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Mindfulness and the power of sound in digital learning

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Published on: November 2021

How do you more effectively drive learner engagement and concept retention in your digital learning courses? Sound is key. Why? Sound elicits emotional responses which make moments more memorable, and also shapes your unique sense of space, time, and reality. Adding a layer of sound would amplify presentations of any kind.

There are three elements to consider when incorporating sound into digital learning courses: sound effects, voice talent, and transitions.

  1. Engaging sound effects

    Practitioners of mindfulness meditation focus on the present moment in order to reach a particular mental state. The present moment is always changing, of course, depending on the surrounding constellation of smells, sounds, sights, and feelings. Try to isolate the ambient sounds in the air, and you will come to appreciate both the limits of your focus and the omnipresence of sound. Note, too, how memories involving both sight and sound are more vivid than those derived from just one sensory channel.

    Sound effects can perform numerous functions: emphasize a particular point, underscore a key concept, balance serious content with humor, and more. Try, for instance, to imagine films such as Star WarsTitanic, or The Godfather without their orchestral scores and soundtracks. Just as sound effects are critical to each story on an emotional level, they can make the digital learning experience more meaningful and memorable.

    Consider using ambient sounds that are colloquial to your learners, such as the “ding” signaling the arrival of a new text message, or the “whoosh” of sending an email. Using these sounds tactfully throughout your presentations will increase learner engagement by initiating states of excitement, focus, or reflection. However, be sparing in your use of such effects, as space is essential for the appreciation of sonic subtleties.

  2. Appropriate voice talent

    Your choice of voice talent is critical – any recognizably-human voices invoked for digital-learning purposes must align with your organization’s cultural DNA and corporate identity.

    For the digital learning course in question, be sure to consider its subject matter, audience, and tone. After identifying each, decide whether a stodgy accent, homey lilt, or something else entirely would facilitate the most engaging learning experience. Once you have a few options, be sure to send samples to your client for feedback and approval. Reactions to voices, after all, are highly personal.

  3. Transitions

    Try now to pinpoint all the recurring noises around you, whether infrequent or ever-present. Depending on where you are, you may hear the low hum of a fridge, the persistent honk of a horn, or even the steady beating of your heart. These periodic sounds, absorbed subconsciously, signify the passage of time and transformation of your surroundings.

    Transition sounds, like the famous musical motifs in each aforementioned film, aid in memory retention by stimulating an emotion, foreshadowing an event, or accentuating a concept. In digital learning courses, transitions work best at the beginning and end of a module. That said, if placed tastefully throughout a course, transition sounds will add polish, build a brand, and encode content in a memorable way.

These are just a few of the ways that sound can be used in your digital learning courses as a design pillar, making training more engaging and enjoyable. Whether you meditate or passively absorb your surroundings, sound adds texture, depth, and meaning to the fabric of our lives. How will you use sound to build your next creation?

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