eLearning Engagement Hack: The Voice

When planning an engaging eLearning experience, start with the narration.

Whether training fledgling Instructional Designers, or consulting with internal ID teams, I find some of the most impactful lessons and conversations are about the voice of the narration. I’m not referring to the voice talent, but the content and style of the script. The right approach to script writing not only increases learner engagement, but activates learning. Consider these points when writing the narration:

Who is the narrator?

Is the narrator a corporate trainer? A peer? A Subject Matter Expert (SME)?

Maximize retention and the learner’s ability to apply the knowledge on the job by creating an environment in which the learner is most comfortable and ready to learn. Most people learn better in a friendly, casual environment with a peer rather than from an authority figure. Here’s some examples I’ve applied:

For an audience of Ph.D. scientists in a global research and development department, I created a narrator that was a senior researcher in the field of study. The narrator appeared in lessons as a guest on a talk show, provided examples from his laboratory, and used his technology to facilitate demonstrations and learning.

For a retail, on-boarding audience, 80% of which speak English as a second language, the narrators were peers - other sales associates – training them how to use the cash register and merchandise the store, while I used a store manager to explain safety and other compliance training.

The right narrator sets the tone and creates an emotional connection between the learner and the lesson – even if the narrator isn't physically present.

Who is the narrator as a person?

Once you decide who the narrator is within the learner’s world view, ask yourself who the narrator is as a person? Sketch out his or hers history, personality, and sense of humor. References to these details makes the narrator more real and builds the connection between the learner and the lesson. Building this mental and emotional connection facilitates learning, retention and application.

For a series of lesson on beers and brewing, I created a character that referred to himself as "the Einstein of Beer.” He laughed at his own silly jokes, and used a very conversational tone. This resonated with the learners - beer distributors and route salesmen. When you get the learner laughing along with the narrator, they are engaged and learning.

For Americans with Disability compliance courses for a global hospitality company, the narrators were individuals with disabilities. This allowed the narrators to tell their own personal stories of challenges, frustrations, and great service experiences.

How does the narrator speak?

Keep it conversational to bring the narrator to life.

I was working with a new team of Instructional Designers, and I’m using the term team loosely. Two senior associates were given Storyline and asked to deliver nearly 300 microlearning lessons. Their mandated deadline only allotted them six hours per five-minute lesson – six hours to interview the SMEs, script the narration, create visuals, build the course in Storyline, QA, and launch. After the first few lessons, they asked me for suggestions on how to make the courses more engaging. The initial narration was formal, straight forward, and told the learner what to do. Their leadership found the lessons to be boring and lacking leaner engagement.

Because of the team's inexperience with graphics and their courseware development tool, we decided to focus on the narration as the solution. We developed a character to function as the narrator. He was a peer explaining what they do and offering tips and suggestions instead of simply telling the learner what to do. With the character in mind during script writing, we found a solution that didn't add any extra time or effort for a project with a very tight timeline.

What is the narrator saying?

And that brings us to the next topic. Just giving the narrator a personality and placing them in the world of the learner isn’t enough. You must also consider the message and how it is delivered.

Instead of commanding the learner to “Select the Reports button to…,” could the narrator say, “Then I select the Reports button to…”

Instead of being formal and telling the leaner a “Quick Tip,” could the narrator say, “Here’s something I find helpful…”

Instead of the narrator introducing a topic by saying, “Next, we’ll cover…,” could the narrator ask a rhetorical question, “Have you hear of…?” or “Did you notice…?” This will activate the learner’s prior knowledge and engage them by asking them to think of something specific.

You can even engage the leaner in clearly directed thought exercises.

Now don’t get me wrong. A great audio script alone cannot facilitate engagement or learning if you don’t follow basic learning methodology for the audio and visual. But you can increase engagement and learning by taking the narration up a notch. Best of all, it doesn't require more time, better technology, additional tools, or a bigger budget.

Strategist, author, and Senior Instructional Designer, Michael is passionate about organizational transformation and the Associate Experience.
Dancor Solutions is a communication strategy company that specializes in elevating the Associate Experience through strategic and compelling communication. Follow @DancorSolutions or visit www.DancorSolutions.com.

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