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?

 

2014 the year of the story

Top Story Concept.

In 2014 my focus was very much on creating interactive elearning and utilising the power of the story through interesting design and technologies. This showed under my five most highly viewed and popular posts for 2014. If you haven’t already, check these out:

  1. Using digital stories in elearning
  2. The awesome tool Videoscribe
  3. Rapid prototype vs storyboard
  4. Why storytelling should be part of your elearning kit
  5. 10 steps to create a digital story for elearning

These are also topics I’ve especially enjoyed blogging about. If you would like to hear more on any topic please comment to let me know. Have a wonderful 2015!

Monthly inspiration – the awesome tool Videoscribe!

 

Have you heard of videoscribe? Do you use it?

Videoscribe is a seriously cool tool that allows you to create whiteboard animations in a fast and effective way.

I’ve used it to tell stories, for example a customer’s journey through an organisation. I’ve also used it to show pharmacy technicians how to solve complicated calculations (kind of like the Khan Academy). I have many plans to utilise this tool more in the future now that I know how to bend it to what I want it to do.

Don’t worry you don’t have to be a graphic artist to use this tool. Videoscribe comes with it’s own stock of images, you can also make your own images using a SVG drawing tool such as Inkscape for Windows or idraw for Mac

It publishes well into the big elearning tools like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. Or alternatively you can use it in it’s .mov or .flv published state to make it run seamlessly across multiple devices – just like the example given above.

Another benefit of Videoscibe is that it’s available on a subscription basis – so you can learn it and try it before you buy, without it burning a hole in your pocket – download it here

Can you see ways you could utilise this tool in your elearning? I’d love to hear your thoughts, or maybe you have a cool tool you’d like to share too?

 

10 steps to create a digital story for learning

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A digital story for learning needs to be more than just entertainment. It needs to have a learning purpose and link to learning outcomes. Here are 10 steps to use when planning a digital story to ensure it keeps it’s learning purpose:

1. Decide why you’re using a digital story

Are you using a story to emphasise why this topic is relevant for your audience? Are you using the story as a motivator to pull them into the other activities in the course? Do you want your audience to learn from other people’s experience, through their mistakes or success stories?

2.  Match the story solution to learning objectives

Does your story cover some or all of your learning objectives? Choosing the learning objectives the story relate to will help keep the direction and purpose of your story.

3. Plan the key messages or themes

What are the one or two things you want your audience to remember from the story? Is there a moral in your story?

4. Decide how learners will interact with the content

Will they be able to influence the outcome and path of the story (branching scenarios)? Will they apply the key messages from the story to a practice activity or job task? Will they be asked questions to reflect on the content?

5. Make a template for gathering content from your Subject Matter Expert (SME)

What characters will your story have e.g. customer, staff members? What environments does the story take place in? Use the 5W and H questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) at the different points in time to construct a template to gather content.

5. Write the script

Consider the tone and type of language used.  If writing a script seems overwhelming, you can break the story into separate scenes and write a script for each scene.

6. Decide what graphic style you’ll use

Will you use photos or illustrations? Design a consistent theme for your story. Consider how much time you have available to develop graphics and then choose a style that’s achievable in the timeframe.

7. Prototype a scene of the animations and graphics that will be used

It is much easier to show your SMEs what the story will look like rather than explaining how it will look. Share a scene prototype with your SMEs to get agreement before developing the rest of the story.

8. Develop the story in the tools

Once you’ve got agreement from your SMEs on the script and graphic style continue and develop the rest of the story scene by scene.

9. Review the story

Check with your SMEs that the content is accurate and the intended key messages of the story come across.

10. Include what’s next…

Usually a digital story is just part of a learning solution. Tell your learners what’s coming next. Are they going to apply principles from the story to another practice activity or job task? What else will they do that’s relevant to the story?

Following these 10 steps will help keep your digital story focused and adding value to your topic. What else do you find useful for planning a digital story?

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy these related posts:

Using digital stories in elearning

Why storytelling should be part of your elearning toolkit

Using digital stories in elearning

bigstock-Open-book-with-hand-drawn-land-50965421

Digital stories are a quick meaningful way to get a message across. They are stories told using technology that include a combination of images and audio to tell a tale.

Digital stories have advantages in that you can get a consistent message across to many people, the story can be viewed at anytime and at any location. You can also get very creative with your story and key messages by using images and audio to engage your audience and draw them into your story.

Digital stories are a great way to get difficult concepts across, they are excellent for showing how different parts of an organisation or job task work together. They are also a great way to learn from other’s experiences without having to make the same mistakes.

So what does a good digital story look like?

Well first of all you can access the story on your computer but after that it can look like anything. Digital stories could have images and photos or they can contain movement, animations and videos or any combination of these. Good digital stories are focussed on a purpose and getting a message across.  They also use the same style through the whole story.

You can build a digital story on a variety of different platforms depending on how sophisticated you want to get. For example you could use Powerpoint, Slideshare, rapid elearning tools, or specialised animation tools such as FlipbooksVideoscribe and Goanimate.

Before writing a digital story I often search the web to find inspiring examples. When I view good digital stories I ask myself, ‘what they are doing that makes the story successful’ and then ‘how can I incorporate these elements into elearning that I’m developing?’.

Here are a few digital stories that I’ve found inspiring, you can click on the links to view them. Please feel free to share in the comments below any other digital stories you have found inspiring.

Where good ideas come from

good ideas

Credit crisis

credit crisis

Han Rosling’s 20o countries, 200 years 4 minutes – the Joy of Stats

stats story

Why storytelling should be part of your elearning toolkit

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Do you want to engage your audience and help them to emotionally connect with content? Do you want to find a way to get a difficult concept across? Here are some reasons why storytelling needs to be part of your elearning toolkit:

Research tells us storytelling is a powerful way to teach

As well as providing entertainment, stories are often used to teach deeper lessons. Parents have used stories for thousands of years to teach children life skills, beliefs and values. Stories have been used over history to teach religious belief. Advertisers use stories to sell their products. Storytelling as a technique for teaching is not new, it has been used throughout history to embed learning and change behaviour.

Research consistently tells us that stories are much more effective for learning and changing behaviour than giving facts or telling people what to do. This article from the Elearning Guild cites research evidence that found storytelling to be a more effective way of learning.

Stories are everywhere

We are used to stories – they surround us everyday. Whether they are stories from friends and colleagues, reading stories to children, watching a movie, TV (even some of the adverts), listening to songs, or reading a fictional novel. Our brains are conditioned to hear stories and they are an enjoyable way to digest information.

They work well as a motivator – grabbing attention!

A well designed story at the beginning of a training or elearning course can pull the learner in to complete the rest of the course. Stories as an attention grabber are motivating for the audience – they show why the topic is relevant to them.

They give context and meaning

By providing characters, settings and a flow of information or events stories give context and meaning to a lesson. Through a story we can learn from other people’s mistakes or challenges without having to go through the same experience ourselves. Stories can organise complicated seemly unrelated data into connected and meaningful patterns. They are excellent for conveying complicated concepts in a digestible meaningful way.

Connect with the audience at an emotional level

Well designed stories connect with the audience on an emotional level. They use characters that the audience can easily relate to, humour and have a tension point. Here is an example of an advert in New Zealand that had a well designed story to get the message across that it’s good to ‘stop your friends from drink driving’:

Legend

The “Ghost Chips” humour from this story became mainstream and gave youths a non-confrontational way to stop their mates from drink driving.

Want to read more, here are a few articles on storytelling that I’ve enjoyed:

Once upon a keyboard: Designing stories into E-learning

Why you need to use storytelling for elearning

Using stories for learning: Answers to 5 key questions