Happy New Year: What I Learned in 2010

Happy New Year!

I welcome 2011 with a smile as I also look back on 2010. From Christmas through New Years, I was on vacation with family in real world, and learned how much I depend on the Internet and on social media, or SoMe. Although I was supposed to be offline, I did use my iPad to check my social networks occasionally and post a few comments. In all honesty, I felt afraid I was going to miss out on important tweets or status updates on LinkedIn or Facebook. However, I was rewarded with wonderful F2F (face-to-face) time with my loved ones, and saw some beautiful scenery in Prescott, Arizona.

I did think about what I learned in 2010, and what the learning might mean for 2011. I bravely and humbly share a partial list with you:

  1. Mobile [ fill-in-the-blank ] is here, and is here to stay and grow. I bought an iPad for my business and use it daily. In addition, non-mobile family members and friends moved to smartphones, and they quickly became “addicted” mobile learners; even the older folks. In the new year, I plan to become more involved in mobile anything.
  2. Social Networking via the Internet is also here to stay and grow in leaps and bounds. On a daily basis I use Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, and (to a lesser degree) Facebook to connect with a wide, virtual network of amazing colleagues. I’ve gained new consulting work through this network as well as exchanged expertise. Social media (SoMe) is a permanent part of my business. I will continue to nurture and grow my network in 2011.
  3. Face-to-face Networking still plays an important part in my consulting practice. I pick up the phone and make a call instead of sending an email, and I schedule business lunches when possible. I’ve also discovered that when I’ve had the opportunity to meet my virtual SoMe colleagues in person, it feels like a joyful “reverse reunion”, where we finally get to add the F2F connection to a carefully nurtured business relationship. I look forward to more F2F connections this new year.
  4. SCORE business mentors (click to learn more) provide amazing resources to anyone who is starting a business … and, their advice is free. SCORE also offers low-cost workshops. In 2011, I plan to leverage the wisdom and experience from these generous, warm, and encouraging mentors.

I’ve learned a great deal in 2010, and it’s hard to pick and choose what to share in this post. What did you learn in 2010 that you’d like to share with me and with others? Please feel free to add a Comment to this post!

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Voice Over Audio Narration for e-Learning

Do-It-Yourself Narration?

Honestly, I hesitated over writing this post. Why? Because it will reveal a “Learning Experience” that I had in August, that promotes the benefit of hiring professional voice talent for online narration (e-learning, marketing presentations, etc.). In a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) e-learning world, a world that’s growing due to the current economy, most people cannot afford to hire a professional voice actor and they feel satisfied with the audio narration they produce for their online learning activities.

I’ve heard their results, and…. well…. (pause) Let me tell you a story.

One of the projects I worked on this summer was a short, online CBT for a local hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). Their OD group hired me to develop and package for publishing their designed and approved content. They had used Adobe Captivate in the past. For this project, I used Articulate Presenter ’09. I like how Presenter makes it so easy to import recorded WAV or MP3 files (WAV is the better format).

My Initial Approach

For this project, I decided to take the DIY voice actor narration route. Now, let me explain. I’m not a “total” amateur, but I’m also not a Union Talent. I’ve attended two voice over workshops and several “work outs” with my coach, Beverly Bremers.

As I was saying, I decided to DIY the audio narration for CHOC’s CBT project. The audio quality I produced in my home studio, edited by using Audacity, was fine. The (ehem) voice actor’s acting or narration was… lacking… something. I decided I just couldn’t import my lack-luster narration into a nicely developed CBT. For a moment, I sat in my home office in a bit of despair.

You see, spoken narration for online learning is much more than buying a microphone and learning how to use a sound editor. For e-learning to engage your learners, you want the audio to enhance the experience and not detract from the activities. And, in my opinion, you don’t want the audio to draw attention to itself because:

  1. It sounds like you recorded in an echo chamber.
  2. You don’t know how to edit out the “Popping Ps”.
  3. The narration sounds stilted; there’s no “life”, no vibrancy in the voice.

For my CHOC project, #3 above caused my moment of despair. I knew that hundreds, if not thousands, of learners would complete the CBT. The graphics and animations were quite nice! How could I put lack-luster narration into the package? I couldn’t.

So… what did I do? Have you guessed yet?

My Life-Saving Approach

I called Beverly, my coach. Bless her heart, she was driving back from a gig in San Diego, was almost at her studio, and YES!, she said to come on over. Two hours later, I left with Audacity files to edit, a smile on my face, and a huge sense of relief. Beverly took me last minute into her studio after working a gig, long hours driving on the freeway, and just before her scheduled work-out session with other voice talent. I’m forever grateful.

What’s the Difference?

Acting, ladies and gentlemen, acting. Although I read and recorded the exact same script, the words came alive under my coach’s direction. Her coaching also reminded me of the acting principles she teaches in her workshops and work-out sessions. As our coaching session progressed, I “got more into” the script and she coached me only on the finer points.

A Professional Is Worth It!

I decided to write this post after an Orange County ASTD colleague of mine, Janet DiVincenzo, wrote on her LinkedIn profile the following (two days ago):

imgjanetdvoicetalent

Janet and I have chatted about audio narration for online learning a few times, and I’m pleased that she understands the difference. Bravo, Janet!

What about the CHOC CBT project? Thanks to Beverly for helping me to find my acting voice for their script, I got rave reviews from the OD team for my audio narration as well as for the Articulate Presenter development. The “total package” produced client-pleasing results as well as an engaging experience for the learners.

Bottom Line…

If your budget for online learning is limited, please do what you can to save money to hire a professional voice over talent. Everyone will be much happier that you did!

(As for me, I learned that a talented VO coach is also worth every penny for studio/coaching time. I’ll hire Beverly for my next VO project, and the next one, and the….)

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Happy One-Year Anniversary!

Wow, What a Ride!

Tuesday, August 19, 2009, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as sole proprietor of Ridge View Media, my freelance consulting business. To commemorate this occasion, and to thank certain people and companies, I used Articulate’s new Web-based screen casting tool Screenr to create an anniversary video.

The funny thing is, there’s a “Freudian slip” in my narration. I mention my first “12 years” instead of my first “12 months”. I had to laugh and left that in the video, because some days it felt like it had been 12 years. 🙂

Enjoy! And, if you played a part in RVM’s success as either a client or a partner, my heartfelt thanks go to you! You mean a great deal to me.

I look forward to the second 12 months! ~Jenise Cook

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Quiz on Quiz-Authoring Software Programs

Instructional Systems Demi-god Mel Aclaro asked a question on LinkedIn.com regarding which quiz-maker software we prefer. I answered his question voting for Articulate’s Quizmaker. Mel posts the casual survey results here:

http://www.businesscasualblog.com/2008/03/instructional-d.html

I’ll take a look at Questionmark’s product. However, I like the results I get from Articulate’s Quizmaker.

Like you, I’m “Always Learning” about new-to-me software products.

(Mel, BTW…very interesting use of Articulate Presenter for your online resume and portfolio!)


UPDATE, May 2016: Thank you for reading the above blog post! As of this update, I no longer use Articulate’s products, or work in the e-learning profession in general. My focus is now on writing. Visit Articulate.com for help with Quizmaker and other products.

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