Best Practices for Localizing and Translating eLearning Courses

Seeking eLearning translation solutions but are unsure where to begin? Have you been tasked with translating eLearning courses for a multilingual audience? If so, this article is for you!

In today's interconnected world, eLearning has revolutionized how we acquire knowledge and skills. However, to unlock its potential and connect with a diverse audience, eLearning courses must be effectively translated and localized.

This article provides eLearning specialists, project managers, instructional designers, and other professionals with valuable insights and practical strategies for translating eLearning courses.

Throughout the article, we will delve into eLearning localization, highlight its benefits, address common challenges, offer tips for file preparation, outline the components that may require translation, and present diverse translation solutions tailored to different types of eLearning courses.

What is eLearning Localization?

Before diving into the intricacies of eLearning translation projects, let's clearly understand what eLearning localization is.

eLearning localization is the process of adapting courses to meet the linguistic, cultural, and contextual requirements of diverse target audiences.

It involves translating and adapting various components and assets, such as text, voiceover narrations, videos, documents, assessments, and user interfaces.

By localizing eLearning content, organizations can enhance learner engagement, comprehension, and overall learning outcomes for diverse learners.

The Benefits of eLearning Translation

eLearning translation offers numerous benefits for organizations aiming to expand their reach and cater to multilingual audiences.

By making courses accessible in multiple languages, organizations can reach a wider audience and tap into new markets.

This fosters inclusivity, enhances engagement during the course, and encourages knowledge retention after completion.

Moreover, eLearning translation opens doors to global markets, empowering organizations to reach new customers and boost their revenue streams. To learn more about the benefits of eLearning translation, read eLearning Translation Introduction and Benefits.

Common eLearning Platforms

Before getting into the details of content localization, it's essential to be familiar with some popular eLearning platforms widely used for course development. Storyline, Rise, Captivate, and Vyond, offer powerful tools and functionalities for creating engaging and interactive eLearning content. Understanding the capabilities of these platforms will help you better strategize and plan for the translation and localization of courses.

Why Invest in eLearning Localization?

eLearning localization is not just a luxury. It's a necessity for organizations aiming to expand their global reach. Localizing eLearning courses allows for effective communication and knowledge transfer and helps employees overcome language and cultural barriers.

Localization ensures that learners can fully engage with the content, understand complex concepts, and apply what they learn in real-world scenarios. By investing in eLearning localization, organizations demonstrate their commitment to providing meaningful and impactful learning experiences to a diverse learner base.

Why is localization a game-changer to successful translations? This article will help you gain some insights into the importance of localization efforts.

Challenges of eLearning Localization

While eLearning localization offers numerous benefits, it is not without its challenges. Understanding these challenges will help you navigate the translation process more effectively:

1. The Translation Process can be Complicated:

Some common challenges encountered while translating eLearning courses include:

  • finding experienced and skilled translators and localizers who understand the intricacies of e-learning content,
  • managing the sheer size of a project or course,
  • preventing content from leaking
  • stakeholders may not have the experience in the translation process, and may not know the specific requirements and processes involved in e-learning translation.

2. Finding experienced translators and localizers:

When translating and localizing an eLearning course, there might be a need to rework certain aspects or adapt them to suit the target audience. This can be daunting and require effort to overcome any resistance or concerns about starting from scratch.

We often recommend finding a translation agency that is ISO Certified with a proven project management process they can share with you.

3. Managing the sheer size of a project or course:

Translating an individual file isn't impossible. (We should know, we do it all the time.) But eLearning courses can be extensive and complex, requiring careful management of various components such as multimedia files, assessments, interactive elements, and more. A single video can have captions, on-screen text, voiceover, and several other components that may need to be translated. (And eLearning courses usually have multiple videos.) Dealing with the extensive scope of a project or course can be a significant challenge.

4. Preventing leaked content:

In the process of eLearning localization, ensuring that confidential or copyrighted content does not get leaked or shared improperly becomes a crucial concern. Safeguarding the integrity and security of the content throughout the localization process is essential.

Organizations should turn to experienced translators and localizers who possess the necessary expertise, safeguards, and cultural knowledge to address this. These professionals ensure accuracy and to prevent content leaks, and maintain confidentiality.

If you’re worried about sensitive or confidential content, our process is to use an NDA. We also never recommend placing sensitive content into machine translation software such as ChatGPT.

4. Translating eLearning Courses is an Investment:

Organizations should view eLearning localization as a strategic investment that yields long-term benefits. However, deciding where to invest – which courses you'll translate and the languages you'll translate them into – is not easy.

We recommend starting with gathering data from your audience with a survey. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but working with a language expert can help you determine how to maximize your translation investment.

Partnering with the right translation team is crucial in other ways as well. You can consider different types of translation agencies depending on your translation needs. Some agencies offer more affordable machine translation but lack the localization quality that an eLearning translation needs to create successful learners.

Look for professionals who provide detailed quotes, have references who can speak to the professional’s ability to deliver projects on time, and possess ISO certifications to guarantee quality and prevent costly errors. Investing in a reliable translation partner ensures a smooth and efficient translation process, saving time and resources.

5. Verification of Translation Quality:

One of the challenges in eLearning translation is that it's often difficult to assess a project’s quality until the very end of the project. Especially if you are translating multiple learning tracks into multiple languages.

To mitigate this risk, there are two steps that Interpro includes in our eLearning translation process:

  1. work with a translation partner who provides a clear plan and regular updates throughout the translation process.
  2. have someone who speaks the language review the final translated course as if they were an end user. This includes watching the course, taking quizzes, testing links and interactive elements, and ensuring the audio matches the onscreen text, among other tests.

These two steps enable stakeholders to trust the quality of the translation, both during the translation process and after final delivery.

Step 1 ensures that the project is progressing and any necessary adjustments are addressed as translation issues arise (so you aren’t addressing issues right before your due date).

Step 2 is a secondary team that can help verify the quality of the final product. Interpro includes this as part of our quality guarantee, but companies unsure of their translation company’s quality can complete this step as verification. It’s also important to note that this step does not have to be completed in your Learning Management System.

P.S. - Many companies are opting to translate microlearning as a solution to address these challenges effectively. Microlearning refers to short, bite-sized learning modules focusing on specific and crucial topics. By first translating the most important microlearning content, organizations can assess translation quality and address any issues before tackling larger eLearning courses.

And now, let's examine the intricacies of the eLearning translation workflow.

How to Prep Files for Translation

To streamline the translation process, eLearning files need prep work. Here are some best practices to consider:

Step 1: Source Files
Instead of copying and pasting content into a Word document, the best practice is to provide complete English source files that your translation team can edit. For an eLearning course, examples could include PowerPoint presentations, Premiere Pro video files, or InDesign files – instead of MP4 and PDF. It isn't impossible to work with exported file types, but access to the source files allows translators to work more efficiently and maintain consistency across the translated content.

Step 2: Planning and Research
Effective eLearning localization requires careful planning and execution. This includes researching the cultural norms, language usage, and instructional design preferences of the target audience. Understanding the target audience's learning preferences and incorporating culturally-relevant examples and scenarios will enhance the effectiveness of the localized eLearning course.

Step 3: Get an Accurate Quotation
This leads back to #1 (providing source files), but providing the detailed files is a crucial step for an accurate eLearning course translation quote. As we covered previously, they are a financial investment. Providing source files when getting a quote for translation services is essential to receive an accurate quotation from translation service providers. Quoting from output files alone (like MP4 or PDF files) can lead to an increased quote once the source files are received, confusion, delivery delays, and surprise costs.

(And because you’re providing these source files, that’s again why we recommend an NDA.)

Components That May Need to Be Translated for eLearning Courses

eLearning courses consist of various components that may require translation. Each component will undergo Translation, Revision, and Proofreading (TRP) to ensure accurate translations and localization quality. Understanding these components will help you better navigate the localization process. Some common components include:

  1. Text: Translating written content, including course scripts, instructional text, assessments, and on-screen text.
  2. Audio Recording and Syncing: Translating and recording these in the target languages is necessary if the course includes audio narration or voiceovers. Syncing the translated audio with the course content ensures a seamless learning experience.
  3. Localization of Visuals and Digital Interactive Elements: Visual elements such as images, graphics, and interactive eLearning components need to be localized to align with the cultural context of the target audience. This may involve adapting visuals, replacing culturally-specific examples, or modifying user interactions to match the target audience's preferences.
  4. Videos: If the eLearning course includes videos, translating subtitles or captions is a common approach to make the content accessible to multilingual learners. Alternatively, voiceover translations can be used to provide a localized audio track.
  5. Documents: Document translation is usually easier, but it’s an important consideration that can be forgotten. Documents such as resource materials, job aids, workbooks, or supplementary materials should be translated alongside the eLearning course to provide comprehensive learning resources in their native language.

Translation Solutions for Different Types of eLearning Courses

Different types of eLearning courses require tailored translation solutions to ensure effective localization. Here are some solutions for different types of eLearning courses:

  1. Subtitling, Captioning, or Voiceover: This is a more traditional video translation solution. Adding translated subtitles and captions alongside the visuals or providing voiceover recordings in the target language and for videos only. It allows learners to read or hear the content in their preferred language while retaining the original message.
  2. Instructor-Led Training (ILT) or Virtual ILT (VILT): Specific to the learning and education industry, this newer video solution provides a faster turnaround time than traditional video translation. For instructor-led training or virtual training sessions, record the training in English with Google Meet, Teams, or Zoom. Then translating and localizing the recording can be an efficient, more affordable approach to video translation. Remote interpreting services can also provide real-time translation during webinars or virtual meetings.
  3. Video Overlay: A video overlay technique can be employed in cases where the course primarily consists of videos and the eLearning course owner needs the video translation fast and more affordable than traditional translation. It’s very similar to ILT/VILT, except the original video does not have to be a recording of a presentation. The video can be authored on any platform. This involves superimposing a video of an interpreter translating the content over the video itself without translating any embedded content.
  4. Cloud-Based Platforms with Custom Translation Services: Many popular eLearning platforms, such as YouTube, Rise, Udemy, Coursera, Kajabi, WordPress, and HubSpot, offer built-in translation services. While these platforms often provide automatic translation features, it is important to note that they may not fully address localization needs. While we encourage you to take advantage of these automatic translations if they work for you, we find the best outcome often involves combining custom translation services integrated within these platforms. This is the best way to ensure accurate and culturally appropriate translations.

Publish a Translated eLearning Course to a Learning Management System (LMS)

When publishing a translated eLearning course for an LMS, not every translation agency is created equal. Because eLearning courses can be complex, it’s helpful to have a translation company that can provide the translated course in a file type that matches your source file publishing settings for your LMS. (It makes for a much easier upload process.)

Our engineering team has experience working within many different LMS file types (including an LMS that is custom created or “homegrown”). Here are some published course versions Interpro can provide for upload into an LMS:

  • SCORM 1.2
  • SCORM 2004 2nd edition
  • SCORM 2004 3rd edition
  • SCORM 2004 4th edition
  • xAPI (this is Tin Can)
  • AICC
  • cmi5

You're ready to Translate your eLearning Course! 

You've taken the first step to embracing eLearning localization as a strategic investment! 

Translating and localizing eLearning courses is essential for organizations seeking to deliver impactful and inclusive learning experiences. By understanding the challenges involved, adequately preparing files, considering essential components for translation, and selecting appropriate translation solutions, organizations can optimize learning outcomes and foster inclusive and impactful learning experiences.

If you're still interested in translating your eLearning course, we recommend these additional resources to prepare for the translation process:

  1. 8 Tips When Writing for a Multilingual Audience- Tips on how to write your English sources so they translate easily with less hassle to you.
  2. How to Choose a Translation Partner eBook- Learn how to interview and vet potential translation services.
  3. Schedule a Complimentary Localization Strategy Session and get started with an Interpro localization specialist today.
  4. Or subscribe to our translation and localization newsletter to receive the best translation tips for businesses straight to your inbox.

We hope this article helped you learn about translating eLearning courses!