Updating outdated voice overs. A man jumps from an old computer into a new one.

Having up-to-date educational material and elearning modules is key to a learner’s success.

If you create elearning courses, then you have probably faced the task of having to update your material in order to stay relevant and provide accurate information. However, the process of refreshing your content will also involve updating the vocal narration that accompanies your visuals. This can sometimes prove challenging to instructional designers for a number of reasons – although it is crucial to complete, since the power of human voice in education is something that cannot be overlooked and using the right voice will ensure the success of your learning management system

When updating vocal narration, many questions tend to crop up, such as: What is the best approach to updating the vocal narration? What is the correct way to go about requesting changes or updates to the vocal narration? What can you do if the original voice actor is no longer available?  

The following four scenarios will walk you through the three most common challenges for updating vocal narration, and provide tips and tricks for overcoming them, shared by a few Account Managers at Voices.com

What Updates are Needed for your Elearning Modules?

It is important to first identify which parts of your elearning videos require changes, and determine what your budget will be for your updating project. There are a few different scenarios that you might encounter when you set out to edit your elearning materials.

Scenario 1: You want to update a few sections using the original voice actor but the original voice actor is not available

The original voice actor may be unavailable for the project for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the original actor has different rates, or they are travelling and not able to work on the project or they are swamped with other projects and won’t be able to complete the project in the allotted time.

If you find yourself in this scenario, you might be thinking that it’s best to update the content by asking one of your staff members to voice the content. This could end up being problematic in the long run. Staff members at your company are only at your disposal for as long as they’re employed with you. On the other hand, voice actors are running a business and they’re in it for the long haul.

No matter the reason as to why the original voice is no longer available, you can still update narration, quickly, easily and most importantly – effectively. For instance, Voices.com account managers work with different talent all the time and have a vast knowledge of the talent pool They are great if you don’t have time or are struggling to find a match. They can assist in finding voice options which closely resemble the original voice and have them update just the sections that have changed. Or hire a new voice over talent and have them complete your project from start to finish – this of course depends on your budget set out for the project. Also keep in mind, if the original voice you used had a unique accent it might be more difficult to replicate with an exact match.

You may not realize it, but by having previously recorded material, you have a great asset in hand that will help the next voice actor to seamlessly integrate their performance. By using the original audio as a guide (e.g. as a link listed in your job posting’s ‘artistic direction’), you can  attract similar sounding voices – as well as provide voice actors with an example to mirror in their audition. When posting a job, it’s important to fill out the accents, roles and styles that you require so that VoiceMatch can invite talent that meet your criteria. The more detail you provide, the better matches you will receive.

Another option is to go with a soundalike. A soundalike is a voice actor that can imitate others. Research has shown that a soundalike can produce the same effects and results as the original voice. You can also have voice actors read a bit of your updated script for their auditions so that you can decide if the new voice sounds close enough to the original voice you used and determine if this method will work best for you.

Once voice actors start to respond, listen to each audition and mark the ones that suit your needs with a thumbs up or a “like” to make them easy to find afterwards. You’ll be able to compare these more easily against your sample by refining the responses in this way.

Scenario 2: Some of the text has changed and you need the voice over narration to reflect those changes

At this stage, you will want to figure out what the new elearning material should feel like to the learners. For instance, some courses are designed to follow the learner for a longer time period, such as over the course of their studies or their career. In this case, you may want to aim for a similar voice that will feel familiar. However, if your original elearning course is a decade old and now you are updating the content to better reflect today’s learners, you’ll likely want to freshen up the content altogether. In this instance, hiring a completely new voice may be the route you wish to take. You can also find a voice that closely matches the original voice actor (see scenario 3).

Scenario 3: You want to make updates but your elearning platform has more than one character

Some elearning courses use multiple voices, or characters, to engage with their learners. When you have multiple characters in your elearning material, it’s worth it to evaluate which characters would benefit from a completely new voice, and which ones should maintain the same (or similar) sound.  

The narrator or main character is one you may need to spend a bit more time thinking about. If you have multiple modules with the same characters, your elearners have probably become familiar with the sound of the narrator’s voice. So you may want to use the same voice actor to maintain consistency for your audience. However, if that voice actor is unavailable, you may have to re-record with a new voice that maintains the style of the sound you had in the original course (ie. authoritative, friendly etc). Using a new voice could actually be a powerful asset, as it can indicate to your audience that this material differs from or is an updated version of the outdated material.

Tip: Whether you choose a new voice entirely, or aim for a similar sound, it’s most important to make sure that the voice you select will achieve the result you need. You can research what types of voices are popular choices for resonating with your target audience to have the widest reach and engagement for your learners.

Generally, any secondary characters who are not as important as the narrator or main character, can more easily be updated with a new voice. This is especially true for courses that are ongoing, as your regular elearners may not have become overly attached to or familiar with the sound of these character’s voices. If you are working with an elearning course that uses multiple characters, you can also find great ideas to help bring your characters to life, which may help you dictate what type of voice you want to use in your courses. You should also pay attention to how many actors you will want to cast in your elearning course. 

Once the responses roll in (often in 24 hours or less), you can then refine a shortlist by matching each custom audition against the sample. You can also find ways to connect with your audience by learning about elearning casting strategies to ensure you select the right voice for your project. 

Whichever scenario you find yourself in, when you come to the point of updating your learning management systems, you can be sure that there is a solution that works for your needs and fits your budget. Whether it involves sourcing an entirely new voice for the project or weaving in a new voice with the old voice, these tips and tricks from Voices.com account managers can set you on the right track to finding a suitable voice for your platform.

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