As an online learning developer, you use audio as a key point of engagement for your learners. Properly recorded audio can improve learner engagement and make your content sound more professional.
This post covers some useful tips to record consistent, good quality audio for your online courses.
Tip #1: Write a good script
When you record audio, you’ll want to have a well composed script with notes on points like pronunciation and emphasis. Including on the script what will be displayed on screen during your narration is also a good idea, like this example:
The script is important to help you organize your thoughts before you start recording. Improvising your audio is not a good idea for a professional online course.
Also, make sure that the script is written with your students in mind. You want your content to be clear and well organized to keep learners engaged.
Tip #2: Rehearse your script
In order to make sure your final recording is your best, you’ll want to practice the script often. Read it over plenty of times to make sure you are comfortable with everything you wrote. Then, practice reading it out loud to prepare yourself for potential slip ups in the final recording.
During the final recording, make sure to speak clearly and carefully. At times it may feel like you are dragging your audio out, but it is better for learners when content is presented to them at a manageable pace.
Tip #3: Use the right equipment
The microphone you use should be best suited to what you are recording. Unidirectional microphones are generally best for voice recording because they reduce ambient noise. Never use your computer’s built in microphone for professional recordings.
Pop screens and windscreens can help you reduce ambient noise and dampen speech sounds that are too explosive, like the letter “p”. Additionally, you’ll want a microphone stand or boom as well.
Tip #4: Set up a good recording area
In a professional recording studio, unwanted background noises are dampened by special insulation. If you’re just recording in a room, there are still some steps you can take to make it sound like a professional studio.
You can reduce ambient noise by recording in a room with lots of sofas and carpeting -- you want materials that absorb sound rather than amplify it. Obviously, don’t leave any windows or doors open. Turn off everything you don’t need in the room that can make noise, like air conditioners and other computers. You can even line the walls with foam or some other material that dampens sound, like so:
Tip #5: Use the same equipment
Using the same equipment every time you record is important to maintain the consistency of your audio, especially if several recordings are part of the same course. Switching microphones suddenly can hurt the consistent professional quality of your course.
Tip #6: Record at the right volume
Never record when the volume meter is in the red! This is a big mistake that people make when recording audio. The volume meter displays average volume on a scale of green to red, with green being the quietest and red being the loudest.
You want your audio to stay mostly in the yellow range of the volume meter where it is at its best quality. Recording in the red is too loud and results in “digital clipping” which cannot be edited out. Adjust your microphone settings if the volume meter stays in the red while you speak normally.
Tip #7: Record nothing
This tip sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it is an extremely useful way to test the amount of ambient noise your microphone picks up. Doing this can tip you off to points of technical concern with your microphone or recording area.
By recording nothing, you are actually recording the level of ambient noise in your studio. If you listen to the recording and can’t hear any ambient noise even with the volume all the way up, the audio you do record will be good quality.
Tip #8: Listen to your own recordings
All in all, the only way to really know that your audio sounds good is to hear it yourself. Listen to your own recordings and try to find areas for improvement. They can be technical points or even critiques of your own speech style.
Keep in mind that you may not like the final recording that you end up using as your audio. We are often our worst critics, but it’s unlikely that your learners will care much about a few speech stumbles you made.
If your audio sounds clear, has little ambient noise, and remains consistent, your online courses will engage learners with its professional quality. Following the tips here will get you there in no time.
About the author
Ben is a third-year university student from Stafford, Connecticut who attends McGill University in Montreal. He enjoys Halloween, writing, and going on adventures with friends. Ben’s interests lie in the fields of linguistics and gender studies, and he currently aspires to stay in Montreal post-graduation to work with gender advocacy organizations.