Text-To-Speech In eLearning Proven To Help Students Learn
Why Using Text-To-Speech For eLearning Is Beneficial To Students
I recently came across an article titled Don’t Use Text To Speech Software For eLearning. In it, the author argues that using Text-To-Speech for eLearning can present information, but doesn’t actually help students learn. He claims that only a good teacher or trained voice talent can successfully teach.
Working in the Text-To-Speech industry myself, I’ve spent a lot of time looking into why Text-To-Speech is used for eLearning purposes, and how it affects a student’s learning experience.
First off, the why can be answered with one word, accessibility. Much like how eLearning makes education more accessible to students outside of the classroom, Text-To-Speech makes the content within an eLearning course more accessible to students by reading it out loud. This is especially beneficial to students with visual or learning disabilities.
Text-To-Speech is also an economical and time-saving solution when compared to hiring a voice talent. It is cheap and very easy to implement. Because of these reasons, we have seen many eLearning providers turn to Text-To-Speech to enunciate their courses.
The original article touches on all of these points and doesn’t dispute them. However, the author goes on to say that learning does not easily take place with Text-To-Speech and compares it to a dry, mono-toned lecturer that is unable to engage with the listener. In short, he claims that Text-To-Speech doesn’t positively benefit a student’s learning experience.
First, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve looked a lot into how Text-To-Speech affects a students learning experience. Over the past decade a lot of research has been done on this topic. Overwhelmingly, the results show that Text-To-Speech is indeed beneficial to students and helps them learn. I’ll highlight a few of these studies below.
Second, I disagree that Text-To-Speech is dry and can’t engage with the listener. The technology has advanced greatly over the past few years and sounds incredibly realistic (if you choose a high-quality Text-To-Speech provider that is). A natural sounding Text-To-Speech voice can easily bring life to any text.
I’ll touch on this later as well, but first, let’s get to the research.
What Research Says About The Effectiveness Of Text-To-Speech
To start, a study published in the Journal of Special Education Technology wanted to see if Text-To-Speech improved literacy abilities. Students who had literacy difficulties were broken up into groups with one of the groups given assistive software (Text-To-Speech) to help them read. The students in assistive software group saw an improvement in reading comprehension, spelling error detection, and understanding word meanings. The rest of the students in the control groups saw no significant improvement in any of these areas.
Another study, which you can read in its entirety here, also tested the effects of Text-To-Speech on struggling high school readers. The results found that the participants using Text-To-Speech software with their reading materials had significantly improved their reading skills.
In these cases, being able to hear the text, as opposed to just reading it, significantly helped the students improve their reading comprehension. Even though it wasn’t a real human reading out the text to them, they were still able to learn better thanks to the Text-To-Speech software.
Two more studies published in the Journal of Special Education Technology tested the effectiveness of Text-To-Speech for students with special needs.
The first one examined the effects of a Text-To-Speech screen reader on students who had learning disabilities ranging from traumatic brain injuries, autism, cognitive disabilities, and emotional disabilities. The results showed that the students using the Text-To-Speech reader had improved their performance in school. The researchers concluded Text-To-Speech positively affected the student’s learning experience by helping them understand concepts better and keeping them motivated.
The other study involved giving students with moderate learning disabilities a reading in Microsoft Reader to go through while at home. Students who were provided with Text-To-Speech tools were better able to independently understand the information. This study showed that Text-To-Speech can help students with learning disabilities learn and study on their own.
Now, I’m not saying that the same results wouldn’t have been achieved in each of these cases if a pre-recorded voice talent had read the text aloud. However, these studies did prove that Text-To-Speech technology on its own successfully helped the students learn. In each of these studies, as well as several others I’ve read, Text-To-Speech improved the student’s learning experiences.
I have no doubt in saying that using Text-To-Speech for eLearning is beneficial to students. The claim that Text-To-Speech only presents information without actually teaching doesn’t hold up against the research.
Text To Speech Voices Can Be Engaging
The other point I wanted to make was that Text-To-Speech technology has advanced enough that it can be very engaging, as opposed to dry and boring. Text-To-Speech might be known for the robotic sounding voices of the 90s, but times have certainly changed. High-quality voices can have a surprisingly human-like sound to them. Here’s a short exert from a lesson about Benjamin Franklin. You can listen to it be read aloud by NeoSpeech’s Julie voice here.
“Ben Franklin, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also a scientist, philanthropist, statesman, civic leader, and diplomat. He is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.”
As you can hear for yourself, a modern, high-quality Text-To-Speech voice can sound very realistic, and a big part of that is because Julie’s Text-To-Speech engine analyzes every piece of text it receives to understand the meaning and context of the text. Once the engine has applied meaning to each word and sentence, it inserts proper inflection, tone, and timing throughout the speech.
A side note on that point, notice that I said a high-quality Text-To-Speech voice can do those things. If you want your eLearning Text-To-Speech voice to be as engaging as possible, make sure you don’t skimp out on quality.
The research shows that Text-To-Speech technology in eLearning is beneficial to students. The voices can be engaging which helps the students learn. Plus, a Text-To-Speech engine can instantly convert any length of text into speech, as opposed to a voice talent who has to be scheduled to perform a recording and is often much costlier than a Text-To-Speech solution.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on the use of Text-To-Speech in eLearning? Do you have experience from an educator or student viewpoint? Let us know in the comments!
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