Text-To-Speech (TTS) software is a fantastic way for you to add a narration track to your custom elearning development. Its a great component to give your course an extra punch – if you get the right sounding voice. There are a lot of choices out there based on number of voices, amount of text to transcribe, language/accent, quality of speech, and of course price.
The Important First Step In Custom Elearning
Before you look at a solution, its best to get a grasp on if you want TTS elearning software that you can download and run on your PC or Mac or if you want to access a cloud-based TTS where you enter your text online and simply download the audio narration file before importing it into your course. Really it depends if you are creating your course on the go using a multimedia authoring tool that you can access anytime, anywhere, or if your tool sits on just one computer used as a course-building machine. Having the flexibility to build 24/7 on the go, gives you an advantage in the elearning software race and there are some great choices.
Where To Look
Always find a TTS elearning software tool with natural sounding voices. There are some free options out there if your needs are more cost-sensitive, but having the best quality voice will make your elearning course experience vastly superior. Its that kind of detail that separates a course that simply tells information from one that shows the learners more and improves performance.
Here are some TTS solutions that you can consider:
Ivona has a great supply of text-to-speech elearning voices that sound quite natural, making them a top provider. They are a little pricey for the commercial license ($650 for one year/1 voice; $1100 for one year/2 voices plus their reader). They also offer a cloud service for recording. One of the top elearning course building tools out there for TTS.
Loquendo also has a high quality set of many voices (including US Spanish) as part of their TTS solution. In addition to straightforward text-to-speech, they also have a variety of sound effects you can add like laughing, crying or sneezing to really bring the voice to life.
iSpeech is another with great sounding human voices that I believe offers a pay-as-you-go model for narration delivery, where you load credits and pay per word for delivery of a narrated text file.
Narrator Files is a service that has professional voice artists for $20/page (12 point font) that comes with a good recommendation as well.
Built-In Mac OS X Voices
For cheaper options, you also have the TTS included with the newer Macbooks running the Mountain Lion operating system – under the Dictation and Speech default program. You can preview the new voices that are available, with some being very good (“Samantha” is quite close to Siri) and others less so. Its simple to use as you just open up a text box, type in the text to translate and select it, then right-click and check your dictation option to hear it all done Text-To-Speech software.
Google Translate also offers a free option for TTS, even into a few different languages including Spanish, French, Russian, Simplified Chinese and many more using Googles powerful translation software. The voices arent as comprehensive as the other options, but their translation algorithm is one of the best online.
Once youve selected your TTS elearning software, created your file (usually MP3 audio is the best to conserve file size at good quality), then just upload the narration into your authoring tool content. Adding the option for text translation often takes your course to a global market and your features to the next level – now your elearning is a more valuable proposition than ever before!
Image Credit: Stig Nygaard