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How to Improve Learning Retention for Training Content With Voice Over

Creating engaging training content is no small feat. With every new course or module you produce, you’re tasked with balancing content that fosters a fun and easy experience for your audience, while equally incorporating tried and true methods that are shown to improve learning retention.

Aside from the actual material that appears in the learning content you are crafting, there are a number of other factors to consider throughout the production process.

For instance, should you incorporate vocal narration that correlates with the visuals? How do you take potentially complex educational materials and transform them into easily digestible pieces of content for the styles of learner you are targeting?

Before digging deep into these questions, it is important to be aware of the different ways that people retain and process information, as well as the best way to teach a wide range of people the same information. It’s also useful to get informed on the benefits of providing vocal narration alongside visuals, and how this can greatly enhance the learner’s experience.

The Science Behind Learning Retention

In 1992, Mayer and Anderson conducted experiments to determine if learning retention is higher when learners are delivered information through both sight and sound. They published their findings in a report titled The Instructive Animation: Helping Students Build Connections Between Words and Pictures in Multimedia Learning.

In their study, Mayer and Anderson created an instructional video depicting the operation of a bicycle tire pump. After watching the instructional video, the participants were tested to see if they were capable of operating the bicycle tire pump on their own.

There were four different test groups:

  1. Animation alone, then narration alone
  2. Narration alone, then animation alone
  3. Both animation and narration at the same time
  4. No instruction at all (this control group was required to perform the task without any visual or audio instruction, left to figure out how the bicycle pump operates by doing)

Throughout the series of experiments, Mayer and Anderson arrived at a few conclusions applicable to today’s learning retention process. They discovered that those who viewed the animation alone, either before or after narration alone, performed no better than those who had received no instruction at all.

However, students who were presented with animation at the same time as vocal narration were able to problem-solve far more efficiently.

These findings led them to develop the contiguity principle, which argues that multimedia instruction grows more effective when words and pictures are presented together, rather than in isolation.

Applying the Contiguity Principle to Training Content

What do these findings mean for those tasked with developing robust training content? And how can you ensure the content you are creating will be an effective tool for learning?

When you include both visuals and narration, instead of merely one or the other, you are setting all learners up for success. Keep in mind that there are bound to be different types of learners engaging with your course, so in order to be inclusive and appeal to the widest audience possible, you will need to craft content that engages multiple senses. 

With audio and visual information presented in tandem, your content will prove useful to an assortment of different kinds of learners: whether they learn visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically. 

For example, kinesthetic learners retain information best when they are engaged as active participants, which often involves taking notes. Kinesthetic learners are far more likely to succeed if they are enabled to listen to vocal narration while writing notes, instead of having to describe what they are seeing in the visuals alone.

Does My Training Content Really Need Voice Over?

The short answer is yes! 

Over the last year or so, the demand for voice actors for training and elearning content has increased by 34%, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of voice work out there. With the near-ubiquity of technology in the workplace, this number is only bound to surge.

Take it from companies like UNI-Learning, who create elearning courses for various clients across the globe. UNI-Learning Instructional Designer, Christophe Jacobs, published a report on the use of voice over in elearning, noting that “A person is much more likely to absorb information when this information reaches them both visually and audibly.”

This is referred to as the dual-coding theory, which posits that humans have two very different information processing systems in their brain: one that represents information verbally, and one that represents information visually.

Since the dual-coding theory rose to the forefront of learning discussions, numerous higher education institutions now offer online classes, and copious content is being produced for children and adults alike. The global education industry alone is poised to grow by more than $93 billion by 2024.

Ultimately, if you want end users to engage with your training materials, then you have to find a way to appeal to as many styles of learner as possible. The challenge is taking (sometimes) complex information and optimizing its capacity for learning retention for the widest possible array of users. 

Voice over is a supreme way to help auditory learners grasp difficult concepts. “The more logical reason to utilize a voice is because during the design phase, the instructional designer finds the use of voice over will add value for the end users,” explains Jacobs.

Effectively Incorporating Voice into Your Training Content

Vocal narration should complement any visuals you employ. Using audio in conjunction with visuals increases learning retention and aids the learner in more thoroughly grasping the concepts that are being taught.

However, you should be conscious of how you use vocal narration in your training material. Often, on top of animations, graphics, and other visuals, each module or slide will have some copy displayed on the screen. When you’re crafting your script, keep in mind that it’s best not to have the narrator read every word on screen, but rather use narration as a means to touch on outstanding information that the copy isn’t able to address.

Voice over narration should strengthen what appears on the screen. Think of it in the same way that you conduct an in-person training session. Instead of reading directly from the copy that appears on your slides (which can be boring and redundant), your presentation will benefit from taking a more in-depth and conversational approach. The narration script should follow the same rules. 

The presence of voice over narration in learning materials also helps reduce the strain some learners encounter as they absorb an abundance of new information, encouraging them to become more active learners.

Christophe Jacobs makes sure to highlight that “knowing when to apply the right amount of voice over is a valuable skill in the elearning business.” He highly recommends integrating voice over in a strategic capacity to engage users, instead of simply using voice over for the sake of using voice over. This is a task where instructional designers like Jacobs can be of assistance.

What Type of Voice Should I Use to Improve Learning Retention?

Studies show that a human or natural-sounding voice is easier to listen to for a longer duration than an artificial, robotic-sounding voice. In a Voices study, survey respondents agreed that the sound of a human voice is more powerful than a synthetic voice, especially when it comes to conveying important messages and information.  

Hiring a voice actor to perform your training script is an efficient way to ensure that you get a dynamic read of your material that resonates with your audience. People prefer receiving instruction from a voice that sounds friendly and familiar to their peers. So be sure to keep your audience in mind when you’re selecting a voice to narrate your elearning content, including their age, language, accent, and dialect. 

As a rule of thumb, always avoid text-to-speech programs despite them being great for other applications. You should aim to connect with your audience through the elearning voice you cast

According to Course Method, the many benefits of hiring a professional voice actor to record your learning content include their polished narrative skills and the aptitude for building and maintaining a connection with audiences. 

When you hire a voice actor using Voices, you’re given the ability to narrow your search based on desired voice age, style of read, role, language, and accent, so you’ll have no trouble finding the voice perfectly suited to deliver your elearning content. 

How to Improve Learning Retention for Complex Content

Whether your mission is to create an effective corporate compliance program or a voice-based learning application for use in a classroom, there are a number of different ways that you can take even the most difficult information, and turn it into easy, digestible pieces that your learners will enjoy engaging and interacting with. 

Here are three suggested approaches for creating robust elearning content based on your targeted audience and the ultimate end goal of your module.

1. Use shorter segments

Scientifically speaking, humans have a limited capacity for processing a lot of information all at once – it’s just the way our brains are wired. Information can be made far more impactful when it is broken down into smaller chunks. Learners often find it hard to retain new information after about 20 minutes of instruction, so if you break down your modules into smaller, bite-sized pieces, it becomes less daunting and more accessible for learners to absorb the lesson. It also makes it easier for them to access the information, should they ever need to go back to a specific part in the course at a later date for a refresher. This is one example of a growing elearning trend that has been dubbed microlearning.

2. Gamify your content 

There’s no better way to immerse your learners in a course than by turning your lessons into an entertaining game. This style of learning module has been shown to engage learners with content to a far greater degree than if a teacher were just dictating lines of text. Gamification involves drawing on elements typically found in video games (point systems, scoreboards, levels, leaderboards, etc.) to encourage engagement with the material and make the experience more fun. 

3. Speak to your learners 

The capacity for a user’s learning retention only grows when you add vocal narration to accompany any on screen visuals. As the experts at UNI-Learning note, “Voice over actively helps the learner to acquire information.”

Find the Pitch-Perfect Voice for Your Learning Content

By hiring a professional voice actor to read the script for your learning content, you’ll receive high-quality audio recordings that are engaging, conversational and have the expertise to articulate a variety of concepts in a manner meant to enhance your audience’s learning retention. 

Sign up for a client account on Voices, and get access to a vast directory of voice over talent who are perfectly equipped to take on your learning project.

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