4 planning tips for creating culturally-aware global eLearning

4 planning tips for creating culturally-aware global eLearning

Are you sure that your eLearning is still exactly as relevant and relatable when it’s read on the other side of the world? Or in a completely different language? In this extract from our latest ebook, we consider four key areas that will help keep your learning relevant as it travels.

1) Define your localization process

Before we get stuck into these specifics, it’s worth considering your process: integrating localization into your eLearning development plans requires some additional work upfront.

Gomo sister company, LEO Learning, performs a skills gap analysis before it embarks on its learning projects—mapping the skills, attitudes, behaviors, and performance requirements of the workforce against strategic objectives. The needs of creators and learners in different regions can and should be mapped amongst them. A storyboard can be built according to your findings and validated by regional learning designers or other sources of local expertise.

Start storyboarding today

For more on storyboarding—and a free downloadable template—see our guide.

The more stages of your process you consider and test localization in, the easier it’ll be to locate issues sooner. If you’re a global organization, we recommend keeping localization in mind even if the scope doesn’t call for the content to be used in other regions. This will make localization easier if it’s required later, and it may keep everyone thinking about how your content could be used in other parts of the business.

2) Always defer to local expertise

When it comes to creating eLearning for global audiences, the greatest tool in your belt is that global audience itself—and the regional L&D teams that serve them. The way people from different regions approach the same piece of content is a fascinating area in any line of creative work. Our understanding of certain social, cultural, and aesthetic norms is taught to us in hundreds of different ways. We’re often not aware of our assumptions and how they differ from other audiences.

This makes it very difficult to replace the first-hand experience of your international audience via research alone. Nonetheless, it’s still critical as a content creator to understand how cultural assumptions and differences may change the meaning of your work.

With all this in mind, it’s important to take time to discuss content and the messages it conveys with local audiences and experts. Therefore:

  • Always test any learning content with your regional audiences.
  • Continue to take feedback through the life of the eLearning course.
  • Discuss your learning content plans with regional experts ahead of time: show them your project plans and storyboards. They may be able to warn you about elements that will need a different approach ahead of time.
  • Create a simple cultural database that records key differences that crop up again and again—over time, this will help raise awareness of elements to account for.

For more considerations for your testing process, read:

‘Course Testing and Review: Are You Guilty Of These Common Oversights?’

3) Know when to centralize or create regionally

A key consideration for global organizations with a large pool of learning and subject experts across all of their territories will be when to centralize content creation, or simply let regional teams create their own. Both approaches have their pros and cons:



Centralized content localization

  • Far easier to scale across the whole organization (with the right content authoring tool)
  • Easier to maintain a consistent message for all variations
  • Easier to update all variations
  • Easier to measure and tweak
  • Can still feel less relevant or authentic than fully locally authored content
  • Design becomes complex when substantial content differences are required in individual regions

Regional learning content creation teams

  • Feels more authentic to the local audience
  • Usually achieves higher engagement
  • Less restricted
  • Smaller, less complex project files
  • Potential for inconsistent messaging (beyond the scope of simple cultural differences)
  • Has to be treated as distinct from other regional versions for measurement purposes
  • More difficult to maintain
  • More expensive to have local L&D teams
  • Logistics of tools, licensing and hosting may increase (easier with cloud-based tools)

Predictably, the best approach is likely to be somewhere in the middle. This means getting regional teams to create content when differences in culture or content are simply too substantial, but otherwise relying on the scale, ease of maintenance, and consistency benefits of centralized content creation.

4) Strive for full localization

The ideal translation process is peer-reviewed by a second native speaker (just as content in your own language should be subject to a proofing process). Establish a trusted pair of eyes who can ensure the quality and accuracy of what you receive. For similar reasons, one or both of your translators should be familiar with your learning subject matter, particularly if you’re working in a technical field.

It’s all Greek to me!

The unique forms of grammar and jargon in financial, scientific, medical, legal, and countless other industries offer a linguistic challenge even to native tongues, so find an expert if you can.

On this note, we would encourage you to aim for localization rather than translation in your process. In terms of language use, if a phrase or concept doesn’t have a straight A to B translation, proper localization will involve changing the term to something more familiar to the audience (you’ll also have to do something similar for non-language-based cues, which we go into below).

Machine translation has a place in the process, but only ever as an intermediary step. While its accuracy is getting ever more impressive, don’t expect to fool your audience. As a non-speaker, it can be useful as part of your review process (it can clue you in when something is missing), and it may be usable when closely reworked by a native speaker.

Machines, however, cannot localize, and even human translators make mistakes when being too literal. In one famous example, a global banking organization launched a $10m (£6.8m) rebranding back in 2009 for, among other reasons, experiencing difficulties with its former “Assume Nothing” slogan. The phrase had been mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in some territories. While this was doubtlessly embarrassing in their context, it’s easy to see how similar inaccuracies in a crucial piece of eLearning could cause significant issues for any business.

Also look out for differences in use and formatting in text of the following elements:

  • Measurements: metric vs imperial
  • Date and time formatting: All combinations of day, month and year format, as well, whether the culture usually uses 12 or 24 hour clocks
  • Numbers: Some cultures use commas rather than decimal points. Others use commas at different intervals than you may be used to
  • Money: Not only the specific currency itself, but the decimal style and position of the currency symbol (for example, £0.00 and 0,00€)

Did you know?

In India, it is more common to count with traditional terms like lakh and crore—written as 1,00,000 and 1,00,00,000 respectively—than in hundreds of thousands or millions).

Discover more global eLearning creation insights

Our ebook, ‘How to create culturally-aware eLearning for global audiences’ continues with more insights into the visual, linguistic, and semantic details that you need to pay attention to when going global. We also consider how these global requirements can be matched to features in your eLearning content creation tools.

Insights and features we cover include:

  • Considering how imagery reflects familiar public spaces and local customs
  • Use of color and gesture in visuals
  • The implications of different cultural preferences such as uncertainty avoidance and power distance
  • Using language selection, display conditions, collaboration tools, and other key features to better build your courses

Complete the short form to access your copy of the ebook:

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

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