Using audio in digital learning and stories

Retro old microphone. Radio show or audio podcast concept. Vinta

I’ve been puzzled and frustrated by the use of audio in rapid elearning products for a long time. It’s not that I dislike all audio, it’s just a lot of time it doesn’t seem to have a lot of purpose or value.

I don’t want to hear the words being read out – even if it is with good emotion and balance from a professional voiceover.

Explanations in audio can come across as being told or even worse – condescending.

And sometimes I’m left downright confused as to why most of a narrative is in text and then it switches to audio in places to ‘mix it up’ or ‘provide variety’ – or worse still cater for ‘auditory learners’. Uggg get rid of those false learning theories!!

Other times there is audio in the background like elevator music. But how do you pick a track that everyone likes and it’s at the right volume level? How can you stop it from being distracting or annoying? Unless there is some other purpose or way it adds value to the atmosphere a generic background track often backfires and you can end up doing edits on reviewer preferences.

It’s not all bad news though. There are ways using audio to add value to a story or scenario.

Audio – to create a realistic environment or set a scene

Background audio can add value to a scene by making the story or interactivity more believable. For example, if you have a branching scenario set in a café, restaurant, office, hospital, why not provide realistic background audio of that setting to help create the environment.

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Audio for actions or feedback

Audio to give feedback on an action is so common that we often don’t really notice it until it’s missing.

An example of this is product design. Imagine using a camera with the digital screen off, how do you know when you’ve taken a photo? Using a washing machine how do you know when you’ve changed the wash settings? Typing on a keyboard how do you know you’ve successfully pushed the letter key down hard enough? All of these products could be designed without sound but what problems would that silence cause?

Digital game design is also interesting to look at for audio feedback. Why not play a digital game and record the audio. Replay it back to listen how the audio communicates about different actions. Or even play an audio game to listen to the power of audio.

How can you add audio feedback into rapid elearning design? Where would it add value?

Audio where it’s logical for the activity

There are some activities where it seems logical to have audio and scripting. An example of this is a phone conversation or scenario.

Why build a text based phone scenario? In the real world phone conversations are about listening not reading. Much better to include audio. You can make it more realistic by adding phone noises such as rings before scripting the conversation or scenario.

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Audio for conveying emotion

Poignant audio sounds and tracks can be used to create emotion and tension. Professional voice artists can also be very effective in conveying emotion in conversations.

Listening to movies with your eyes closed is a great way to sense how audio can create emotion.

Listen to this famous track for creating emotion. Do you recognise it?

 

In my opinion use audio and use it to create depth!

Make audio have a purpose. Use it to make a story or environment more believable. Don’t use it just because you can. Audio needs to be thought about just as carefully as the words, videos, or images in a rapid elearning product.

What are your thoughts on audio, what are some ways you’ve used it? I’d love to hear some examples. What has and hasn’t worked for you?

 

Learning, design, and curated resources

Design Curated Studio Contemporary Creative

Content curation to me is not just one thing or one methodology. I see content curation as different techniques for using (and sometimes modifying) already existing resources rather than creating from new. From this perspective there are a lot of different ways curated resources can be used for learning. Here are some ways content curation techniques can be implemented into learning and learning design.

Pure resource curation

 

“The hunter gatherer of content curation”

 

What does this look like?

This is gathering existing resources/information/artefacts on a topic and putting it in one place to grab at your will. You’ve hunted (or used a tool to hunt) for the content and now its gathered in one place. Although you’ve filtered and selected the best content there is no rearrangement of it. It is simply made available in it’s raw form.

Here’s a personal example; at the moment I’m learning about interactive video and 360 video as a learning solution. To research this area I’m using a content curation tool http://www.anderspink.com. I have kept all my curated content in one area:

curated content 360.png

When content curation is mentioned it is this usually this method that is being referred to. Where information is hunted and gathered into one place and then utilised and/or shared.

Ideas of when you could use pure content curation:

  • Researching a specific topic
  • Watching trends in an industry
  • Gathering resources to support Special Interest Groups or learning communities

Don’t stop here though, this is only one method. There are more ways to use curated resources, such as, story based curation.

Story based resource curation

 

“Using existing resources and arranging them to create a different point of view”

 

What does this look like?

This is where resources are collected to make a new idea or story that is separate and different from the individual resources. They are arranged together to tell a story. The resources could be organised into a timeline or simply tell a story from comparing their similarities and differences. Good curation means you won’t need to overtly tell the story as the resources will do this for you.

“The whole is greater, than the sum of it’s parts” – Gesalt Psychology

Many museums are particularly good at this type of curation. Look for examples of this method at your local museum.

 Ideas of when you can use story based resource curation:

  • Showing changes over time
  • Using similarities or differences to tell a story

 Audience based resource curation

 

“Crowd sourcing and sharing curated resources based around a topic or task”

 

What does this look like?

The key difference here is who is finding and sharing the resources. Instead of resources being shared out from a central point like a Learning and Development department, they are instead being sourced by those who will use them and then shared into a central point. It is more active as it involves the audience in curating resources themselves.

An example of when I’ve used audience based curation are the research and share activities I designed in a university level course. Students were asked to search for relevant examples of the topic being studied and then share those onto Twitter with a set hashtag so others could view. Read more about this example here

bigstock-Share-edited

Ideas of when you can use audience based curation:

  • Great for micro search, find and share activities
  • When you want the audience to find examples of content that are relevant to their own experiences
  • Good for audiences with a wide range of different backgrounds or experience levels
  • Good for when the content or topic is rapidly changing and developing – a technique to keep the content current

These aren’t the only ways you can use curated resources for learning. How do you use content curation for learning? I’d love to hear your examples or thoughts.