e-Learning voiceovers

We tend to over-emphasize the term “eLearning” nowadays as if it were some magical thing that we didn’t have back when dinosaurs walked the earth and Perry Mason ruled television on Friday nights.

In truth, we could construe eLearning to be any type of educational curriculum using non-manual technology, including the old 16mm movie projectors or slide projectors that were “higher-tech” to us elementary school students in the 1960’s

Nowadays eLearning is mostly understood as web-based animated training courses with information to read, scenarios to ponder, and questions to answer to demonstrate our learning.  Of course, most include voiceover, either dialogue from actual actors on screen, or static photos of people (even animated avatars) representing characters in scenarios who are voiced by an unseen actor.

It is this model most people think of when hearing the term eLearning.  And it is that format from whence has sprung a plethora of both stand-alone and web-based training courses in the last 20 to 25 years. 

The big questions regarding eLearning are:  Is it quality production?  Does it achieve its objective?

As a voice actor, I’m primarily concerned about the production quality of the audio component (when sound is included) .  I have no control over the visual aspect, and certainly not whether the course achieves its objectives in impacting learning.  I certainly hope it does, because that always reflects well on everyone who had a part in creating it.

Within the past few months I have completed my first two eLearning voiceover jobs for pay, both for the same production company.  It was an interesting experience and less stressful than I imagined.  I’m extremely happy that I now have a business relationship with that company as a dependable voice actor and a known quantity, and hopefully that will lead to more work and revenue down the road.

In reading the direction provided, it seemed that the best approach was to use a clear, neutral voice, with just a shade of inflection – and I do mean just a shade.  The result could be termed bland and boring, but the client liked it because that fit the project, so I like to refer to it as “a professional sound” (ahem).

I participated in several eLearning courses as a trainee during my time with the Postal Service.  I may have complained about how dry or corny it was, or how little it provided in the way of inspiration or motivation, but in general I’d have to say that the technical aspect of the production, including visual and voice audio, was first-rate. 

Maybe one day a postal employee may view an eLearning course at their desk and hear a voice they remember as belonging to an older colleague who has since retired.  If so, I hope they’ll say it’s the best course ever!

How about you readers?  What eLearning courses have you helped voice, and what was the most interesting or strangest course you worked on?  Did you participate as a learner in any eLearning courses that were notably effective, or just plain bad?  I’d love to hear from you, so click on Leave A Comment to share your thoughts on this.

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Yesterday I worked my final track meet of the season at Africentric High School in Columbus at their brand-new stadium – actually they have a brand-new school building for K-12 and a separate indoor athletic center with a basketball facility that seats 2300.

As a PA announcer I always judge stadiums by their sound system and pressbox, and both were amazing.   My only difficulty was when I’d start to speak on the mic, then I’d hear a sound like the voice of God from Mount Sinai saying those same words a half-second later.  Man, those loudspeakers were strong – and my voice quality sounded great! 

The downside was that the delay and the intensity of the broadcast sound tended to throw me off and cause me to drop the ends of words.  It took some effort to tell my brain to focus on the voice coming out of my mouth and shut down the sound coming into my ears from outside. 

Hard to complain, though.  Maybe they’ll let me work a football game or two there this fall, that would be fun.  For now, I’m on hiatus from athletics, and will spend the next three months focusing on my commercial VO work from my studio.  I stepped down from RadioForecastNetwork.com a few weeks ago, and I’m now a premium subscriber on Voices.com, and am enjoying the daily audition routine.

Until next time, remember the capacity you have to enable others to learn from the words you speak, and keep your best voice forward.  Take care.