To Narrate or Not To Narrate – eLearning Question 101!


Elearning courses are becoming more popular every day. They are a great, cost effective way to deliver messages to an internal or external audience; improving their skills and aligning them to core brand ideas.

However, there is one question that is often on the lips of many who are looking to develop elearning courses – should I include a voice-over / narration of the material or not?

There are several arguments for and against this and it truly depends on your brand’s strategic positioning, the intended audience and objectives of the course as to whether you want to include audio.

So what are the important considerations and how can you determine what is best for your courses?

Learner Engagement

Not everyone has the same learning style (and some even question the importance of learning styles at all). But some of your learners will respond better to visual cues while others will respond better to audio. By having narration as well as visual points implanted within your courses you can satisfy both learning styles and improve their basic acceptance.

At the same time, even if your learners aren’t audio centric, adding narration onto your courses can help to reinforce certain key points and improve recall rates. Research has found that when mixing audio and visual information there is a 50% increase in information recall. This is important if you have specific key messages that you want the audience to remember.

Brand Image

Another important consideration is that your business’ brand image can be improved by using voice within your elearning material. It adds personality and authenticity, which can gain you significant connection with your target audience and instil a sense of what your brand is about. This will lower resistance to your key messages and learning material and increase recall.

File Size

One of the negatives of voice-overs in elearning material is the size of the files. Audio information is rather data rich and therefore takes up a lot of memory. This can significantly increase the time it takes for the audience to load the course in their browsers. This is also not consistent for every user; it all depends on their bandwidth and what other processes they have running concurrently.

This can cause problems if your audience becomes impatient while your course loads because they have a slow internet connection or it holds too much data for them. Customers expect your website and everything on there to be loaded quickly. Therefore, you must ensure that data is as streamlined as possible.

Cost And Time For Delivery

The biggest consideration for using narration in your elearning courses is that it does add on significant cost and time to the elearning development. This is because there are several steps required in order to develop a courses audio element:

Step One: A script will need to be written by the elearning designer or by someone internal to the organisation. This can be the trickiest stage and takes time to complete.

Step Two: An appropriate voice artist must be found either internally or externally. Getting the right voice is hugely important as it can determine how your audience will react. Without a good voice artist onboard, the audience can be left confused or disillusioned by the message you are trying to convey.

Step Three: The audio needs to be synced to the visual aspects of the elearning course. Usually the audio is recorded first and then the visual elements are matched, but this isn’t always the case.

Other Considerations

The style of voice-over makes a huge difference. Do you want to have an in-depth narration with the text being a summary of what you are saying? You could have it the other way around; with more in-depth text on the page than that spoken by the voice-over. Another option could be to have just a voice with no text on screen. The transcription can then be made available to the audience as a downloadable PDF.

One more point I should mention here – please don’t force your learners to read the text on screen with the same audio playing in the background? It looks terrible and will frustrate the learner!

Consider the cost of a voice-over and if you have adequate financial resources. Will it provide you with a real return compared with producing the course in another way?

Another consideration is whether or not the learning environment is suitable for audio – in a busy office will the background noise be so distracting that the audio will effectively be mute? This can be offset by the use of headphones but not all offices allow their use.


There is a trade-off when it comes to building an elearning course with voiceover in it. It will take more time and money to build but the benefits in audience reception and information recall can be more than enough of a reason to add it. While we highly recommend building an elearning course with narration, the choice should be based on your current circumstances. Consider the pros and cons before deciding if audio will be a useful addition to your otherwise quality course.

What are your opinions about voiceovers? Are they important for the elearning experience? Let us know in the comments.