11 localization ideas for global eLearning that go beyond translation

11 localization ideas for global eLearning that go beyond translation

Global learners deserve relevant content, and relevance isn’t just a matter of providing content in a language that they can read. The scenarios, videos, and images you put into your content could be sending learners mixed messages. In this extract from our ebook, ‘How to create culturally-aware eLearning for global audiences’, we take a look at eleven areas of localization that deserve your attention every time you fire up your eLearning authoring tool.

1) Make sure topics and scenarios remain relevant

It’s clearly a bad idea to retain learning that simply isn’t applicable to your audience—if compliance requirements differ from region to region, or if the methods available to your regional team are significantly different.

Scenario-based learning deserves particular attention—we obviously create scenarios in order to make the learning point more relevant and relatable to our learners. Asking the learner “what would you do in this situation?” doesn’t work if they could never conceivably be in the situation. And equally, its effect will be weakened if certain details aren’t culturally relevant.

That said, sometimes the difference in cultural context is the point. A great example achieved in Gomo is Fidelity International UK’s story-driven ‘The Retirement Academy’ series.

Remaining local to your product

By featuring British characters discussing UK personal finance topics, Fidelity’s Indian employees found they could better understand the context of products they had to sell. For more, read the case study.

2) Reconsider your photography, visuals, and other media

We’re big believers in the potential for visual design choices to really push engagement and maximize the learning potential of your courses. Because of this, we know that your visual and other media choices convey meaning too, and when you’re going global they’ll be another area to carefully review.

A good example of this is making sure that your photography and your videos help your audience feel like they’re represented. Or that their version of the content isn’t an afterthought created after the “real business” has been catered for.

Beware exclusionary messages

Consider what message it may send to your international colleagues if you only show your North American head office, and stock photography of office workers shot in a major US city.

3) ‘International’ isn’t always neutral

If it fits your brand, you can get ahead of the imagery problem by building courses with an international audience in mind. You could show a range of international settings or feature images of, or video messages from, employees in multiple regional offices. Everyone would then get some mix of familiar and unfamiliar elements. All of this gives your organization an international flavor and potentially minimizes the need for switching out media from region to region.

Of course, your global brand may also need to appear local if it’s trying to feel less detached and more personal wherever it does business. In those cases, you’ll need to take tighter control of image localization—using display conditions for appropriate versions of content, and producing multiple versions of video, audio, and image content that you can switch between as appropriate.

4) Watch out for design in the public space




We’re surrounded by culturally specific design. The colors and fonts on roadsigns, the markings on, and car models of emergency vehicles, and differences in building material and architecture can seem familiar to you, but entirely foreign to your audience.

More thoughts on eLearning visual design:

'7 eLearning Visual Design Mistakes and How to Fix Them'

5) Does your imagery work within laws, etiquette, and customs?

Obviously, your media shouldn’t inadvertently depict illegal behavior—you’ll want to pay attention to the side of the road cars are driving on, for instance. However, societies also have unwritten rules that can differ greatly.

Too close for comfort?

Different cultures have different concepts of personal space. What looks like a tight-knit group of colleagues to you may seem unrealistic to a learner in another region.

6) Remember color choices matter

Color associations are wide-ranging and it could be quite easy to get lost in over-analysis. However, a good example of where color associations may matter in learning (in common with marketing) is the color of interface buttons and calls to action (CTAs).

For example, one survey looked at the CTA buttons on a sample of 20 websites per country from the top 50 most visited websites in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Germany. It found that among those sites, the US doesn’t use green buttons (compared to around 25% in the UK) and Germany was a lot less likely to use blue.

7) Why even simple gestures can cause issues

Did you know that placing a hand on your elbow and raising your fist is an offensive gesture across much of mainland Europe? Elsewhere, it’s not a notable gesture, and in some places, it’s considered celebratory (for example, in Japan).

Make sure you have the right tools for your global eLearning efforts, read our article:

'5 Essential Authoring Tool Features for Efficient Global eLearning Projects'

8) Consider the uncertainty avoidance index

One model of cultural difference, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, prompts a few further lines of thinking. For example, there’s the Uncertainty avoidance index: different cultures are more or less comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. A classic example of this in design is the ‘busy-ness’ of some foreign language websites. Think Chinese websites like qq.com, or sohu.com which feature many small images, and a high density of links.

English-speaking users generally expect less dense designs—though popular Chinese Search Engine Baidu.com (which is visually quite similar to Google) hints that Chinese users don’t demand dense website design as such. Because of this, you may not have to modify your approach to layout when taking courses to other cultures. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that if regional teams produce content that looks ‘busy’ to your eye, they may not have the same opinion.

9) Does the culture value individualism or collectivism?

Some cultures focus on individual achievement, while others focus on contributions to collective goals. In eLearning terms, this could mean emphasizing what an employee will gain from the training in one region while placing more emphasis on how everyone in the company will benefit from you completing the training in another.

Play to the preferences of the culture

Photos of teams and collaborative situations may better suit collective cultures better than depictions of lone experts. Similarly, rather than a video of your CEO introducing your training, try a range of colleagues or service users.



10) The significance of the power distance index

Some cultures have flatter structures where efforts are consciously made to position leaders as closer to their subordinates. On the other hand, some cultures value distance between authority figures and others. Leaders in such cultures are less accessible socially and transactionally, and people are less likely to question their methods.

In an eLearning context, a culture that maintains a high power distance may be especially keen on video messages from the CEO (rather than say, from ‘employees like you’ around the business). You may also see different uptake of feedback features.

11) Is your audience long or short-term orientated?

Some cultures are more laidback about when action should be taken and when the results of those actions are felt. This may require stronger, less ambiguous messaging around deadlines in your learning. Or different expectations around engagement rates.

Discover more global eLearning creation insights

Our ebook, ‘How to create culturally-aware eLearning for global audiences’ additionally covers localization process and the linguistic traps that learning designers should be aware of when working globally. We also consider how all of your global requirements can be matched to features in your eLearning content creation tools.

Read the full resource to discover:

  • How the right localization process will lead you to more engaging results
  • Key language issues that even non-speakers should understand
  • Using language selection, display conditions, collaboration tools, and other key features to better build your courses

Discover how to tackle global eLearning: Download ‘How to create culturally-aware eLearning for global audiences’