eLearning Localization: The Art of Global Educational Experiences

It’s common for organizations to rely on third-party specialists to design their educational content. This is a primary reason why learning management systems (LMS) often integrate that service into their offerings, developing a compelling all-in-one solution.

If content providers are based in the same country as their clients, it can be expected that they’ll naturally know how to tailor the content to the audience. However, what if the providers are from another region with an entirely different culture and language?

This is where eLearning localization comes in, and in this article, we’ll explore its nuances. If you’re contemplating partnering with a foreign content team, the following insights will assist you in making more strategic choices.

eLearning Localization: The Art of Global Educational Experiences

Understanding eLearning Localization

Elearning localization transcends mere translation. It involves a meticulous transformation of content to align with the cultural nuances, language variations, and preferences of the target audience. This process goes beyond text, extending to multimedia elements, design aesthetics, and even adapting sounds and visuals to resonate with the local context. The primary goal is to create a learning environment that makes individuals feel at home, ensuring a familiar and engaging educational experience for all. To achieve this, the localization must extend to the totality of the content, including its more subtle details.

For instance, if you incorporate an image of a family strolling through the streets:

  • The family's ethnicity should be representative of the local population.
  • The streets should resemble those in their cities.
  • The vehicles should align with those commonly used in the region.

Furthermore, even colors can play a crucial role and should be tailored to account for any cultural significance in the region. While the majority of cultures will not be impacted by the father character wearing a green hat, Chinese students might find it distracting, as a green hat symbolizes infidelity in their culture.

Advantages of eLearning Localization

Now that we understand what eLearning localization entails, let's explore its benefits:

  • Enhancing learner engagement: Tailoring content to local preferences increases engagement and understanding of the topics. Moreover, people are more likely to remember information that they can relate to their own experiences.
  • Foster diversity and inclusion: Representing learners in their cultural context contributes to a positive self-identity, aligning with your organization's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives.
  • Cost-effective: While eLearning localization was once a costly endeavor, the growing ease of establishing international connections via communications technologies, as well as advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) have made the process more easily accessible
  • Return on investment: Investing in localization ensures high-quality content reaches as many of your people as possible. When workers are well-trained, they perform work in the most efficient, error-free, and regulatory compliant way, thereby maximizing your return on investment.

READ MORE ON CONTENT DESIGN | ‘The Student-Centric Approach: Applying Adult Learning Theory to Your Content Design

A Persistent Challenge: Remaining Sensitive to Cultural Nuances

If there’s one aspect that demands constant awareness in eLearning localization, it's the need to remain aware of cultural nuances capable of offending, confusing, or otherwise risking a negative reaction from your audience. Even when countries share the same language, differences in the meanings associated with certain words, expressions, and imagery can easily lead to misunderstandings.

For example, a commonplace Spanish expression like "¿Cómo está usted?" (meaning "How are you?"), when addressed to a young girl, may be interpreted differently in Colombia and Peru. While the Colombian girl might respond promptly and continue the conversation, the Peruvian girl could feel confused or even offended.

Why? Because in Colombia, the pronoun "usted" can be used to address anyone, whereas in Peru, it’s reserved for individuals in positions of greater respect or, alternatively, for older individuals.

Moreover, language constantly evolves and some nuances might be entirely new, stemming from a recent political or social event. Relying solely on online sources, even well-positioned ones, may not be sufficient, as they could be generic or outdated.

eLearning Localization: The Art of Global Educational Experiences

Best Practices for eLearning Localization

Next, let’s explore some best practices that will help you ensure the overall quality of your localization process.

1) Conduct Comprehensive Market Research

Aim to achieve a profound understanding of the target audience. From obvious questions like: "What might be offensive to them?" to subtler ones such as: "What do families do on a Sunday morning?” If the project budget allows, the team should be open to traveling to the target country, engaging with its people, and cultivating a genuine understanding.

2) Collaborate With Local Experts

The team assigned to your project should ideally include at least one individual from the target country. They could be a professional technical writer, responsible for overseeing the quality assurance process. This provides a crucial final filter to prevent creating content that may inadvertently offend the audience, especially given that this team member will stay up-to-date with relevant events in their country.

3) Adapt Content Thoroughly

This aligns with our earlier example of adapting the visuals in our content. Once the obvious adjustments are made, this process should extend as far as the budget allows. For example, if voiceovers are necessary, it’s advisable to engage voice actors proficient not only in the language but also representative of the specific accent variations of the region.

4) Leverage Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, promise to significantly enhance the translation and adaptation process, effectively reducing time constraints. For example, new AI tools are capable of taking a recorded video and translating the audio into another language, replicating the speaker’s voice, and even modifying mouth movements to align with the new words.

It’s essential to stay consistently at the forefront of these technologies, always ready to adapt them for the benefit of our goals.

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It’s Time to Localize Your eLearning Experience

Localization becomes essential when relying on a content provider from a different country. It ensures that content isn’t only robust in terms of knowledge transfer, but that it also resonates with learners based on their cultural contexts. With localization, you can foster a truly global and inclusive learning experience.

At Open LMS, we offer more than just learning technology. We offer a professional content design service and have extensive experience in eLearning localization. Contact us today to ensure the quality and success of your educational programs!
Kristian Terry
About the author

Kristian Terry

Creative Director, eCreators

Kristian has over 10 years’ experience in the design and technology industry. He has produced innovative and exciting design solutions for some of the largest companies locally and internationally, as well as government and education sectors.

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