How to make the most of your eLearning content

Electronic learning, or eLearning, simply means using a computer or electronic device to access educational material via the internet. This material can take many forms, including audio or video recordings, animations, images, software demos and online assessments. The aim is to provide users with an interactive, engaging and inclusive learning experience by removing such barriers as cost, location and time.

It’s a big deal, and it’s hardly surprising that the unprecedented events of 2020 have further underlined the importance of being able to learn and teach online. Whether you picked up a new language over lockdown, dealt with home-schooling or trained your staff from home, eLearning has never been so relevant.

Workplaces are also seeing high levels of interest in eLearning: 57% believe that Learning & Development programmes have changed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘need to have’, according to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report. The corporate world has embraced online learning as a cost-effective way of delivering content to complement, or even replace, traditional training methods. Whether you’re training your workforce or sharing your expertise, here’s how to maximise the potential of your modules and ensure the best learning experience.

Translate your eLearning content

One of the big barriers learners might face when accessing your content is language. According to eLearning industry analysts, 90% of people want to learn in their native language. This mirrors most online consumer behaviour – nearly 75% of consumers are more likely to buy products online when the information is available in their own language, according to the Common Sense Advisory.

So why should learning and development managers pay attention to these changes? Addressing learners in their own language makes good business sense. And in high-risk industries such as construction or manufacturing, training staff in their own language could be a matter of life and death. The UK’s Health & Safety Executive has identified that migrant workers are particularly vulnerable in the labour market – those with poor comprehension of English and without access to health and safety in languages other than English were subject to significantly higher occupational health risks and accidents.

While the UK’s HSE acknowledges that communication difficulties play a role in workplace safety, in the USA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that language barriers are a contributing factor in as much as 25% of job-related accidents. And this difficulty can be costly, too; the HSE calculated the total cost of workplace injuries in 2018/19 in the UK at GBP 5.6 billion.

Localize your eLearning content

Localizing your eLearning content overcomes another barrier – culture. Where translation means changing the language of spoken and written content, localization describes the adaptation of other content such as graphics and images to match the target culture. Localizing your eLearning content will ensure that the learning experience is appropriate and engaging for every learner, by ensuring that any weblinks, formatting, dates, currency and even colours are appropriate for the target learner.

Ensuring your eLearning content is localized will mean a more engaged learner, and therefore a more effective learning outcome. A well-trained workforce allows businesses to remain competitive, grow and innovate. Providing all staff with effective learning opportunities will also help to increase their motivation, performance and productivity, which in turn will lead to better job satisfaction and greater staff retention.

Consider the following points for ensuring that your eLearning content will appeal to as wide an audience as possible:

  • Navigation: does your user interface also need to be localized?
  • Layout: allow plenty of white space in your layout, as Romance languages like French or Spanish will expand.
  • Design: does your eLearning module feature colours, images or symbols that could be perceived negatively in other cultures? Do your corporate fonts support special characters?
  • Cues: do your learners know what they should be doing for each interactive element?
  • Sequences: left-to-right sequences might need to be reversed for languages like Arabic or Hebrew.
  • Numbers: are there any figures in your eLearning module? Currencies, units of measurement and date formats should be adapted to the conventions of the target language and market.
  • Emphasis: you may find that you need to adopt different strategies for different markets. Asian languages don’t differentiate between UPPER CASE and lower case, so using bold might help you to get your point across more effectively.

The translation and localization process

Now that we know how just important eLearning localization can be, the next step is knowing how to ensure the translation and localization process goes as smoothly as possible. Here are a few ways to optimise every step of the process.

Today’s leading eLearning authoring tools offer robust support for localizing your training content. Among our favourites are Adobe Captivate (top-notch integration capabilities), Articulate Storyline (exceptional support for right-to-left languages, such as Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew), Articulate Rise (a fully responsive system for those who want to put mobile first), SmartBuilder (support for PC and Mac) and Elucidat (a web-based system that allows you to manage hundreds of courses at the same time).

  1. Consider the points that need to be covered. Why are they important to know? How will you structure the courses? If your eLearning courses aren’t clearly structured and easy to follow, you might find that the learners don’t meet your course objectives. Use a script or a storyboard at this stage to help you piece all the different elements together in a logical sequence.
  2. Think about how best to convey your message. Once you have a logical storyboard in place, you might decide to employ a combination of different methods such as audio, images, videos, animations and even additional downloadable resources. Will you require translators, voice-over actors or subtitlers?
  3. Design and structure. When it comes to designing eLearning content that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible, aim for a user-friendly, uncluttered interface that doesn’t depend on language or culture.
  4. Test run. Today’s eLearning authoring tools offer robust import/export features to facilitate localization. Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate offer Word document exports, while eLearning content created in Articulate Rise can be exported to XLIFF format. Save yourself the time and effort of copy/pasting by working with these exported files. No matter what the export format may be, we can handle it. If you haven’t used your chosen tool’s import/export feature before, let us put your mind at rest by doing a test for you before your project starts.
  5. Review. Once the localized content is imported back into the eLearning tool, your translation provider will organise quality assurance checks to ensure that everything displays correctly on screen and that there are no bugs, so that you can be confident of a polished and perfect module.

Quality assurance is always worth it!

Taking the time to run a cohesive quality assurance check can prove to be very helpful in making your eLearning content shine. It’s especially important if your content has gone through the translation and localization process, which means that there may now be several different versions of your course. Have you heard of the proverb “more haste, less speed”? That’s precisely what QA is all about.

It might seem counter-intuitive to factor in extra time to include a quality assurance step, but when you’re sharing your knowledge and expertise with learners online, things like bugs or mistranslations quickly erode your learners’ trust and applying fixes to each course after launching can prove to be expensive and time-consuming, so it makes sense to iron out any issues before your course goes live.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines quality assurance as “part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled” (ISO 9000). Applying a methodical, systematic approach to weeding out bugs will save you time in the long run and boost your credibility.

It’s more than just checking for typos. Your course could be made up of many different elements, including on-screen text, animations, images, voiceovers, software demos and online assessments, so there are plenty of things to look out for. Common errors can include the wrong-sized text boxes, overlapping text/images, mismatched fonts, incorrect line breaks, flawed assessment scoring system, incorrect display of special characters, or the incorrect synchronisation of subtitles/voiceover to the video.

We can help!

Your language service provider should be able to help with the QA process if they have been involved with the localization process. The person checking the course should be a native speaker of the target language, who brings a fresh pair of eyes to the course. If you’re planning to use the same team who helped with the localization, factor in a day or two to allow them to review the content from a new perspective.

At Planet Languages, we work with you to understand your specific requirements and create a fully customised workflow that meets your needs, from initial project brief through to final delivery to your end users. We have teams of experienced localization professionals and QA testers on hand to make sure that your eLearning content is as effective, inclusive and impressive as you want it to be.

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