Online training courses without sound – background music, sound effects, and human voice narration – is like watching a muted movie. It lacks the added understanding, texture, and emotion to complement the text and visuals from which we primarily learn.
Integrating sound into online training creates a better overall training experience for your employees. It engages them to identify better with course scenarios and which positively affects completion rates and performance.
A Look Back
In a previous blog entry, we examined how our Patient Management course engaged learners through the use of advanced visuals and animations. In the next step of our course evolution, we looked at adding more audio music, sound, and narration to upgrade the course further.
Let’s look at each of the three main areas where we added sound, why it’s important, and how your courses can benefit from upgrading the same auditory elements.
In the original versions of Patient Management, after adding in the animation, the visuals looked fantastic, but it still felt static and didn’t fully engage the learner. Giving them a great soundtrack of background music, helps them feel connected to each course screen by setting a mood that is more conducive for learning. Background music is often the easiest auditory element to add, as there are numerous resources available for a royalty free managed soundtrack, that can be played on the appropriate screens or throughout the entire course.
By adding low-level music to the courses, we are affecting the subconscious of the learner’s brain, using emotion, rhythm, and mood to set them at ease and feel more conducive to learning a new skill. Using soft background music, often purchased from websites like Audio Jungle, Incompetech, or Beatpick, we set the stage for the majority of scenario screens where the user is just learning. When the Patient Management course changes the scene to one that is more action-oriented (during an examination or surgery) or a decision is required (making a diagnosis), we change the background music to include more intensity. This helps focus the learner and know that the scenario has different levels of interaction.
Our audio course designers utilize different sound effects to give more real-life experience to each screen, especially important to engage a learner with the animations on the screen or when dealing with a real-play scenario. There are two types of sound effects used to drive performance change in the best custom elearning development in a course like Patient Management.
- Synchronous Sound Effects – When the sound needs to match an action that is currently happening on the screen, then we refer to the sound effect as being synchronous with the action being taken. For instance, if there is an animation like a door opening, the patient being scanned by an MRI, a heart monitor being applied to their chest, or radioing for help when the patient is crashing, we’ve added synchronous sounds to make it feel more real and create the atmosphere of the scene. By adding this element, the learner is engaged with the action they are taking, as they expect to hear a result when doing something in the scenario.
- Asynchronous Sound Effects – If we want to add sound that doesn’t match an action on the screen, but instead want to add emotional nuance, mood, or realism to a scenario, we can add different asynchronous sounds similar to the background music. For instance: if we are listening to the crowd in a waiting room, adding the background sounds of other people talking, coughing, crying, and more in a surgical unit, we can add the sounds of doctors and nurses moving and using tools, while talking to a patient in an emergency center, adding the background sounds of an ambulance siren and hospital announcements.
Adding a human voice to the course serving as a narrator, either of the dialog on screen or with additional information is a great asset to your course. Having a good narration track with a human voice authenticates the speaker in your course as an individual or a real person. Because modern audiences are used to stage, movie, and tv programs with audio dialogue, they are used to the texture of a performer’s voice which supplies an element of character, feeling, and motivation they can identify with.
Richard Mayer led his colleagues at the University of California at Santa Barbara in an extensive 15 year study of using multimedia to optimize learning to find that using audio to explain content produced an average learning improvement of 80% compared to just text alone. Speakers with a great tone in their voice are valued to create a realistic persona, as Mayer’s studies also found that audio with an informal voice (first or second person) socially engaged the learner and also increased their knowledge transfer by 79%.
If you hear Morgan Freeman’s nuanced narration in March of the Penguins, it gives much more life and personality than the HAL computer’s banal voice in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Likewise in a course with custom elearning development that includes audio narration as a learning agent, helps to make the course more vivid, realistic, and congruent. In our Patient Management course, we’ve added a digitized voice to give the course a more clinical feel, while still being conversational.
It might take more work to give your course a voice through modern multimedia, but the engagement results from published studies definitely make the investment worth the cost.
In a follow-up blog post, we’ll go into further custom elearning development options by showing how to finish the course off with varied testing elements, and why it’s recommended to just record a final mark to the online training software.