E-Learning Localization: An Introductory Guide

Last Updated May 6, 2021

E-learning is a cost- and time-efficient way for businesses of all sizes to train employees and educate customers. Localization allows for this valuable content to be made relevant for all, no matter where they live around the globe.

If you want to efficiently train new employees and keep everyone in your company up to speed on new policies and procedures, e-learning is the way to go.

You can also keep your customers informed about new product developments and offer tutorials on software updates.

E-learning significantly reduces the logistical challenges of getting valuable information to those who need to put it into practice.

It is not enough to present it in a single language, though, nor is mere translation – e-learning must be also localized.

If e-learning content is not tailored to cultural contexts around the globe, it will not properly serve its function.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at e-learning, why it matters, and best practices for localization.

E-learning: What exactly is it?

Before we get into localization, it is important to exactly what is meant by e-learning.

E-learning, short for electronic learning, is the delivery of educational and training materials via digital resources.

The term was coined professionally by Elliott Maisie back in 1999, but the means by which e-learning is delivered has changed a lot over the past two decades.

Today, most companies make use of a learning management system (LMS) to execute their courses.

On the trainee side, all you need is a computer or mobile device and an internet connection to participate in video courses, complete online quizzes, and receive the certification that proves you have gone through the process.

What is included in e-learning can vary. Here are the three most common types.

1. Employee Training

This the most common type of e-learning. Companies and organizations of all sizes welcome new team members and put them through an onboarding process to help give them the lay of the land and get them up to speed on policies, procedures, and the ins and outs of their respective roles.

Quizzes and exams can also be incorporated to ensure retention of information and a passable knowledge before they formally begin.

2. Compliance Training

Policies and procedures change over time. Keeping employees abreast of all the latest requires periodic compliance training sessions.

Examples include:

By running these e-learning sessions, your company will remain a safe space and reduce the risk of non-compliance.

3. Customer Training

E-learning is not just for internal purposes – customer training helps people understand the products or services you are offering and keeps them up to speed on updates along the way.

Software companies, for example, can offer e-learning modules to explain the benefits of updates and how to take advantage of them.

This kind of effort encourages customer retention and brand loyalty.

Some of the benefits are evident from what we’ve discussed so far, but it’s important to lay it out before jumping to why localization is so important.

Why E-learning Matters

E-learning offers benefits to both the company and organization offering it, as well as those interacting with the material.

1. It’s an efficient way to train

Companies and organizations can make sure employees and customers will quickly and easily access and complete the most up-to-date training modules.

This allows people to get back to their regular tasks more readily, thereby increasing productivity while offering flexibility in regards the where and when of training.

You don’t have to shut down the office or send people offsite to get everyone on the same page. It can all be accessed when most convenient for the individual and the company.

The result is improved performance and greater productivity.

2. It saves money

E-learning is also cost efficient.

For one thing, you don’t have to worry about printing costs, which saves money not only in course delivery but also development – edits and updates can be made online rather than in hard copies.

In that sense, you’re also reducing your company’s carbon footprint, and that’s an added benefit that can’t be overlooked.

The bottom line is e-learning significantly helps your bottom line.

3. It can be accessed worldwide

That e-learning can be accessed by all is the other major benefit.

International companies and organizations have long recognized the benefits of e-learning. It’s an effective way to get material circulated and consumed in any country you operate.

In this global, digital age, a company’s procedures and policies can be quickly introduced to and applied by its regional subsidiaries in short order.

Carefully crafted e-learning content is vital to ensure the same high standard of training is accessible to all employees, wherever they are in the world and whatever language they speak.

However, as we will see, it’s not enough to have the content translated – it is the localization of e-learning materials that make them fully effective.

The Importance of E-learning Localization

Language and cultural factors have a significant impact on a person’s ability to learn.

That’s why course content should not be simply translated into the appropriate language, it should be localized to the culture.

Localization refers to the adaptation of materials to the linguistic and cultural, technical, and legal standards of a given country or region.

This applies to everything from your website content, branding, and even the products and services you are providing.

Localization goes far beyond translation. Localization includes, but is not limited to:

E-learning localization, in particular, is adapting training materials for employees or customers in different parts of the world.

Localization of e-learning content consists not only of translating it into a new language, but also adapting elements such as measurement units, currencies or date format, to name a few examples.

Localization of these materials is key, because educational content must meet high standards. It should be engaging, highly substantive and of interest to the recipient.

With dedicated e-learning platforms and tools, a company’s procedures and policies can be quickly applied to its regional subsidiaries, from the US to China. However, it is the localization of e-learning materials that will make them fully effective.

E-Learning Localization Best Practices

This all begins at the course development phase. The more flexible your course is, the easier it will be to translate and localize it. With that in mind, here are some e-learning localization best practices.

1. Think globally from the start

Your initial goal may not be to go global, but why not think big and expect your company or organization to expand?

A localized mindset can help remove barriers to global success. That should include e-learning options for both employees and potential customers.

Develop e-learning modules with a global audience in mind.

When you’re designing learning for people who don’t share your background, culture, or even your first language, talk to them. Figure out how they learn best, any knowledge gaps they might have, and how you can help them be confident going forward.

It might mean more data collection work up front, but it keeps the door open for exponential growth.

2. Create a canvas for different languages

Characters in different languages can take up more or less space, and that will significantly affect the arrangement or your content.

Text in German is longer than English, for example. Additionally, there are languages that are read vertically or from right to left.

Let’s say you plan on one day training employees in Japan. Consider designing a module that would be suitable for a different alphabet and/or reading direction.

Accounting for unique character shapes and sizes when developing your e-learning curses is key for easier localization.

3. Understand the target audience and its culture

Localization of e-learning content consists not only of translating it into a new language, but also of adapting it for specific cultures.

Basic elements like conversion of measurement units, currencies, or date formats need to be kept in mind.

It’s also necessary to consider certain behaviors that are more likely and credible in each country.

A simple example would be driving on the left instead of the right side of the road in materials sent to the United Kingdom.

Or consider that purple represents richness and royalty to Westerners, while in Thailand it represents death and mourning.

Make sure any symbols, icons and even color schemes are universally accepted.

4. Provide flexible formats

Providing content to translators in formats like PDFs and JPEGs can make them difficult to edit.

If you supply images and text in programs like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator files, they can be easily edited and translated to meet local needs.

Better yet, text to translate should be offered in an online tool that enables reusing existing translations and storing new translations in a database for easy future use.

Video, audio, interactive assessments, presentations, and any other files should be presented in formats that are easy to expand and contract, and preferably in their native file formats.

5. Engage with a localization service provider

Choosing the right company to help launch your e-learning module is key.

Rely on a company that has already implemented several large e-learning localization projects. They should have a deep pool of knowledge and experience, as well as a large database of translators specializing in this type of project.

Make sure you have an editable source file when approaching a translation and localization service. If you only have a published version, you may need to develop a localized version from scratch or make significant changes to the software in the source language.

Keeping all of the above in mind will help you develop, maintain, adapt and track the success of e-learning efforts.

E-Learning Localization in Action: UL & Interpol

UL is an independent safety certification company dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments.

They developed a training program in partnership with Interpol to prevent and prepare against counterfeiting operations and cybercrime for organizations in the private sector.

The nature of cybercrime surpasses borders and languages, so it was essential that the highly sensitive training material was available in multiple languages.

Summa Linguae Technologies was given the mission of providing continuous support in the localization of their online training materials, including supporting collateral, onscreen text, and voice recordings in five different languages.

We built a team of translators, QA testers, voice talent, editors, and engineers to help us with the entire production and translation of over 200,000 words of content—resulting in a successful global rollout of their e-learning platform.

Let us take care of e-learning localization

The e-learning localization process begins at the very beginning, whether acknowledged or not.

When it comes to e-learning, it’s best to keep a global scope in mind to enable easy transitions down the road.

Not only should the course content be flexible in order to keep up with changes in policies and procedures, it should also be easily shareable around the world.

At Summa Linguae Technologies, we translate and localize e-learning materials such as:

Contact us today to get started with e-learning localization at Summa Linguae Technologies.

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