Children around the world are staying at home as countries continue to battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, e-learning and streaming learning programs are helping children continue to learn while schools remain closed.
Kids have varying levels of literacy, therefore, subtitling by itself is not a great option; voice-over/dubbing alone or subtitling coupled with voice-over/dubbing, however, are great options for learning programs for kids.
In this blog we’ll share why voice-over is great for e-learning, finding the right voice, how to make content child-specific, along with other considerations to make sure the voice-over is great for your children’s learning program.
[Average read time: 4 minutes]
photo by Aaron Burden
E-learning uses multimedia learning programs that include written text, visuals (pictures, video), and audio (voice-over, music, sound effects). The use of multiple mediums is particularly engaging to children who may get easily bored or distracted when looking at text only.
Voice-over in particular is a great way to engage kids and help them learn. With the absence of in-person teachers, voice-over is the next best substitute to make children feel a similar level of connection as in the traditional classroom environment. A friendly human voice can add that extra touch to motivate the children to learn instead of a robotic automated voice that kids are quick to detect and dismiss.
Audio narration has also been shown to help children increase their vocabulary and writing skills. By connecting the voice with text or images on screen, the child is developing language skills by engaging their visual and auditory senses. Also, if there’s a complicated graphic or concept on screen, the voice-over can help guide children’s focus to what is most pertinent first so that they’re not overloaded and can still comprehend the subject.
photo by Yannis H
Given all the benefits of voice-over for children, it’s important that you find the right voice(s) to deliver your content successfully. It’s important that kids feel safe and respected in the classroom, and a voice that helps create that atmosphere in a learning program is just as essential.
A warm, conversational, light tone of voice can help kids connect with the learning materials and feel cared for. An authoritarian voice may seem like it will get kids to stay on task, however, for children to listen to such a voice for many hours can be incredibly tiring and may cause children to feel fearful.
The voice should also be respectful and not talk down to the children. Children know instinctually when an adult is being patronizing just through their tone of voice. The voice artist should be able to speak to children slowly and clearly, with a level of care and respect. As mentioned in the previous casting blog, you may want to find a voice artist that speaks in the accent and manner of the target audience.
There may be particular cultural, social backgrounds in your target community that you should consider when selecting a voice artist. If the learning program is for children from an ethnically diverse community, one should consider hiring an ethnically diverse cast of voice artists that reflect the target community. Children will be able to pick up on specific intonations and inflections that are from their community, feel familiar to them, and thus connect better to the material.
Another consideration is finding a voice artist that has voiced learning programs for children before. They will better understand how to read the material and articulate it in a way that children are able to understand. They should also have a better idea of the pacing: if the voice-over is too quick, it can confuse students and they may get frustrated.
One last note, if your learning program has songs to sing along to, make sure that you find a voice actor that is able to sing well or cast a separate talent that specializes in singing. A voice actor may be good at reading content, but may need extra practice in the singing department. Specific vocal demands like singing, accents, foreign phrases, etc–should be communicated upfront to cast talent with those skills.
photo by CDC
When preparing the voice-over script for a multimedia e-learning program, be sure to avoid terms that might be too advanced for your target age group. The language used should be easy to understand and help simplify complex concepts that the child is learning. Also, words of encouragement should be added after a student follows along or completes a task. This helps simulate the in-class praise they would get from a teacher and keeps children engaged and happy.
Music is another way to keep children engaged. Ambient, upbeat music can keep kids energized to complete the e-learning tasks, however, if it’s too distracting, it can take away from the voice-over and the content on screen. Sound effects are the same, they can keep a child engaged in the content (e.g. click on the correct answer and you get a nice bell sound), however, if it’s too jarring (e.g. a tire screech) it can cause the child to not feel safe and avoid proceeding through the program.
It’s important when doing voice-over for an e-learning program that all the music and sound effects are available as separate audio stems so that eventually they can all be mixed correctly in the final program. That way the volume levels and positions can be adjusted so that they don’t interfere with each other and sounds can easily be reused throughout the course.
As you can see from the above, voice-over is a great choice for e-learning for young students. It helps with learning retention, engaging the students, and making children feel safe and respected. That’s why it’s important that you find the right voice for your program and that the script and audio elements are all in service of helping teach your young audience.
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