Basic Insights into E-learning Localization

Published on 01.09.2021

By Mariana Horrisberger

E-learning localization is a more collaborative endeavor than localization for most other industries. Because of the plethora of tools, options, formats, and topics involved, your e-learning localization team must have unique qualities to thrive in this dynamic field. This article shares some general considerations for those aiming to successfully navigate this exciting industry.

E-learning refers to any learning experience that happens digitally. From a “Who We Are” video for new hires to academic programs on how to code, the medium encompasses a wide range of possibilities across multiple industries. E-learning reduces time and space constraints for employees and students, reduces costs, and allows material to engage with a globalized audience.

E-learning content tends to be highly specialized, with a focus on retention and understanding. Because of these criteria, companies and educational institutions recognize the need for professional services in localization and translation, and are eager to work with specialists who understand the regional and cultural nuance within their target audiences.

Platforms and Formats

Most companies and institutions use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to provide content in an accessible way to their participants. They track progress, facilitate instructor-participant interaction, and organize content into modules. Pre-pandemic, there were already dozens of LMS platforms being utilized around the world. With the rise of online learning in 2020, many more have been developed, tested, and adopted. Since LMS platforms focus on the end user experience and user engagement, there is often minimal attention paid to localization support. That creates significant variability in the ease of use for localizers. For example, some LMS platforms allow for the easy export and reimport of the e-learning content in a clean and CAT-friendly way, while others have not been created with internationalization in mind. Therefore, it is important to analyze the platform in question before committing to localization project deadlines.

Whether you are working with an online course on Moodle or a VR corporate training program, have a conversation with your client regarding the scope of the project and the extent of your collaboration. Depending on their capacity, for example, they might require implementation on their Learning Management System. They may request that you add functionality, or upload, reformat and classify files. Setting expectations early on will ensure both parties know exactly what they are responsible for, and hopefully prevent rushing to get things done hours before the program is launched. There are lots of different formats you can encounter when jumping into the world of e-learning. From PowerPoints and PDFs to Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Rise 360, Camtasia, and more. There can also be videos that require subtitling, voice overs, and video editing. The good news is that most of these tools have a CAT-tool friendly extension you can convert them to as long as you get a hold of the source files.

Getting the Voice Right

Depending on the localization maturity of the company, there may be no style guides or glossaries, so it can be up to the localization team to identify and recreate the voice of the company or institution. You should have a conversation with your client about the desired tone and style for the project, but when no information is available, checking the institution or company’s online presence is a good way to start. For corporate training, for example, you can learn a lot about a company’s employer brand from their posts on social media.

What a Successful E-learning Localization Team Looks Like

To take on the wonderful challenge of e-learning localization, you need as versatile and adaptive a team as possible. As mentioned before, there will always be new platforms and software. Your team needs to be tech-savvy and flexible to take on these challenges, develop new workflows, and find creative solutions. And of course, given the high-quality standard for e-learning content and the required level of specialization, it is critical that your translators are subject-matter experts.

E-learning provides exciting challenges, numerous and growing opportunities, and rewarding projects to those that adapt to its unique needs. I’m excited to see how the industry grows and evolves, and to discover new technologies, applications, and ideas being created around the world. After reading this article, I hope you are too.

Mariana Horrisberger is an English, Spanish and Portuguese Translator. She graduated from her hometown university, UNLP, in 2014, and has since worked in the e-learning localization space. Recently, she co-hosted and co-organized a Learning and Development online event called “Welcome into the Awesome,” along with industry legends. She is an e-learning Business Development Manager at Terra Translations.