Converting Text to Speech – Free Resources for Powering Learning with Audio

Posted on : January 31st, 2013

e-learning ResourcesThe power of audio in e-learning is undisputed. Studies have proven that the inclusion of multimedia – including audio– increases the adoption of basic skills in learners by 21 percentile and of higher order skills by 20 percentile  (Source: Multimodal Learning Through Media– What Research Says). With the advent of mobile learning and its popularity, audio continues to be one of the most sought-after tools for making learning effective. Audio is used as an able accompaniment with text, or even as a stand-alone module, delivering just-in-time learning to the learner.

Text-to-speech converters have been available for the past few years, and they have evolved tremendously to keep up with the demands of the latest technology and emerging platforms of learning delivery. Here is a useful resource, listing text-to-speech resources that will help you introduce audio-element into learning. From reading out webpages to converting Word documents into audio files (in multiple language choices) to even creating instant voiceovers for your presentations – these tools can do it all! Click here for the entire list.

  • Balabolka:This TTS program provides room for customization, including voice parameters like pitch and rate of speech, and a special substitution list to improve voice articulation.
  • Chrome Speak: This is an app which provides native support for speech on Windows, Mac OSX and Chrome OS. It is an offline TTS tool that can works very well even on lengthy text. The audio can be translated to almost all major languages, all in a jiffy.
  • FoxVox: This tool ‘speaks out’ highlighted portions of any text on a webpage and can be utilized extensively to create audiobooks and podcasts from existing text.
  • Natural Reader:It can convert any written text in varying formats – MS Word, PDF files, webpages or e-mails into audio. This tool works very well for creating audio for first-cut e-modules in the development stage.
  • Odiogo: It can convert web-pages into high-quality audio that can be downloaded and played – on varying devices including desktops, tablets and smart-phones. Blogs, news-posts or articles can all be converted into audio and be heard anytime you want.
  • PowerTalk: This is a free tool, which can speak out text from any PowerPoint presentation on Windows. It reads text as it appears on screen and can also read out additional or hidden text which often accompanies graphics. It is ideal for creating voiceovers for your PowerPoint presentations, giving you the advantage of empowering your vanilla presentations with audio.
  • Text to Voice: This TTS tool can speak out selected text on Firefox. The audio is also downloadable for the user to play and learn at his or her will.
  • Voki: Voki creates customized talking avatars, which can be posted on your blog or website. Vokiavatars are very effective in increasing learner interest and motivation.
  • WordTalk: This is a free plug-in for Word. It speaks out the text from a document, highlighting as it reads, aiding the learner to focus better. Added features include a talking dictionary and a text-to-mp3 converter.Text-to-speech tools work best when you need…
  • Faster output: Creating audio from these tools is a faster process than creating human voiceovers
  • Cost efficiency: Audio creation is also much cheaper when using these tools.
  • Uniform audio quality: For audiences of different ethnicities and social backgrounds, accents can be tricky. Text-to-speech tools can provide a uniform voice-accent which suits multicultural audiences.
  • Audio to accompany text-on-screen: The modern learner is always on the move. Learner environments cannot always support reading – for instance in a moving train. In these situations, audio can provide support to the learner by ‘reading-out’ the text-on-screen.
  • Audio which is easy to upgrade or change: Audio recorded by voice artistes cannot be easily changed or upgraded. It involves re-recording, as per the availability of the same artiste(s) and is often a tedious process. Text-to-speech tools can be used to upgrade or make changes to the audio created, as per the need.
  • Rough-cut Audio: These tools are also very effective in creating first rough-cut audio for internal consumption of developers during the preliminary stages of content development. Audio is created faster and is easy to change – helping developers get due approvals and finalizing the audio element before recording the final output with a human voice over.

Text-to-speech tools do not work when…

  • Audio needs to be emotive: Audio which needs to be motivational and animated to garner learner interest cannot be created with a text-to-speech tool. Only a human voice has the nuances necessary to emote and motivate.
  • Audio does not merely mirror text-on screen: Many times, audio is more than just a text read-out. Audio then needs to be more explanatory and descriptive, and a human voiceover is best for such audio.

Text-to-speech tools can be utilized in e-learning as well as in m-learning in many ways. Be sure that you are using them for the right reasons. To know more about using audio in e-learning and audio-development tools, please write to

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is an e-learning blogger and likes discussing innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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