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eLearning: Localization Challenges

What is eLearning? If you ask this question, chances are you will get as many different responses as the number of people you ask and the type of lens those people view eLearning through. As a translation company with expertise in eLearning materials, we’ve seen all types of content and we know how they can affect translation. Many times, the creators of the content don’t take culture into consideration when they develop content. As a result, the audience can view eLearning content as confusing, wrong and even offensive.

We look at each eLearning course from the perspective of the targeted learners in order to ensure that courses deliver equitable learning, which means that all learners, despite their cultural differences, use the same amount of time and effort to generate the same knowledge and skills. We propose modifications based on what is culturally appropriate for the targeted learners. We also offer a cultural auditing service, which is a deeper cultural dive, that happens before the content goes to translation.

In this series of blog posts, we’ll take a look at different types of eLearning and how culture can be affected. To start, let’s look at the different types of eLearning and some of the cultural considerations that affect eLearning courses. We’ll take a deeper dive into these topics in future blog posts.

So, back to the original question: what is eLearning?

Asynchronous eLearning: Academic Environment

Ask an academic, and you’ll hear descriptions of online platforms that have slots for posting content like lectures, documents and assignments; functionality for tracking students and grading papers; and mildly interactive features like discussion forums or chat rooms where students collaborate on team projects. Examples of these include Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas and Google Classroom. In academic lingo, this is asynchronous eLearning, where instructors and learners do not interact in real-time. Such platforms are supported by a learning and/or content management system.

Synchronous eLearning: Business Environment

Ask a business professional, and they’ll most likely recall one of the last webinars they attended or watched after they missed the live version. This is synchronous eLearning, where the instructors and learners interact in real time. This type of eLearning includes an electronic meeting place with PowerPoint type slides so learners can read along while listening. They also contain engagement features such as polls, chat and whiteboards, as well as collaboration features such as breakout rooms. You can record presentations to view later, which basically converts the synchronous presentation to an asynchronous one.

Self-Paced eLearning: Corporate Training Environment

Ask the corporate trainer, and you’ll hear about converting a PowerPoint presentation into a self-paced course to replace the company’s bi-monthly classroom-based employee orientation program. This is called rapid eLearning development, using eLearning authoring tools.

Ask an instructional design team, and they’ll tell you all about the storyboards, the Flash animations, the reusable learning objects, the coding and more.

The products of both approaches are self-paced online courses, one from a package and the other custom-built, but neither involve a live instructor. These types of course are meant to be viewed at a learner’s pace and availability.

eLearning Localization Challenges

Each of these types of eLearning has its challenges with localization. Localization has many technical aspects, such as addressing text expansion and accommodating character-based languages. In addition, it involves the concept of using culturally customized or appropriate images, including icons and symbols. For example, the French version of an eLearning ethics course on accepting gifts may include an image of an employee in France accepting a bottle of wine, whereas the Hindu version of the same course has a picture of an Indian employee accepting an iPad. These two examples are appropriate for their culture and reflect cultural differences.

However, eLearning localization goes beyond technology and images. As a translation company providing comprehensive localization and translation services, we look at each eLearning course from one of the most important perspectives, that of the targeted learners. Why? Because your goal, and ours, is to ensure that your courses deliver equitable learning, meaning that all learners, despite their cultural differences, use the same amount of time and effort to generate the same knowledge and skills. When we translate or localize eLearning courses, we propose modifications based on what is culturally appropriate for the targeted learners.

We also highly encourage our customers to take advantage of our cultural auditing service. With this service, we provide recommended modifications for the targeted languages before content goes to translation.

Conclusion: eLearning Localization

Asynchronous, synchronous and self-paced eLearning courses serve different purposes. Our goal as a localization company is to help you achieve equitable learning outcomes for your customers, thereby reducing wasted resources (time, money and human) and minimizing risk with an untrained audience. As a premiere translation company, we provide comprehensive localization and translation services for eLearning and training courses. Our eLearning localization services team will help you translate your eLearning courses and presentations and make them culturally acceptable in all languages.

Look for our next blog post in this series, which dives deeper into asynchronous eLearning and localization challenges.