Varietas Delectat: Approaches to E-Learning

We had our share of excursions into E-Learning in the past few weeks, today it is time to recap and look into the attitude differences in the international business sector. We have very briefly touched on the happy variety of localization practices, so in our current post, we take a peek at the needs of organizations in a bit more detail.

Broadly speaking, E-Learning targets range from materials for internal use to assets devised for public audiences. It is not by any means a universal rule, but there is a pattern that the required level of adaptation corresponds to the objectives, and the degree of localization gets toned down as the focus shifts from external to organization-wide application.

Championing adaptation

The example we visited in our post in October is the epitome of a custom adaptation process and compliance with the target locale’s rules and practices. In this particular case we localized examinations which granted Microsoft-approved certifications for those who passed. As these tests were targeted at users of Microsoft expecting an integrated and familiar experience, the process required that adaptation go all the way. For the particulars, please check out the above post.

Such extensive localization efforts are becoming atypical for larger companies, for several reasons. First of all, the time-to-market factor bears precedence over conformity to all the locale-dependent aspects. Usually, carrying out localization only to a certain extent is easier to control and manage, and requires less senior and consultancy time, thus also reduces costs. Adaptation is retreating more and more to the domain of marketing; what is more, targeted marketing content is getting produced by original copywriting rather than transcreation.

The other side of the coin

Most global corporations put emphasis on conformity and uniform processes, which is reflected in how E-Learning is managed. In such cases, catering to the largest possible audience is the prominent goal, therefore both the content and format of the training materials are prepared and authored lean and tight to draw advantage from easy and swift localizability.

The challenge international businesses have to face is that their subsidiaries may be located in counties (China, Japan and Brazil are good examples) where the ratio of the English-speaking population is relatively low, justifying the cost of translation. Nowadays the production of training materials is usually outsourced to knowledge factories, who capitalize on the initial draft created by company trainers. Transparent organizations develop templates, policies and regulations to ensure accessibility, so that the experience is the same for everyone, English- or Mandarin-speaking, disabled or abled. In such scenarios content adaptation winds up not being much of an issue; however, accessibility needs to be addressed in terms of image selection, voice clips, subtitling and other media.

Even in cases when meticulous adaptation is not a requirement, it doesn’t necessarily follow that internationalization is not a consideration during the compilation and authoring of the source materials. To the contrary, we usually see that the structure and format is localization friendly and abundant in context.

The common denominator

Regardless of the targets, quality and fidelity remain a key requirement. One of the tools to secure consistent linguistic excellence is a structured and maintained term base. In our next posts to come, we’ll look into the optimal way to set up, create and update terminology databases, and give you some tips and tricks of lifecycle management.

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