns of information, and it takes a single line on a Google Sheet and turns it into a “card” on the site.

free portfolio demo

Demo Portfolio

I really liked that I didn’t need to do any programming and by adding content to Google Sheets I was able to create a simple website. So, I created a portfolio to test how easy it is to use. You can see it below.

free portfolio

Click here to view the portfolio.

How to Build the Portfolio

Keep in mind, the SpreadSimple site uses Google Sheets to pull in the data for the site. However, it doesn’t host your media. So, you’ll need a place to host your courses and images. There are a number of options here, but I used Amazon S3.

I added the portfolio content to my Google Sheet, added links to courses on Amazon S3, and in no time at all, I had a modern, professional looking web-based portfolio.

I really didn’t need much on my sheet, so I started with my course title, a description, the link to where the course was being hosted in S3, and the link to the course thumbnail, also in S3.

Later, I realized that SpreadSimple allowed for filtering when viewing the completed site, so I added a “Tools” column to my Google Sheet and organized my courses by whether they were built in Storyline 360 or Rise 360.

To give you an idea of just how little you really need to build a site, here’s a behind the scenes look at my Google Sheet.

free portfolio google sheet

It’s really easy to build and manage a portfolio this way. Here’s a quick tutorial where you can watch me add a new course to my portfolio just by adding a new line to Google Sheets, filling in the cells, and refreshing the SpreadSimple page.

Click here to view the tutorial.

If you don’t already have a portfolio, give SpreadSimple a try. The service is free if you don’t need to use any of the integrations or set up a custom domain. I found it quick and intuitive.

What do you think?


Elizabeth Pawlicki

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




free icons

I love free icons and illustrations that can be used in e-learning. Here are some good ones for the health and medical industries courtesy of Health Icons. What’s cool is that the icons are open source and free to use in commercial projects without any attribution requirement.

Why are the icons free?

Health Icons is a volunteer effort to create a ‘global good’ for health projects all over the world. These icons are available in the public domain for use in any type of project. The project is hosted by the public health not-for-profit Resolve to Save Lives as an expression of our commitment to offer the icons for free, forever.”

free icons

How do I give credit for the free icons?

Even though they don’t ask for attribution, I think it’s good to spread the word and give them credit where possible. Here’s a post I shared earlier on different ways to share attribution of resources in your e-learning courses.

free icons ideas

What can I share for free?

Also, while we’re on the topic of doing good, have you given blood yet? It’s easy to do, doesn’t cost much, and saves lives.

Hope these icons come in handy. And thanks to the volunteers who put them together.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




motivation e-learning

We can put together great courses, but we can’t guarantee a person learns from them. Learning requires some level of interest and motivation from the person taking the course. The good news is there are things we can do to engage people and tap into their motivation. Here are a few ideas.

Add Value to Motivate Learners

Courses need to be relevant to the person. They need to know where the course fits in the scheme of things and how it impacts what they do. And people make that assessment right away. If they think the course has no value they’ll tune out. Compliance training is often a challenge, but if the content is reframed and not just slides of bullets, it can be engaging.

Turn the compliance content into a relevant case study. This reframes the perspective and adds more of a story-like element to the training. It also helps them see how the content is connected to what they do.

A Good Map Motivates People

Above we discussed adding value. When people understand why they’re taking the e-learning course and then know what to do in it, they’ll be more engaged. People like to know what’s expected, where they’re going, and what will happen when they get there.

Remove friction from the course so that things move well. Friction comes from things like lack of clear direction, unmeasurable objectives, poor instructions, novel interactions that don’t add value, and poor course design like mediocre-looking content or overbuilt animations and transitions.

Motivate Learners with a Reward

Find ways to reward people as they go through the course. A straightforward way is to track their progress and then offer some sort of affirmation. You can also encourage them as you affirm their progress.

One of the biggest rewards is assessing what they know and letting them skip ahead or test out. Why waste time and frustrate people with courses when they already know the content? Let them prove it and move on.

We ask people to spend their valuable time in the course, we need to respect that and make sure it’s a valuable experience. And a valuable experience will be more motivating.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




e-learning save money

Online training is hot right now. And between video chat services like Zoom and course authoring tools like Articulate 360, there’s a lot of content creation.

Since creating the e-learning content is easy, there’s often an increased demand to create yet more online training. And with that demand is the need to manage resources, which for most training organizations is limited.

Any opportunity to save time (and money) is a good thing. Here are three ideas to help manage your e-learning resources. They help improve development time and decrease the costs to build courses.

Don’t Create an E-Learning Course

Organizations often think that their problems are solved through more training. Need better sales? Create a new training program. Have a new policy? Create a new training program? Want to change the world? Create a new training program.

See how that works?

There’s a cost to build the training and a cost for each person who must take it. If you can prevent the organization from creating training courses, do it.

The truth is training can help meet goals and solve problems. But it’s just one part of the solution. It’s important to help the organization better understand it’s needs and then guide them to the best solution. And sometimes, that means no training is required.

Use Kuhlmann’s E-Learning Hierarchy

I have a simple hierarchy model that that I started using years ago. All of the e-learning gets built with the fastest and easiest tool. And from there any deviation needs to be justified.

It doesn’t mean we don’t do other things. It just means we don’t do other things for the sake of novelty or because we can.

kuhlmann's e-learning hierachy

Look at Articulate 360. It comes with Rise 360 and Storyline 360. Rise 360 is formed based and extremely easy to use because most of the heavy lifting is done for you. Most e-learning content is on the explainer side of things. That type of content is easily assembled and delivered in Rise 360. Why spend extra time and resources on custom interactivity in Storyline 360?

There are times where custom interactivity is warranted. In that case, use Rise 360 and add custom interactions from Storyline 360. And then there are times where a form-based solution like Rise 360 isn’t the right tool and Storyline’s freeform authoring is the better choice.

Kuhlmann's e-learning hierarchy applied to Articulate 360

The hierarchy isn’t designed to NOT build good e-learning and avoid complex and custom courses. Instead, it’s designed to help manage the production process and your limited resources. The more you can do quickly for less, the more you have available when it’s really required.

Don’t Repurpose Existing Content

As noted above, most e-learning courses are explainer content and not performance-heavy. This is fine because the course is a lot like a book. You consume the content to get exposed to ideas and information, but the application (or interactivity) happens elsewhere, whether that’s personal reflection or activities in the real world.

Often the explainer content already exists in some other digital format in the organization. And what happens is the instructional designer converts that content into a “course.” Instead of repurposing the content, create a course that teaches how to find and use the information. This helps them learn to use the existing resources they may need, and they’ll always know where to locate them after the training event.

I like to set up mini real-world scenarios where the learner needs to make a decision. And the objective is to learn to locate and use the existing resources. Doing this makes the courses lighter and you don’t need to update them every time the source content is changed or modified.

You have limited resources. Hopefully, the steps above help think through how you’ll manage them.

 

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 e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.