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How (and Why!) to Use a Voice Over in e-Learning Content: FAQ

Learn everything you need to know about voice overs for e-learning content. Our FAQ has everything, including expert tips!

March 1, 2024 by Amy Foxwell
Woman with a headset working on a white desk on a computer

The more senses we engage, the better we learn. That’s not exactly a new idea. Maria Montessori was proclaiming the value of multisensory learning as far back as 1912.

Of course, Montessori didn’t have an fMRI machine. More recent scientists did, and they used these brain scanners to watch neurons light up with exposure to audio-visual stimuli. Test subjects remembered more content when it included both sounds and images. They remembered less with images alone.

So it’s settled: Audio-visual content is good for learning. How do you take advantage of this fact for your e-learning content?

Simple: Use a voice over.

Don’t be intimidated! We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started with e-learning voice overs, whether you create online courses, corporate training modules, social media tutorials, or instructional videos of any description.

This is your comprehensive FAQ about e-learning voice overs.

The e-Learning Voice Over FAQ: Table of Contents

  1. What is an e-learning voice over?
  2. Why should you use a voice over in your e-learning content?
  3. How do you create e-learning narration?
  4. Where do you get a branded AI voice for e-learning?
  5. How do you add a voice over to an e-learning module?
  6. What are some tips for making better e-learning voice overs?
  7. What are the key takeaways from this FAQ?

Curious about text to speech (TTS) for your e-learning module? Contact the AI voice experts at ReadSpeaker for answers.

What is an e-learning voice over?

An e-learning voice over is an audio recording of speech that communicates the content you want your students to learn. This recording is synchronized with video, creating a multi-sensory teaching package. Together, visuals and spoken words improve content retention for students.

Why should you use a voice over in your e-learning content?

Using voice overs in e-learning courses provides at least five benefits (one of which we’ve already mentioned!).

  1. The right voice over improves knowledge retention for your learners. In other words, they’ll have an easier time remembering what you’re trying to teach them.
  2. Voice overs enhance digital accessibility. They help to make your e-learning content accessible to people with vision impairments, attention deficits, and developmental disorders, for example.
  3. e-Learning narration can help broaden your audience. More than a quarter of adults in the U.S. have a disability. The global disability rate is around 16%. Voice overs can be the key to opening your e-learning courses to this huge population.
  4. Voice overs may help with regulatory compliance. Depending on where your audience lives, your content may need to comply with digital accessibility standards like WCAG 2.2, which requires audio narration in some contexts. (See WCAG 2.2. Success Criterion 1.2.3: Audio Description or Media Alternative, for example.)
  5. Quality voice overs create a better user experience. Some learners prefer to listen to content. Many (around 66%, in fact) like multimodal content. People enjoy learning more when content matches their preferences.

Bonus benefit: If you’re trying to apply the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to your e-learning courses, voice overs are a must! They support the multimodal presentation that UDL champions.

How do you create e-learning narration?

There are three ways to produce voice overs for e-learning courses:

  • Record yourself,
  • Hire a voice actor, or
  • Use text to speech (TTS)

Here’s what you need to know about each option.

1. Recording Your Own Voice Over

We get it: You’re in a hurry. You have budget constraints. Why not plug in that old USB mic and record your own script?

That can work for informal e-learning content, but it’s tougher than you think to get a clean, professional sound. Consider:

  • Good mics are expensive (and no, your internal laptop microphone won’t do the trick).
  • Unless you have access to a sound-proofed recording studio, you’ll have a lot of unpleasant background noise.
  • Audio engineers are experts for a reason. Do you know how to set a level? Position your mic? Edit and mix raw audio? Apply compression? If not, you’ll struggle to get a good sound.
  • If you’re not trained for voice over work, odds are your voice won’t sound consistent from one recording session to the next—or even within this same session. That can create vocal variations that listeners find distracting.

All that said, the DIY approach is affordable and can be fun. Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of recording your own e-learning voice over:

Self-Recording Voice Overs: Pros and Cons

Low cost. This assumes you already own good gear, of course! Lower quality. Unless you’re both a trained audio engineer and voice actor, that is.
Convenient. No need to navigate someone else’s schedule. Requires expensive set-up. You’ll need mics, soundproofing, recording software, etc.
Relatively quick. See above note regarding schedules! Labor intensive. The tough thing about DIY is that you do, indeed, have to do it all yourself.

Budgeting a DIY Voice Over

How much does it cost to record a voice over on your own? If you already have all the tools you’ll need, not much. If you’re starting from scratch, however, you’ll need a budget.

To find out how much, we asked an expert in voice technology and its use in e-learning voice overs. Irina Bednova is chief technology officer (CTO) at AI telephony platform Cordless.

“When it comes to budgeting for voice overs, several factors come into play,” says Bednova. “If you’re recording on your own, you might need to invest in a good quality microphone and audio editing software. A decent setup can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.”

“A decent [voice over recording] setup can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.”

So what are our other options?

2. Hiring Professional Voice Actors

To create a professional product, you need professional vendors. In the world of e-learning voice overs, that means trained voice talent and recording engineers.

The main benefit of going this route is that you’ll end up with a terrific final product. The main drawback is that you’ll pay out the nose. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of hiring a professional voice over artist for your e-learning modules.

Recording Professional Voice Actors: Pros and Cons

High quality. Human voice actors are the gold standard for voice overs in any use case. Expensive. We’ll get into details right below this table; for now, just know that this is the priciest way to produce a voice over.
Relatable. Voice over talent can engage your audience like nothing else. Inflexible. If you need to update your course or correct an error, there’s no guarantee your voice actor will be available again.
Prestigious. Anyone consuming your content will know you’re a serious provider when you pay for real voice acting. Time-consuming. You have to book an actor and studio time. It takes a while.

Budgeting for Voice Talent

The Global Voice Acting Academy (GVAA) publishes an informal price guide for voice actors. Here are the GVAA rates for non-broadcast narration, which includes most e-learning content, including corporate training videos:

Per Finished Minute of Content

Price Range

1 to 2 minutes $350 to $450
3 to 5 minutes $450 to $550
5 to 10 minutes $600 to $700
10 to 15 minutes $700 to $800
15 to 20 minutes $800 to $950
20 to 30 minutes $950 to $1,250
30 to 40 minutes $1,250 to $1,750
40 to 60 minutes $1,750 to $2,350

These rates are current as of February 2024. Check the GVAA rate guide for current recommended pricing.

Where to Find Professional Voice Actors

Voice actors are contractors; they work by the job. You can find them on online marketplaces. Start your search with three of the biggest global voice acting platforms in the industry:

  1. Voice123.com
  2. Bodalgo.com
  3. Voicecrafters.com

Any of those sites will match you with a great voice over for your project. But before you start booking, check out the third way to produce an e-learning voice over.

3. Using Text to Speech to Create an AI Voice Over

The simplest, most cost-effective way to add a voice over to your e-learning content is to use text to speech. We know what you’re thinking: Don’t these types of voices sound robotic?

That may have been true once, but things have changed. New AI voice technology has unlocked synthetic voices that are strikingly lifelike. They sound human enough to provide great learning experiences—and allow you to generate a TTS voice over with a few keystrokes.

Here are the costs and benefits of TTS for e-learning videos, modules, and whole courses.

AI Voice Overs with TTS: Pros and Cons

Low cost. No need to hire anyone. All your voice over requires is a script and a TTS solution. Not quite human. The latest AI voices sound amazingly lifelike, but an educated ear might hear a synthetic note here or there.
Very quick. Producing voice over audio is nearly instantaneous with AI voices. Pronunciation woes. There’s a way around this one, but some TTS solutions have a tendency to mispronounce names, jargon, and acronyms.
Incredibly flexible. Edit your script to produce an updated voice over. Bring your content to new markets with dozens of languages at your fingertips. Requires buy-in. Your colleagues might not be ready to adopt a new technology. You may have to convince them to abandon old ways of operating.

While these disadvantages are true for many AI voice providers, at ReadSpeaker, we’ve developed solutions for them all. Our TTS tools allow you to fine-tune prosody (or speaking style) and curate a custom pronunciation dictionary.

These features create a natural, inviting TTS voice that never mispronounces your technical jargon—and can speak English, Spanish, and Dutch with equal fluency.

Getting buy-in from your colleagues is a bit more complicated, but try sending them our comparison between TTS and voice actors for e-learning voice overs. It should rally them to your side.

Budgeting for an AI Voice Over

How much does an AI voice over cost? The answer depends on a lot of factors, but we’ll work with you to develop a pricing plan that matches your business model, whether that means paying by volume, traffic, subscription, or anything else that supports your unique scenario.

Learn all about AI voice pricing from ReadSpeaker here.

Where to Find Lifelike AI Voices for e-Learning Voice Overs

So where do you get the TTS solutions that make voice overs a breeze? Good news: You’re already here.

ReadSpeaker offers more than 200 lifelike TTS voices—including a growing suite of AI voices— in more than 50 languages and dialects (and counting!). Our education solutions support direct voice-over production, streaming TTS, and integration with all major learning management systems (LMSs).

If you’re looking for AI voice overs for your e-learning content, ReadSpeaker is the ideal partner. We can even produce an all-new, branded AI voice just for your company…which brings us to the next question on our list.

What if I need a specific brand representative for my e-learning voice over?

Any e-learning project represents your brand, just like any product. That brand deserves its own voice. In fact, without a strong brand identity, it’s hard to keep an e-learning company growing.

A custom AI voice is your branding superpower. It allows you to create a consistent sonic profile across all your channels, from e-learning content in all its forms to ads, call centers, and more.

Work with ReadSpeaker to develop the perfect AI voice for your brand. We’ll construct an all-original voice that matches your brand identity perfectly—then stick around to help you deploy that voice successfully.

Learn more about our custom voice-creation process, or reach out to start developing your own AI voice.

How do you add a voice over to e-learning content?

Once you produce your voice over, you have to integrate it with the rest of your e-learning content. We asked Bednova—remember our expert, the CTO at Cordless?—for the best way to combine audio and video in an e-learning course.

“Integrating narration voice audio into an e-learning module can be done using various e-learning authoring tools,” says Bednova. “These tools allow you to import audio files and sync them with the on-screen content.”

So which authoring tools make it easiest to add your voice over to a teaching video? Bednova recommends the following:

That’s the technical nitty-gritty. But how can you make sure your voice over is actually, you know, good?

What are some expert tips for creating better e-learning voice overs?

What makes an e-learning voice over perfect will depend on a lot of factors, from your subject matter to the preferences of your target audience. But one thing’s for sure in every case: Speaking style is important.

Speech isn’t just made of words. It also includes what the speech scientists call paralinguistic information—stuff like pitch, speed, tone, and spacing.

All these elements contribute to the effectiveness of a voice over, says Bednova. “The key lies in ensuring clarity, pacing, and tone.”

Here are a few of Bednova’s tips for a good e-learning voice over.

  • “Your voice over should be clear and easy to understand, which means proper enunciation and pronunciation are crucial.”
  • “The pacing should be just right—not too fast, so learners can’t keep up, and not too slow, so it becomes monotonous.”
  • “The tone should be engaging and conversational, to keep learners interested and invested in the content.”

There is, of course, a simple way to achieve all these things with minimal effort: Create your voice over with an AI voice from ReadSpeaker, designed to appeal to learners.

Any final thoughts on voice overs for e-learning?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this FAQ. If you’re still with us, you’ve learned:

  • What an e-learning voice over actually is.
  • The five key benefits of voice overs in this context.
  • Three ways to produce e-learning voice overs.
  • How to get your own custom AI voice.
  • How to add a voice over in three major e-learning content editing platforms.
  • A few expert tips for high-quality voice overs.

That only leaves one question:

Are you ready to add incredible AI voice overs to your e-learning content? Contact the TTS specialists at ReadSpeaker to get started today.

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