Voice Narration: Humans vs. Computers
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
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.”
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?