6 Audio

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit you will be able to:

  • Describe how audio is used in educational multimedia.
  • Describe the technical considerations when using audio in your projects.
  • Describe the process for creating audio assets.
  • Identify sources for free audio.
  • Describe tools for creating audio recordings.
  • Describe tools for producing audio.
Audio used in educational multimedia projects should include transcripts. This benefits both learners who are not able to hear the audio and learners who might not speak the language with the same accent or are language learners. Producing audio transcripts is a good practice.

Services such as Descript provide audio transcription (Descript gives you 3 hours free). If you are producing content for a school or organization, they may have accessibility tools that you can use to have your audio transcribed for free.

How audio is used in education

Audio is not only used as a stand-alone media, rather, it is more frequently used in combination with static or moving images, and with interactivities. For example (1) voiceovers for presentations, (2) sound effects, (3) podcasts, (4) sound for video, and (5) sound for eLearning.

Voiceovers for presentations

I don’t lecture, I used VoiceThread. I wrote a blog post where I describe the process I use for creating the audio for VoiceThread presentations. One thing I like about the tool is that it has an autocaption feature, so if I record ad-hoc audio, it will automatically create closed captions. For example:


Podcasts are great ways to use audio in educational settings. They can be used by students who are commuting. They are especially useful when the content does not require visuals in order to understand. Video versions of podcasts are known as Vodcasts.

In this example podcast, I interview Terry Greene, who himself has a podcast about Open Education called Gettin’ Air.

I also now podcast at Demystifying Instructional Design.

Sound for Video

One of the most important aspects to successful educational video is good quality audio. In educational video, audio is actually more important than the images. Poor audio will mean that the learner will stop watching and will cause them to be greatly frustrated.

In this example, I created a digital story about myself as a Lecturer. I used audio to tell the story and still images to provide visual support to the story. Notice also that there is quiet background music to help set the emotional tone for the video; however, the background music is very quiet so as not to distract from the dialog.

Technical considerations when using audio

Audio files can be created in a variety of digital formats, however, for most eLearning MP3 is the best choice as the file size is not too large and can be played on most, if not all, devices. Joel Lee (December 2, 2019) wrote a great article that explains the differences: The 10 most common audio formats: Which one should you use?

Audio files can either be streamed or downloaded.

Streamed audio files are played by the device as they are downloaded and are not typically stored locally on the device. The advantage to streamed audio is that it is available to the learner a lot quicker as they do not need to wait until it is downloaded. Streamed audio also does not take up space on the device; however, streaming audio requires more server side processing power. The streamed audio is not available on the device after it has been played and is not available if connection is lost.

Downloaded audio files must be completely downloaded to the device before they can be played. They require space on the local device for storage. The advantage to downloaded audio is that it can be played even when the learner is not online.

For the most part, eLearning audio is streamed.

Process for creating audio assets

The creation of audio assets typically involves four phases: (1) planning, (2) recording, (3) post processing, (4) production and distribution.


Planning is perhaps the most important part of creating quality audio. What is involved in planning differs based upon the type of audio you are preparing. For example, when doing an interview for a podcast, the preparation involved collecting a list of leading questions, and becoming familiar with the work of the person I’m interviewing. This allows me to ask questions, but also link the responses to specific work that the person has done. When creating presentations, I script the audio, that is, I write it out and practice it before recording.

One tip for scripting is to use the voice to text functionality of your computer. In this way, you can talk as if you were presenting, and the computer captures the key ideas as text. You can then go through the text and edit it. One advantage to scripting audio is that it helps avoid the use of ‘umm’ when you are speaking. One disadvantage to scripting is that when you record, you can sound like you are reading the text.


Once you have a plan, it is time to record your audio. It is always better to record more than you need. If possible, when recording leave extra long pauses between segments. This makes editing a lot easier. It is easy to remove empty air, but it is not easy to remove a portion of a segment without it being obvious to the listener.

When recording from script, your goal is to sound as authentic as you can. You want to speak clearly but also try to overemphasize emotions and tones in your voice. You may wish to record while standing, and that causes you to project your voice and speak with great tone variance, making for a better quality and more natural sounding recording.

See the section below for suggested tools for creating audio recordings.

Post processing

Post processing is what you do after you have recorded your audio – this is the phase where you put it all together. In post production, you edit out the parts you don’t want, and add in anything that is missing. If you record with a tool that separates the speakers into different digital files, it is easier to clean up or edit one audio file without it affecting the other. In post process you can also add background sounds and sound effects.

Note: Use background music sparingly as it can make your audio more difficult to hear.

See the section on Tools for producing audio for suggestions for audio post production software.

Production and distribution

The final phase of the process is production and distribution. Production refers to the process of creating a single audio file out of the edited components. This is usually done by exporting the audio from Audio editing software. Once you have a single audio file, you need to figure out how to store or distribute the file.

Sources for audio

As with images, be careful about who owns the copyright to the audio tracks you are using. There are several sources for royalty free (does not cost money) audio that you may use either without or with attribution. Check the license.

  • Incompetech – Contain a variety of different types of free music. With the free option, you are required to attribute the creator.
  • FreeSound – Contains a variety of sound effects and loop tracks (tracks that repeat over and over and are good for background sound of undetermined length).
  • Bensound – Contains a variety of free background tracks, some which will seem familiar. Look closely at the usage rights as many specifically say no eBooks or podcasts, but are OK in multimedia projects as long as the creator is credited.
  • Purple Planet Music – Again another site that contains a bunch of music tracks. Check the usage rights. They have a fee version if you want higher quality audio.

Tools for creating audio recordings

Tools are changing all the time. What I have provided here are some examples of the different types of tools you may wish to consider for producing quality audio. This is not an exhaustive list and is not meant to be an endorsement of any of the tools listed.


You can record audio on nothing more than your phone or computer, but the quality of the audio may not be that good. Investing in a good quality microphone is the first step to improving your audio quality.


When doing interviews, it is handy to be able to record each person within their own audio file. This allows you better control when editing – especially if one person has poor quality sound or the volume is not equivalent.

  • Zencastr – A great tool for doing interviews over the web. It records each side of the conversation on a seperate channel, which you can then use when editing (e.g. you can easily edit out background noise from one channel. The free version is often enough unless you are trying to produce a lot in a short period of time.
  • Zoom – Zoom has the ability to record the audio of each person separately. This is especially useful when you have more than two people in a conversation. The video file provides you a reference as to the flow of conversation, but you can also extract the specific audio.

Tools for producing audio

Audio editing

Once your audio files have been recorded, you will need software that allows you to edit and produce the files.

  • Ocenaudio – Free audio editing software that is less complicated than Audacity. It is a great choice for quick edits when you don’t need all the extra features.
  • Audacity – Free audio editing software that provides all the bells and whistles of any complex audio editing software.
  • Adobe Audition – Part of the Adobe Creative Suite of products, provides professional level audio editing features.

Sharing audio

Onces your audio has been produced, you may wish to use an audio sharing platform. This is not strictly required but it is a good way to reduce the size of your website or eBook. The most common file format for audio transmission is MP3. For more options see Best free music and cloud storage & audio filesharing service [2020]


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Creating educational multimedia projects by Rebecca J. Hogue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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