Why Localizing Your E-Learning Matters

E-learning is on the rise. Where once this form of education might have been viewed as an inferior way of gaining a qualification and its providers not on a par with more well-established bodies of schooling, it is now firmly accepted as a high quality, practical and cost-effective means of training.
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E-learning is on the rise. Where once this form of education might have been viewed as an inferior way of gaining a qualification and its providers not on a par with more well-established bodies of schooling, it is now firmly accepted as a high quality, practical and cost-effective means of training.

E-learning is primarily a product of the digital age of the 21st Century. Its growth is closely linked to the technological transformation of the last twenty years and the fact that increasingly tech savvy generations, for whom working and learning online has become the norm, have adopted it without a second thought. For professional certifications and as a way of providing specialized or company training it is now the preferred choice of organizations worldwide and most of us will have, at some point, acquired new skills using it.

A viral influence

If you’ve been kind enough to read any of our previous t’works blogs – and thank you by the way – you’ll know that we have often in recent times referred to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the language industry in particular and the impetus it’s given to working practices and technology adoption in general. A bit like speed dating for tech, it’s advanced our relationships with e-commerce, streaming platforms and workplace interaction by a number of years, and practices that were commonplace in 2019 now seem bordering on the antique. (Oh, the lazy, hazy days of email, in-person meetings and data not stored on the cloud!)

E-learning is, of course, no exception. Indeed, the recent period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders didn’t do anything to curb its continuing growth. In 2020 Statista reports the global e-learning market at around 250 million US dollars and by last year, 2021, Global Markets Insights put that figure at 315 million.

In a 2020 article Forbes reports that the first few weeks of the pandemic saw Google searches for online training courses increase by 100% across the globe and that although the topic had been of interest for some time, the events of early 2020 evidently propelled e-learning into the domain of the fundamental, day-to-day activity. As the pandemic unfolded, people turned to e-learning as a workable alternative to in-person studying.

The global enterprise

E-learning is now part and parcel of working life in any type of organization:

  • It offers a convenient and flexible solution to staff training and professional development.
  • It can be scheduled or designed to suit individual timetables.
  • It significantly eases the onboarding process.
  • It also saves a lot of time and money that would otherwise have been spent on travel, accommodation and other general logistics.

For an international organization, e-learning is an even more attractive option.

As we write in our White Paper, e-learning allows companies to train their staff based anywhere in the world and bring them up to speed on the latest practices and rules and regulations in their industry as well as in the company.

Companies that operate internationally have a global workforce and that workforce must be able to access e-learning from wherever they’re based. However, an e-learning program that isn’t devised with different cultures and languages in mind, won’t be up to the task, and the desired outcomes may not be achieved.

This added international dimension means that for globally operating organizations, e-learning has little choice but to become multilingual and multicultural, and to do that it must be the right fit for the local culture of the employee. In other words, it must be localized.

Making e-learning local

E-learning localization is the process through which the training program is rendered in the language of a specific locale and tailored to the students’ requirements. Consequently, it is more than just translation.

Localization moves translation a step further into the target culture. It ensures that imaging, fonts, measurements, colors, symbols and any culturally specific nuances are in harmony with the new setting. Where translation can be defined as taking a word or phrase from the source language and transferring it to the target language whist retaining the same meaning, localization makes sure it fits seamlessly into the new culture and that it appears, for all intents and purposes, to be original content.

When the creation of a strong connection with a new audience is a principal objective of the transfer into a new language, localization becomes particularly important. A reader’s attention may falter if they can’t identify with humor or cultural references, or if they’re wondering why measurements or a date are written in a different way, or even why a webpage design is not what they’re used to seeing. Localization corrects all this and helps an audience to receive the translated content in a context specific to them.

If your e-learning program doesn’t connect to its learners, it won’t be effective, which is why localization is vital.

E-learning localization benefits that are hard to ignore

If we delve a little deeper, it’s not difficult to find additional reasons why it is crucial to localize your e-learning programs.

Keeping your employees safe, is, I’m sure you will agree, a top priority for all organizations. Having staff training courses localized will ensure that any instructions related to health and safety can be perfectly understood in the locality where the learner is based and that there is absolutely no room for ambiguity.

When staff understand safety and usage instructions better, the number of accidents go down.

In some countries there is a strong obligation to give health and safety training in the first language of the employee, which can even mean in a specific dialect or less widely spoken language. Making the assumption that the world speaks English or another dominant language could be a dangerous oversight that might lead to misunderstandings and mistakes.

It may even be that groups of workers develop their own terminology for specific practices or processes within a company and localization should take this into account. In this article for Health and Safety magazine in the US, the example of the use of the phrase ‘stand down’ is given. Although this had been systematically translated into Spanish for a section of workers in the construction industry, it turned out that the translation wasn’t appropriate and that in practice, the workers themselves used the English version when referring to this specific context. This might be a rare example but it shows just how important it is to understand the locale that the translation is destined for.

Better engagement

Studies have shown that we learn better in our native or primary language. When this language is delivered in a localized way it is therefore likely that the impact is significantly greater.

Indeed, even the technique used to present the digital training course can affect how knowledge is absorbed, with different ways of learning more prevalent in certain cultures. If you grew up in an education system where group work was prominent you will probably feel more comfortable using this method, as opposed to someone more familiar with individualized learning. The wide-ranging types of e-learning courses now available mean choosing the one most adapted to members of your workforce is an important decision.

Employees who are given the opportunity to undertake e-learning in their own language and in a way appropriate for them, are more likely to comprehend and retain what they are learning and feel that the training has been beneficial. Logically this should make learners more engaged with the company they are employed by and enable them to better understand company practices and culture.

E-learning localization therefore helps build a strong corporate culture and employee loyalty.

E-learning: the future looks bright

The growth of e-learning doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. The recent Future of Jobs report from The World Economic Forum underlined the pressing need to upskill workers in order to match them with a rapidly changing jobs market, as well as increasingly widespread digital transformation. They predict that ‘technological adoption by companies will transform tasks, jobs and skills by 2025’. Add to this the quick shift to remote work created by the coronavirus pandemic and it seems the future of e-learning is exceptionally bright.

E-learning is likely to be a cornerstone of this much needed upskilling and lends itself to this changing workplace environment. Developing e-learning programs that are adapted to your company and your employees in all your global locations, is a ‘must do’ for any forward-thinking organization.

A training program that is localized with care and finesse will deliver lasting messages to your learners

In our white paper Creating Multilingual and Multicultural Training, our experts at t’works look at e-learning localization in detail. They examine the latest trends in this type of localization, the tools that will help you optimize the process and the best practices for making your e-learning localization projects more predictable and error-free. This paper aims to give you a head start so that when it comes to making crucial decisions on e-learning and its localization, you’re well equipped with the right knowledge.

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Tino Hother

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