Voice Narration: Humans vs. Computers

Voice Narration: Humans vs. Computers

Kim Handysides Narration AI Humans vs Computers

Oxymoron, anyone?

Jumbo shrimp.

Climb down.

Constant variable.

Pick your favorite oxymoron…I just lived another…a four and a half minute online video on the Effective Use of Audio in eLearning featuring narration by a computer!

Central to the AI’s discourse was a resounding, albeit mechanized, “Yes” Although it would have sounded better coming from a human, this computerized voice said audio narration does affect learner retention rates. The key takeaways: it should…


  • supplement the learning
  • sound like an expert
  • have proper inflections
Kim Handysides Humans vs Computers

AI Horror Stories

There were other tips the Annoying computerized voice, had to share, but I couldn’t get past the broken, irregular sound that, had I been a learner, would have not only disconnected me from the content, but would have prevented me from focusing on learning. I had to shut Hal off at 1:11. I couldn’t see what the rest of the video held. I just couldn’t past the fact that he was…Hal!

I posed the question to a number of colleagues in the eLearning field and asked them what they don’t like about narration from a computerized voice. Here’s a smidgen of what they had to say:

“I’m distracted from the message when I hear an automated voice.”

“There is obviously no real connection, passion or knowledge about the topic when the ‘teacher’ is a computer. If their passion or interest isn’t there, how and why should mine be?”

“An automated voice makes me feel like we’re living in a dystopian future.”

“I feel a lack of connection with the content.”

Kim Handysides Humans vs Computers AI

We all want Connection

This non-scientific sampling of colleagues corresponds with findings in Caroline J. Harrison’s dissertation “Narration in Multimedia Learning Environments.” A human voice by a professional narrator or voice actor beats automated voice hands down in learning, likeability and retention.

It makes sense. A computerized voice has unnatural pauses and inflections. It pronounces words wrong. It doesn’t speak conversationally. Which by the by, scores as the best way to present education material with a goal of retention, according to Mayer, Fennell, Farmer & Campbell.

What about you? Do you have a preference? Do you think we’re minutes away from “Her” or will we always prefer other people?


  1. Clarence L Wilson 3 years ago

    Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?

    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design and
    style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking
    for something completely unique. P.S Apologies
    for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    • Tanya 3 years ago

      WordPress! 🙂

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