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Find Your eLearning Voice

Have you ever attended an eLearning lecture? Sometimes I review courses and think, "They must have copy+pasted this information from somewhere, because it certainly isn't a human talking." It's corporate speech. Mumbo jumbo. It puts me to sleep as soon as I hit the next button.

So how can you avoid this? A simple solution: Find your eLearning voice.

Your eLearning Voice

Have you ever written a business letter? What about an email? Did you use the same tone of voice? Probably they were slightly different. What about talking to a person on the phone, or face to face? You probably then have yet another different voice. Wouldn't it be weird if you were talking to your manager in the same tone as if you were writing them a business letter? Of course it would. But what about your eLearning courses? Which tone of voice do you use in an eLearning course? Let's break each of these down...

  • Business Letters are typically written in a professional and formal manner. While writing a business letter, you will most likely use more words to convey your thoughts and meanings. Your sentences will most likely be longer, with more conjunctions and clauses, and your words may be more extravagant and at a higher reading level.
  • Emails are typically more colloquial, yet still professional. You most likely have a relationship with your recipient and are able to be a bit less formal and more straight-forward.
  • Face to Face of course, would be quite different. Don't you think? Your sentences are probably shorter. Maybe not even full sentences. You probably use more every-day language. Maybe you even ask questions or pause every now then.

So in your eLearning courses, which voice do you use? Did you say your email voice? Many would probably choose that option. It's in the middle, in-between too formal and too casual. Your course can be friendly, but still professional and respectable. But...have you ever seen the video where people talk to each other in email language? It's hilarious. If you haven't seen it, take a look below.

The truth is, we just don't talk to each other that way, so why would we want to teach someone that way? Think back to your teachers in high school. Even if you think college, your best professors were probably not the ones who lectured. How did the best teachers teach? They probably used everyday language. And it probably helped you pay closer attention. Can you imagine if they talked to you as if they were writing you an email? You'd definitely fall asleep.

  • Email "Please find the attached reference for your review. In the meantime, I'd like to discuss with you point A, B, and C..."
  • Face to Face "Here's the attachment. Review it when you can. But for now, let's talk about A, B, and C."

But isn't the face-to-face voice too informal?

Depends on when and how you use it. Of course, there will be times when the learner needs to review policies and procedures or very detailed information and there might be specific phrases you must include. But at other times, whenever possible, simply talk to your learner!

For example, I'm working on a safety course right now. All the client sent me, literally, was a list of bullet points with sentences copied from their policy and procedures manual. I had NO idea what to do with it. But then I thought, if I were on the job, how would I learn this information? Probably if an accident occurred, someone would tell me how to handle it. Or maybe while I'm at the office, colleagues point out different things I need to be careful of. So there was my answer. Present the information in a conversational, face-to-face tone. When you need to review the specific policy itself, provide it to the learner as needed. In my course, I have the receptionist say as she's walking down the hall, "Be careful of slips, trips and falls around here. Especially in the parking lot, these Chicago winters can be pretty brutal sometimes!" I have an email pop-up on the screen with the safety "minimum rules list" that the learner reviews. But when they receive a pop-up, the narrator says, "Looks like you've received your first email today! Click the computer to open it." Later on, the fire alarm goes off, and the colleague rushes over and tells the employee they need to evacuate and where they should go. "That's the fire alarm, buddy! We better head out to the parking lot!"

Here's another way to find your voice...

Next time you have an eLearning course, go home and talk to your husband, wife, children, friends, whoever it might be, about your course. Tell them what it's about, why it's important. Maybe show them a screen or two. But instead of reading the proposed script, tell them what's on the slide instead. Did your voice differ from what you proposed in the script? Probably. But that's the voice you should be using. Your eLearning audience is not there to read a book or attend a lecture. It's hard enough to be in the right frame of mind for them when they sit in front of a computer to attend an online class, so engage them. Talk to them like you would a friend. They're an individual, and they need to be treated as one.

Foodies to the Rescue

A great example of this is the way food blogger's open many of their recipes. While I'm not telling you to open your eLearning course with a breakdown of what you did today, it is beneficial to review their sites. Study their tone of voice. How are they engaging their reader? Does it make you interested in reading more? That's what you want for your eLearning courses.

Here are a few of my favorite food blogs. Check it out and see what you think:

So give it a try. Find your eLearning voice and wake up your audience!

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