Many e-Learning producers use Text-To-Speech (TTS) Software to provide the voice in their courses. With recent advances in TTS, they do sound less robotic than before and people are getting used to computer based voices such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa. TTS is reasonably cheap; it can be a one time purchase and be used to voice just about anything. It seems like a no-brain decision for e-Learning.
But the question that must be asked is, Do you merely want to present information or do you want to help a student learn? These are very different concepts. The presentation of information is fairly simple; just get the software to read the text. The goal of a student retaining information and learning is far more nuanced.
Think back on your school experience. How much did you learn from a teacher who lectured on and on droning away through the class period? TTS is like a droning teacher. On the other hand, remember how much did you learned an engaging teacher who was passionate about the topic and felt compelled to communicate the lesson?
It is a matter of engagement, talent, and inflection. As one expert e-Learning voice talent notes: “As your expert eLearning narrator, it’s my job to correctly interpret the text of your lesson and present it in a manner that is appropriate to both the subject matter and the learners so they feel confident that what they are hearing is accurate. Only when they have that trust will they be more apt to retain what they learn.”
Here’s an example of how inflection changes meaning. Read each sentence out loud, emphasizing the word in bold type.
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (Someone else said it)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I definitely did not say anything)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I implied it)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I said someone else did it)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I said she did something else with the cake)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I said she ate someone else’s cake)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I said she ate another favor of cake)
“I didn’t say she took your chocolate cake” — (I said she ate something else)
TTL software cannot interpret the difference in these seven sentences because the words are all the same. It can’t put meaning into it. Common sense says that without the ability to emphasize, meaning can be lost. In everyday speech, people naturally emphasize the proper word since they know what they are saying. TTL software can not do that.
Engaging an audience of learners takes training and talent. Unless an audience is engaged they just won’t pay attention. It takes a good teacher to teach well, and it takes a trained voiceover talent to make an e-Learning course serve it’s purpose – to teach your students.
About the Author: Jim Rush is a professional storytelling voiceover talent. His voice is like a next-door-neighbor explaining how to start a lawn mower, like a professor from your favorite class, and like a dad telling the kids to “keep it down back there!” What’s your story? Everyone has stories: people, organizations, companies and their products. The best way to advertise and sell your product is to tell its story. You know your story. Let Jim tell it. To contact Jim, call 816-806-7524 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.