The modern classroom has come a long way since the days of students sitting in one room and watching their teacher write lessons on a dusty chalkboard. Today, learning happens every hour of every day, every where, and is delivered on all kinds of devices. Computers, the internet, and smartphones have radically changed how people consume content and learn. eLearning provides access to education more than ever before, and it is projected to be a $275.10 billion industry by 2022.
Academia is just one small corner of the eLearning world, however. Companies are also using eLearning to train their employees and teach their customers how to use their products or services. As a voice actor, that's a lot of opportunities! However, even though the eLearning industry is growing by leaps and bounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean buyers are going to be spending all their dollars on professional voices. Businesses, and especially academia, are always looking for ways to save on costs, and may just entertain the possibility of trying out a "synthesized" voice for their next eLearning project. Buyers looking to save a buck may not initially understand how an impersonal or robotic voice can impact their project. What may be perceived as an initial savings, could ultimately end up costing more, in both dollars and in student failure. Are you ready for your next move?
The Engaged Learner
For years, the eLearning industry has been talking about how to better engage students for learning success. Attention spans are getting shorter by the minute. I read recently that humans have a shorter attention span now than a goldfish! Although they are getting better every day, synthesized voices have not yet reached the levels of real human emotion necessary for learners to engage or to completely trust in them. This is critical for successful learning. In my blog post last week, I discussed how being “human” in your voiceover projects is a crucial element to make your copy stand out. It's now more important than ever that you hone your real world voice acting skills, to allow yourself to serve your client's brand voice in the many ways that are specifically human, and, in the case of eLearning projects, voicing as a teacher who approaches with heart first, one who cares about the student experience.
Think about eLearning courses you might have taken in the past. Most courses were (and still are) slide based. More than likely the content and the voiceover was simply reading the script, with no real thought for teaching moments and/or learner engagement. If it was clear and accurate, you got paid! To compete in a world of synthesized voices, this can no longer be the status quo. Synthesized voices are already clear and accurate . You must do better. We all must do better.
Recent research from Sharelook shows that "75 percent of employees remember very little of what they were taught in the most recent compulsory training session. This may be because there wasn’t interaction between the learners and the trainer, or the learners were neither interested in the training content nor the trainer. Whatever the reason, it all boils down to the level of learner engagement. Engaged learners will always remember what they learn."
Engage your listeners with a voice so human that it captures their attention - and their hearts.
It's not just me saying it. Elearningindustry.com, the largest online community of eLearning professionals in the industry, suggests one of the best ways to engage the learner is to keep the script natural and conversational. This allows the learner to “feel as though they are listening to someone who is personable, friendly, and compassionate, rather than a narrator who is cold and business-like.” (or robotic for that matter!)
New Trends in eLearning
Newer trends in eLearning projects include character-based story lines for gamification, AI bots, and Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality based curriculum. These technologies are exciting and can be a great way to keep learners engaged, but can also be cost prohibitive. The biggest challenge is the actual building of the environment as well as its multiple interactions - the more realistic and complex they become, the more expensive. I doubt they will completely replace the classroom anytime soon, rather they will compliment the learning classrooms as we know it. AI bots who can help with routine knowledge work can free up teachers (this includes eLearning!) to focus on more problem solving education. You may no longer get hired for what you know, rather how well you can apply that knowledge to real world problem solving. The great news? There are no shortage of problems in the world to solve!
At the heart of these new technology environments, are stories and characters that need professional voice actors to bring them to life. Shift eLearning, a company who develops eLearning projects for various size clients, says the characters in your story need to be relatable, believable, memorable and most importantly, human. “Your learners will relate to your characters if they share similar traits, and respond and react to events similarly. The characters must also look, talk, and act credibly.”
Get Off My Lawn, AI
As voice actors, we tend to get nervous (and whiny!) every time something new emerges that looks as though it might infringe upon our territory. First, it was it was home studios, then pay-to-play websites (another subject for another day), and now it’s synthesized voices taking all of our jobs. Newsflash - as much as we'd like to - we cannot stop the evolution of technology. Its coming no matter how hard we stomp our feet! Technology will always be changing and evolving. Stop yelling at at AI to get off your lawn and find your way to work alongside it. Until we, as a society, trust a synthesized voice more than a human voice, we still have a market for our services, and will for years to come.
Human = Safe
This is your opportunity to get ahead of the curve, to truly stand out in your eLearning voiceover gigs and auditions. Study, get coaching, practice, and learn how to voice like a real live HUMAN! :) No more sitting on the laurels of those pretty vocal cords. Work hard and you can accomplish this. Right now computer voices still sound synthesized. But what will they be like in the next five years? In the next five years, I expect AI to dominate the Fiverr voiceover market of today. What will be left at the end - will be the upper echelon of clients who want something truly unique - HUMAN, a.k.a. YOU.
The teacher is In! My doors are always open if you’re interested in learning more or just want to geek out and chat about technology. Sign up here and I'll see you in class!
Keep on rockin' your biz,
About the Author: Anne Ganguzza is a full-time voice talent and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voice over and business skills - including VO demo training and production. She specializes in Conversational Commercial and Narration styles, including Corporate, E-Learning, Technology, Healthcare - Medical, Telephony, and On-Hold. Located in Orange County, CA, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students in person and via Skype, ipDTL or Zoom.