Five steps to a global success story – localization of content in e-learning

We spent our latest visit to Las Vegas at the DevLearn fair not only on establishing new business contacts but also on getting to know the e-learning sector from within. This is a rapidly growing market, and its products enable students and workers all over the world to acquire new knowledge outside the classroom.

What makes mobile technologies so attractive is the fact that they can be used in virtually any place on Earth. International companies have recognized the benefits of e-learning already a long time ago – research shows that now as many as 77% of American companies use this kind of technology, and 44% surveyed companies worldwide decided to invest in e-learning technologies in 2015.

With these tools, corporate procedures set out by the management can be quickly presented to employees and implemented in branches all over the world. It should be noted that although a large part of training content is actually universal and will be understood both in the USA and in Poland, localization will streamline the training process and will make it more friendly to users, and thus also more effective.

We advise on what to look for while creating content intended for e-learning, so that it can respond to training needs of users speaking various languages and coming from different cultures.

  1. It should be remembered – already at the stage of preparing the content and interface of software or a mobile e-learning application – that the content will need to be translated and localized, as content in a different language can take up more/less space, which will significantly affect its arrangement. It is enough to change English into Russian, Arabic or Chinese. Besides the width of characters, the way a given language is read is also important here – there are a number of languages which are read vertically or from right to left. That is why you should remember – already at an early stage – to leave more space for a margin or for content in another language.
  2. You should remember about cultural constraints – e-learning content should be culturally neutral, and if it is not – it should be replaced with a localized version. Firstly, by using this solution you can avoid unpleasant situations in which users may feel offended by the use of inappropriate content (what is neutral or amusing for us, does not have to be so for representatives of other cultures). Secondly, localization will make the content more comprehensible. Let’s imagine software to learn the traffic regulations in which graphics with Polish road signs were not replaced during translation into English. The American user will find it even more difficult, as the signs are (slightly) different in appearance. The use of appropriate graphics can also enhance the learner’s involvement.
  3. You should bear in mind that e-learning software is intended not only for learning new information, but also for assessing progress made by students or employees. Training content should be thus created in such a way that the employer or teacher can assess results achieved by learners. Training results will be more reliable if, regardless of the language in which the content has been created, they can be assessed in the same way. Content must be thus universal not only for its users but also for those assessing these users. Summing up, it should be possible to assess the results of training in Chinese as much as it is in Arabic or English.
  4. If e-learning software uses as examples scenes which may happen in life, make sure that these scenes may actually happen in life. Remember about such basic things like changing currencies, the side of the road on which vehicles drive, adaptation of human behaviour and habits to those that actually prevail in a given region.
  5. As regards technical aspects, remember to ensure that your LMS is suitable for rendering it into new languages. That is why you have to remember about double-bit characters, formats in which dates are given as well as units of measurement and time. You should also take into account the format in which source files are sent to the customer – an editable one can greatly facilitate the process of translation and localization of the content.

Summing up, e-learning content must be universal, and if it is not so – it should be able to be localized. This includes technical, textual and graphic layers of a platform or software, and the purpose of this process is cultural adaptation of the content and making it easier for users to learn. This makes content not only serve its educational role, but also reflect the linguistic and cultural diversity of the world, making it more attractive to users.

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