Global eLearning: 7 Design Elements To Consider

by Renie McClay, Learning Solutions Manager, Caveo Learning


Developing eLearning that is interactive, memorable, and effective is challenging in its own right. Developing successful eLearning for a global audience is fraught with additional hurdles. Before embarking on global eLearning design, make sure to consider and address these special considerations.

1. Translation and Localization

So much of global eLearning development is impacted by whether eLearning content localization will be required, and how much. Obviously, the more information an eLearning course has, the more translation will be required. Get a handle on anticipated translation costs and time requirements early in the planning process. Most importantly, line up a language localization services provider up front­—we recommend Interpro—so that you’re not scrambling to meet project deadlines.

Scripting is key, and there are many implications based on audience region and localization needs, such as language, pronunciation, and context. As with any international business endeavor, be cognizant of cultural norms and expectations with regard to imagery and scenarios­—even the choice of a female narrator may have implications in certain parts of the world. Likewise, avoid using colloquialisms and idioms that won’t make sense to a foreign speaker. Keep in mind that a friendly or conversational narrative style doesn’t always translate well.

2. Images and Graphics

Be careful when including graphics, as text in image files cannot be easily changed. If text graphics must be included, try to provide them with live text and in their native format. If graphics need to be re-created by the localization company, allow additional time to the project scope. Also, keep cultural differences in mind when selecting images, especially those containing people—hand gestures, facial expressions, and type of dress can unintentionally offend or cause confusion.

3. GUI (Graphic User Interface)

When designing the GUI, find out whether your learning management system (LMS) does translation and how much of it.  Some learning management systems do not bother with translation, in which case it may be unnecessary—or even preferable—not to translate menus, popups, dialog boxes, and other static elements. In terms of the design elements themselves, take a less-is-more approach. The translation and localization process will prove easier if there are fewer layers, popups, and other on-screen elements. Where possible, use icons and symbols instead of words.

4. Fonts

Some fonts are not optimized for non-English, meaning some accent marks and special characters may not reproduce well or at all. Test the font’s compatibility with the anticipated translation languages before settling on it.

5. Audience Analysis

Audience analysis is always important when designing learning, but it’s especially critical in a global context. Think early on about your organization’s languages and business needs; it may be a requirement to speak English, but English may not be the audience’s first language. Keep sentence structure straightforward, eschewing complex sentences and difficult vocabulary like “eschewing.” Instruct the narrator to speak more slowly than usual, as the audience may need more processing time. 

6.Technology Access and Savvy

Will most learners have easy access to up-to-date devices and software? If not, you may need to make sacrifices to functionality, or create a “light” version of the course. Redesigning the course later due to technology restrictions can be quite costly, both in time and resources. Additionally, if the audience is less tech-savvy, design the eLearning to be clean and simple, without a lot of bells and whistles.

7. Glossary

Consider including a glossary, and make it especially robust. Define all acronyms and jargon, but use both as sparingly as possible.

Special thanks to Ashley Christian, a senior associate with Caveo Learning, for contributing to this article.

Caveo Learning is a learning & development consulting firm that provides learning strategies and solutions to Fortune 1000 and other leading organizations. Since 2004, Caveo has been delivering ROI-focused strategic learning and performance solutions to organizations in a wide range of industries, including technology, healthcare, energy, financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing, and hospitality. For more information, visit