Audio-inclusive learning – what’s available now?
E-Learning: ‘Learning conducted via electronic media, facilitated by the use of digital tools’
Having provided voice over services to the e-learning industry for the past 15 years, I wanted to take a look at the wider picture and find out how much growth there has been in terms of the use of audio in e-learning. Part 1 looks at the breadth of audio-inclusive learning platforms now available. Part 2 will look at the impact of audio on the e-learning industry.
When I began voicing e-learning projects it was audio CD’s or CD-ROMS. More recently, I have also been voicing online product demonstrations, to online tutorials, and also e-learning content used as part of an audio-visual mix of e-learning tools for mobile technology.
Here are just some of the current learning platforms now available that incorporate audio, which is quite considerable:
Gartner , lists video as one of it’s top ten strategic technologies for 2011, and is predicting that by 2013 video will be commonplace online, with 25% of content viewed on the web being pictures, video or audio. Given that the Internet is now such a powerful, influential tool I think this is a key indicator that we are looking for more varied ways to take in information and learn, with audio playing an increasing role either in isolation or as a complementary tool. Developments in technology, and the relative ease of implementation, have increased the usage of audio/audio-visual learning on the web.
For example, a well-known multi-level marketing company uses an online system which incorporates text-based learning, adding audio alongside the text in certain parts, and also audio-visual/video demonstrations. This is audio-visual learning in bite-sized chunks, aiding learning for a wide variety of people, and is easily accessible to distributors worldwide.
Video and YouTube usage has escalated on the web, providing bite-sized audio-visual e-learning presentations, either as stand-alone short pieces, or as part of complete e-learning packages, often using professional voice over narration, or presented by the experts themselves in person. E-learning in its broader term, can also incorporate things like the product infomercial, increasingly used on the web to educate potential customers on how to use a service or product. I’ve done quite a bit of voicing on these.
This method has become extremely popular and enables the learner to learn on-the-go, during non-productive time. Corporates have been using podcasts for a few years now as part of both e-learning and internal communications. Business and management training examples include Manager Tools , about managerial behaviour, iTunes U  which is utilized by Harvard Business Review and the Open University . MIT Sloan also use this method, particularly to make available expert lectures on management issues/training/CPD. Another example is the rapidly expanding Business Hub , a weekly Podcast which aims to help anyone in business succeed. Whilst Business Hub is a live show, the Hub have recognized the value of making these available as podcasts too. Its ability to be included on iTunes enables the training to be even more widely searchable for those interested in learning about a particular subject.
Now a widely available free tool enabling anyone to produce audio content, much of it contains e-learning of some description. Again, you can make this available on iTunes too.
Harvard Business Review produces a number of vodcasts on management training.
Powerful tool for both stand-alone e-learning, or as taster sessions to encourage sign up to fuller online training.
Audio CD’s are increasingly found to be an excellent use of otherwise non-productive time, either at work, home or in the car. For example, learning a language, or personal development areas such as communication or motivational skills, lectures by expert speakers, or technical/product updates for medical professionals. Apart from lectures, many of these are narrated by voice over artists.
Used widely for training purposes. For example, perhaps to launch a new pharmaceutical product, or demonstrate a particular medical or health & safety procedure.
These are still being published in e-learning. For example, teaching English as a foreign language, and/or for young learners, where there is an interactive mix of text, audio and visual stimuli. Voice over artists are invariably used to voice these.
Mobile Technology/Hand-Held Devices
Increasingly being used as an e-learning platform, and looks set to become significant in future e-learning development. This is as much because of its portability as well as use as a phone, with the ability to be used during non-productive time.
Audio is invariably added to compensate for the smaller visual screen, but also to enhance learning, particularly language learning, where the learner can hear the words being spoken alongside the text or visual stimuli. The use of mobile technology in e-learning is further enhanced by its ability to track learning progress, both from the user’s perspective, but also the learning provider. One example of this is being used successfully within a particular ethnic minority group who are learning English as their second language. This group are less likely to use a PC, but almost all of them have and use mobile phones.
These, and pdf files, can now contain audio files, and several of us voice artists have provided voice overs for Powerpoint presentations; they can also be for clips of conversations/interviews/speeches etcetera – all for lecture purposes.
End of Part 1
To listen to my latest E-Learning Demo – Visit E-Learning page
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With acknowledgements and grateful thanks to the following contributors:
 BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11899824