Research points out that people from different cultures learn differently. So, we just cannot roll out an e-learning course in English language across countries. If we want learning to be effective, we need to customize the course to suit different cultures. Does it mean that we need to make multiple versions of the same course to suit that many cultures? If so, will it not become prohibitively costly? The answer lies in designing a course that is culture neutral or culture agnostic. Let’s see how.
The localization process is not just confined to language translation but has many other steps. Just translating into another language does not to do the trick. Effective localization depends on learners and their cultural characteristics. Based on that, we need to manage our instructional strategy, content strategy, visual strategy and development strategy.
This enabling process of making a course culture agnostic is termed internationalization. An internationalized e-learning course is therefore easier to localize. The process of first enabling a course to be localized and then localizing it for different national audiences is sometimes known as globalization of e-learning.
Let’s now see the specific elements that we need to decide upon:
Instructional Strategy: Courses with symmetrical and orderly layout and design on the one hand and open and intuitive ones at that on the other are the two extreme ends of the cultural continuum. For example, western cultures prefer open and intuitive course structure and design whereas middle-east and south-east Asian cultures prefer a more rigid and orderly design.
Similarly, we need to strike a fine balance between:
- Information heavy content vs. No Information overload
- Artistry and aesthetics vs. utilitarian design
- Precise information & instruction, detailed guidance with strict timetables vs. a more informal and open communication with responsibility on the learner
- Flexible, unstructured learning situations and case studies vs. highly structured, straight-forward knowledge transfer
- Individual assignments vs. Group assignments
- Definitive and assertive vs. Diplomatic feedback with justification
Mercado’s Recommendations for Cross Cultural E-learning are based on:
- The design and presentation of course materials
- The character and form of facilitative information
- Assessment and the nature of assignments
- The form and nature of feedback
By taking care of these aspects, we can make a course fairly culture neutral and avoid the bother and cost of making multiple customized courses.
Content: Coming to the language, we recommend that the English in the master course be in simple sentences, in a working kind of English without rare, obscure and difficult words, avoiding advanced idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms, sport references and humor. The focus should be on using ‘visualization’ along with ‘verbalization’.
Develop a Culture Neutral English Course by
- Using Simple sentences
- Working with Global English
- Keeping it free of colloquialisms and Sport References
- Avoiding Humor
Visual and Graphics: As far as visuals and Graphics are concerned
- Stick to Corporate Branding and Style Guide
- Preferably, use Neutral Non – Human Images
- When using photographs – have a mix of ethnics, gender and ages
- Avoid using cultural and religious symbols and images
- Avoid putting content on the image
Audio: Audio should be in a professional tone and accent free. It is tempting to use machine language but we recommend that you avoid it.
Development Strategy: When it comes to development strategy, use authoring tools like Lectora, Articulate and Captivate. You can avoid a lot of technical glitches and also produce very quickly, when compared to Flash based courses. Let’s have a quick look at the authoring tools.
|Key Features||Quick turn-around time from PPTs||Highly Customizable Interface with HTML output||Excellent on screen Simulation||Quickly converts PPT to a web based learning and User Friendly|
These days there are many easy authoring tools that help you convert your content into online courses. You don’t have to be a technical expert to develop your courses. As long as you apply learning design strategy to your content, you can publish your PowerPoint Presentation to make excellent eLearning courses. However, the key is applying learning design strategy, as you have seen already. It is however recommended that you engage an e-learning firm to design and develop your courses. It will save you a lot of time, unnecessary cost and effort, and will also result in qualitatively better courses.
Also develop an interface exclusively for multi-language courses. It should be a single GUI from which the learner can switch to any language at any point in the course. Also, it will avoid the clutter of having a course in each language hosted on the LMS.
Thus localization is not just translation into another language. It has many aspects to it including instructional strategy, content strategy, visual strategy, audio strategy and development strategy.