Tips for eLearning Audio recording on the go

So you’re looking to record audio for your e-learning courses but you don’t have a big budget.

First, let me clarify something for you. A Mercedes is going to cost more than a Daewoo. The price difference will become ultimately clear when you drive them. A Mercedes is a higher quality car than a Daewoo. The same thing goes for microphones. That doesn’t mean that a Daewoo is all you need to get to where you need to be.

I don’t own a Mercedes microphone but got a couple of very simple but sufficient microphones. I’ve got a simple Logitech USB desktop microphone and a basic Logitech microphone headset. Both where below €28,- and more importantly both have a noise canceling feature. I mainly use them for screencasts with voice-overs, video tutorials etc. and they work brilliantly. The price is great as I record anywhere and everywhere, so when it breaks I just get a new one.

There are a couple of basic things you need to take into account though.

1. Always record in the same place

For a single project I always record in the same place. That way the background noise and acoustics are the same throughout my entire course. So that doesn’t mean I’m in a single spot every time I record my audio, you can find me in my home office in the attic, at the kitchen table or in one of the many meeting rooms at the office,  but it does mean that I use a single spot per project. When selecting a spot I check a couple of things:

  • Is there an air-conditioning system and how much noise does it make (I prefer to be in a room without)
  • How much traffic is passing by this spot (co-workers walking to the coffee machine, cars and trains, that kind of background noise)
  • How are the acoustics of the room
  • What is the availability of the room

If I think it’s a place I can record, I setup my laptop and microphone and do a little random recording and listen back to the quality of the recording on my headset and listen for the before mentioned background noises. If they’re hardly there you’ve found a good spot.

2. Use the same tools during your project

Now when you start recording, and this may seem obvious, within your project, always use the same tools. Don’t switch microphones and use the same recording program. These things simply effect your recordings, making them stand out from the other files you’ve already recorded.

I sometimes use Audacity to record my audio but usually I record in Articulate Storyline, Studio or Replay using the built-in recorder. They’re simple and effective and give me the quality I need.

Tip! Check your recording levels before you start recording. For some reason my laptop ‘resets’ the recording level to 80, which means I have to manually set it to 100 before I start recording.

3. Let others know you’re recording!

Very thoughtful, those colleagues that pop in to ask if they can get you anything to drink or, when working at home, your wive that comes up to tell she’s going to the market. For some reason this is always in at the end of a long take… So tell them you’re recording, put a post it on your door and get rid of those well intended but annoying interruptions.

Happy recording!


This post is part of the weekly Articulate challenge on Audio Recording.
Read many more tips right here in the challange recap.


Published by

Jeff Kortenbosch

Jeff is a performance-focused learning professional that believes in making learning relevant again!

6 thoughts on “Tips for eLearning Audio recording on the go”

  1. Great tips, Jeff!

    Thoughts you’ve spurred:
    1. I find my levels seem to stray between sessions, too, so that’s always the first thing I check.
    2. I’ve never tried a mic with a noise cancelling feature. What a great concept!
    3. Yes, consistency in equipment and environment is critical. If at all possible I try to knock out an entire project’s worth of audio in one session for the same reasons.
    4. You cleaned your desk! (Or else you were teasing me and it never needed cleaning to begin with, or else you’re using a stunt desk.)

    Thanks for sharing all of that!

  2. I have found that, in many cases, a transcript is needed from the audio recording. I usually use Dragon from Nuance and it makes it easy to get text. But my SMEs struggle with the handling of three applications: Audacity, Dragon, and Power Point, when they are open at the same time. Do you have recommendations on how to simplify this process?

    1. I can imagine running 3 programs can be tricky. My SME’s mostly use Articulate Studio and the recording feature within. It allows them to show the transcript (user notes) at the time of recording. They seem to manage just fine and it doesn’t get any easier.

  3. What settings would you recommend for voice-over recording?
    44,100 Hz, 16-bit, 128 kbps ?

    Or 32-bit depth?


    1. Hi Christophe, it kind of depends on what your users need. In the end most people get their audio via standard pc speakers or cheap headsets. Top quality audio is then quickly reduced to whatever comes out of those speakers. So try out a few settings, play them back via a cheap headset and decide what you need. Note that the higher the audio quality the larger your file size.

  4. Interesting point on the transcript; we often have narrators speaking off-the-cuff in our example clips, but then localisers want a transcript of the recorded text. I know of one colleague who’s tried to run the recorded audio through Dragon, but that leads to loss of accuracy. Running it while recording, while using the Studio/Storyline notes feature for the original notes sounds sensible (and cuts out the need for PowerPoint, leaving only two programmes running!).

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