There’s a new trend among eLearning providers to go global; to make their online educational content accessible in other languages, across multiple countries, and for various cultures. This process, known as localization, is fast-becoming the key to reaching students all over the world.
The global eLearning industry is growing at a rapid rate – expected to produce revenue of $51.5 billion by 2016 – with the fastest growing markets coming from outside the US in emerging economies such as China, India, and Malaysia. While tapping into these markets can reap huge rewards for eLearning companies, eLearning providers must first understand the challenges of localizing educational content for a specific country or culture.
3 factors to consider before localizing
It’s no surprise that you’ll need a strategy for how to select new markets to enter and how to translate your content into the languages spoken in those areas, but there are three other (often overlooked) considerations when localizing eLearning content.
eLearning providers often think of how they’re going to engage students in their courses and skip right over how to get students to enroll in the course in the first place. Knowing that enrollment often proves to be a major challenge for eLearning providers, convincing students to enroll in a course that isn’t in their native language is a clear uphill battle. This is where localization comes into play. You’ll want to:
Create enticing, localized course descriptions
Course descriptions must be powerful and informative, but concise, so students can get a feel for how your course can benefit them in their personal or professional lives. Be prepared to translate and modify course descriptions depending on the country you’re localizing for. Making the course feel native to the student might provide just the right level of familiarity to compel him or her to confidently enroll.
Embrace the power of visuals
Effective use of visuals is the most immediate way to transcend language barriers and get potential students interested in your course. Stay away from stock images that appear vague and fail to clearly communicate what your course is about. Images like the one below, for example, are common on the enrollment pages of eLearning courses:
While this image may generally convey that the course is about business, it does little to clearly communicate what the value of the course might be. Instead, search for images such as the one below. Without even reading the course description, a student can easily draw the conclusion that your course is related to being successful or having a profitable business idea.
Designing and localizing your eLearning content to keep students engaged can be a major obstacle. Consider traditional Western students from the United States or Europe. Studies have shown that individualized, activity-focused, content is what keeps them engaged on a high level. On the other hand, Eastern cultures prefer a group-based, teacher-centric approach. So how do localization teams attempt to resolve these discrepancies? Here are a few strategies that can help engage students no matter where they’re from.
Design courses for immediate feedback
One of the best ways to engage students is to provide immediate feedback. Drill-quiz is a great way to achieve this goal in the eLearning environment. In a drill-quiz format, students digest the content, perform an exercise “drill”, and are then quizzed shortly after. This provides immediate feedback rather than a lengthy waiting period between midterm and final exams. Students are in a better position to understand the right answers from the wrong ones, which can help build confidence for future activities.
Know the students’ technology
Each country has different technology preferences, so you’ll want to become familiar with the devices that your students use to consume eLearning content. This information will strongly influence your localization strategy and design.
For example, when Amway was localizing their corporate eLearning content for Malaysia, they had to have content available in both HTML5 and Flash. In the past, Amway localized their content exclusively in Flash because their Western students used a PC or laptop almost exclusively for eLearning. However, many Malaysians don’t own a PC and prefer to use their iPads, a device on which Flash is not compatible. The key lesson? Get a clear understanding of your students’ technology preferences well before starting the localization process to avoid any hiccups.
Localizing the assessment portion of your eLearning content goes beyond translating the letters A through F into another language. Make sure the grading portion of your eLearning course translates across different languages and cultures by using:
Your own customized grading color scheme
Used for grading in elementary schools and universities, an incorrect answer is often marked with the color red. Colors, especially red, have different meaning across cultures, and the wrong interpretation of a paper marked with red can ultimately impact the attitude or success of one of your students. For instance, in the Chinese culture, red is seen as a sign of good fortune, while in Western European countries, it tends to mean danger or urgency. By creating a customized color scheme on your grading forms that is congruent with the local culture and perceptions, you can better show students how they’re doing in your course’s activities.
Gamification is becoming more and more popular in educational communities because it has the ability to motivate students, turning once boring lesson plans into fun and engaging games by using point systems, competition, rewards, and other elements of gameplay. Gamification goes back to simple computer programs on the first PCs to teach children math concepts, and have evolved into mobile and web apps that teach concepts in subjects from science to foreign languages. Students are able to keep track of how they’re doing using your course’s specific point system. And in a multilingual learning environment, visual puzzles and quizzes get the point across with less need for translation when compared to a lecture or readings. Studies have also shown that games increase knowledge retention so there’s really an endless list of benefits!
Ready to take your eLearning course global?
You have a great course and you’re ready to share it with a global audience – how exciting! As you plan to share your course with students around the world, don’t forget to include Transifex in your localization strategy. Through our intuitive localization platform, you can order translations, connect with professional translation agencies and native speakers, and even translate your digital content and any of your courses’ video subtitles!