Using Audio in E-learning

When should you use audio in e-Learning? Do you need to include audio to meet the needs of auditory learners? Do you also need to include text for visual learners? What’s the best use of audio?

Let’s look at the recommendations put forth by Ruth Clark in her most recent book Evidence-Based Training Methods.  Chapter 6: Explaining Visuals for all the details, emphasizes this issue.

Should you use audio to explain visuals?

Yes. Use audio to explain a process flow chart or describe the parts of a car engine. Because you’re directing information to both the auditory and the visual channels, you’re distributing the mental workload.

However, don’t use both audio and text to explain that same diagram. This overloads the visual channel, since you’re now directing both text and image to the visual channel.

Should you use audio to narrate on screen text?

No. Let’s say you’re presenting the text of a new policy. Please don’t read this out loud to the learner. Let them read at their own pace.

Clark tells us that we have, “quite a bit of evidence proving that learning is depressed when you deliver the same words in both text and audio!” (p. 101). Let’s not be in the depression business…

What about audio with on-screen text bullets?

Narration with key points called out in text bullets is fine. Just keep your text bullets short and sharp, or you run the risk of redundancy. And don’t read out the bullets – elaborate on them in the audio.

Hearing from the experts

We’re big fans of hearing the voices of the experts. Where appropriate, include snippets of audio from your subject matter experts to add authenticity to your content. Using simple audio recording tools to capture these authentic voices (we often use Skype!) makes this an easy win.

Does it matter where you are?

It seems to – our experience is that US clients and learners are more used to, and more expecting of, audio in their e-learning than in the UK. You could put that down to less robust infrastructure in the UK, or you could make some sweeping statement about cultural preferences to discuss and listen rather than read and reflect – but we’re not we’re not ones to generalise in that way. We think audio used well is better for any learner, no matter where they happen to be. The UK has some catching up to do on this front.

Other ideas?

How do you use audio in your e-learning?I’d love to hear from you at


Clark, Ruth C., (2010), Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals, Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.


About bryantanner

I'm obsessed with learning via the appropriate technology. My professional mission is to effectively deliver instruction to learners in a way that yields the greatest results for all stakeholders involved.
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One Response to Using Audio in E-learning

  1. Pingback: Are you Addicted to Narrating Text? | Examine Life Closer

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