Translation guides | 06.10.2023

The importance of translation in education and e-learning

In today’s business learning environment, e-learning content takes on increased significance. Not only does the onward march of globalisation see businesses operating in more regions and languages, but changes in work practices accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic mean that employees often attend and complete educational content remotely.  

Businesses who invest time and energy into creating and deploying high-quality e-learning resources stand themselves in better stead to effectively train their employees. And the businesses who include high quality education and e-learning translation in this process give themselves the tools they need to extend this improved training provision across their global workforce. 

AIn this article, we’ll explore the role and importance of translation in education and e-learning. fter reading you’ll have a better understanding of the benefits on offer when working with an expert translation agency to translate materials in this industry. 

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • The role of engagement in e-learning 
  • Trends in e-learning and translation 
  • The importance of translators integrating with e-learning authoring tools 
  • The role of localisation in e-learning content 

The role of engagement in e-learning

Communicating with learners in their native language, or in a language with which they have high levels of proficiency, is associated with better engagement, attainment, and depth of learning outcomes.  

But to really understand the importance of engagement, it helps to explore the wider context: what are the potential risks of e-learning and training materials that do not engage the learner? 

To offer one answer to this question we’ll turn to an article from the journal Process Safety and Environmental Protection, which posits that “misunderstandings due to language problems are an underlying causal factor in a wide variety of occupational accidents,” with language literacy, proficiency, and readability of instructions being cited as contributing factors. 

Accidents mentioned in the article range from minor disruptions to large-scale incidents, with outcomes including damage to equipment and human injury. The identification of language as a contributing factor is addressed in different ways in legislation: for example, European Union Directive 89/391/EEC, which pertains to the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, stipulates that: 

  • “Employers shall inform and consult workers and allow them to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work” 
  • And, that “employers shall ensure that each worker receives adequate safety and health training” 

With adequacy of training and ability to take part alluding to communications being made available in non-English languages where relevant. 

In our International Business Report we found that 66% of businesses say training and development is a challenge due to language and communication barriers. And while not all educational and e-learning materials relate to processes with such high stakes, instilling a company culture where all educational content is delivered in a language with which the learners can effectively engage is undeniably important. 

Trends in e-learning and translation

Alongside a demonstrable need to create resources in languages that learners can effectively engage with, businesses now have access to a greater range of tools to help them achieve their goals. These include AI, machine learning and more.  

Below we’ll explore a few current trends that are changing the ways in which training is delivered. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

It’s fair to say that AI is making waves: ChatGPT was the fastest growing app ever upon launch, and 96% of executives say that generative AI tools are being discussed in board meetings. Many translation tools are leveraging the power of AI to enhance their offering, including Google Translate, Bing Translator, DeepL Translator and many others. 

Such translation tools give businesses unparalleled potential to expand their training materials to other languages. Just be aware of the potential pitfalls around free translation tools, which we explore in more detail here. 

Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs)

These platforms leverage AI to deliver adaptive learning that responds to a learner’s needs in real time based on their interactions. LXPs can be linked up to repositories of information as well, to ensure that the adaptations they make are aligned with content whose quality and relevance is assured. LXPs also make use of gamification to increase engagement and encourage learners to progress through course content. 

Potential drawbacks include issues around quality control, as it becomes difficult to ensure all course content is relevant and accurate when adaptive learning delivers exponentially higher amounts of bespoke content to different learners.  

Hybrid learning

To alleviate such concerns, some businesses opt for hybrid learning models which combine traditional in-person learning with online content, whether AI-generated or otherwise. This combination of traditional and self-paced learning gives learners a sense of autonomy, which is linked to higher engagement. 

The traditional learning aspect of a hybrid approach leads to demands on resource (time and space) that are absent with a purely digital approach. 

Augmented or Virtual Reality

Virtual reality immerses users in a completely virtual environment, while augmented reality incorporates virtual elements into the real world. Both offer exciting possibilities for e-learning by allowing engaging, immersive environments where learning can take place, whether via simulated virtual scenarios where trainings can be put to use, instructional content overlaid onto the real world to help learners learn about a new environment, or similar. 

The importance of translators integrating with e-learning authoring tools

Whatever technologies you include in your training provision, there remains an underlying requirement to deliver content in native languages. This ensures learners can understand and engage with content, and carry their learnings forward into the workplace. 

The creation of effective e-learning content relies on factors including (but not limited to) the following: 

  • Clear learning objectives: content must be created with these in mind, and they must be clearly communicated to learners. 
  • Suitable to skill levels and learning needs of the learner: the content must be pitched appropriately, with the right type and complexity of language used. 
  • Engaging design and navigation: to ensure that learners are able to engage with the content and move through the course. 
  • Interactive elements to retain engagement: to reduce the risk of engagement wavering and ensure that the course is completed. 
  • Real-world application with scenarios that resonate: to maximise the utility of the materials in the employee’s role. 
  • Instant and effective feedback: to contribute to engagement, and to give the learner real-time feedback about their performance. 
  • Cultural sensitivity and inclusivity: to further contribute to engagement and to ensure that the materials resonate effectively. 
  • Regularly updated to remain relevant: to ensure that the learning outcomes remain suited to the evolving nature of the role. 

As a result of the complexity involved in creating effective materials, sophisticated e-learning authoring tools are often used to create and maintain them. These tools allow creators to integrate multimedia, interactive elements, assessment and other features that create a coherent and engaging training experience. They also lead to potential concerns from e-learning providers about how effectively a translation agency can access materials for translation. 

At The Translation People, our translation experts are able to integrate seamlessly with such tools to streamline the translation process. This means that rather than exporting all materials for translation and re-importing them once translation is complete, our experts can connect directly with your systems and translate in situ. This allows for unparalleled levels of communication and oversight, and means that issues can be identified and rectified as the project unfolds. 

The e-learning authoring tools with which we are able to integrate include, among others: 

  • Docebo  
  • Storyline  
  • Elucidat  
  • Moodle 
  • Captivate  
  • Domiknow 

The role of localisation in e-learning content

Localisation refers to the adaptation of content to make it culturally, linguistically and functionally appropriate for its intended audience. Here are some ways in which e-learning content can be localised to increase its efficacy: 

  • Cultural sensitivity: e-learning materials often rely on hypothetical scenarios to contextualise an idea or lesson, and it’s important that these scenarios and the people within them are relevant and resonant to a learner in their language. Sometimes a verbatim translation will fall short: if names of people involved are unfamiliar, for example, or if the situation itself is not familiar in the target culture.
    What’s involved in effective localisation? Using names, scenarios, symbols, graphics and so on that are relevant to the target culture. 
  • Accessibility and inclusivity: there’s more to translation than words, and it’s likely that e-learning materials will include dates, measurements, currencies and other components that may be unfamiliar to learners in other languages.
    What’s involved in effective localisation? Ensuring that date formats, units of measurement and currencies in the original are substituted with alternatives appropriate to the target audience. 
  • Effective assessments: as incrementally more changes are made to the original text through the localisation process, it may also be the case that assessment materials need to be updated as well. This ensures ongoing alignment between course content and assessment questions, and ensures that learners have an accurate grasp of their performance.
    What’s involved in effective localisation? Reviewing assessment questions alongside localised content, to make sure it still effectively assesses the learner’s progress through the updated materials. 
  • Compliance: in many workplaces, employees must adhere to rules and regulations enforced by local governments or regulatory bodies, and e-learning materials often make reference to such requirements. It’s likely that these regulations will vary across regions, and e-learning materials need to be updated accordingly.
    What’s involved in effective localisation? All references to rules and regulations in a particular jurisdiction must be updated to refer to relevant alternatives in the target region. 

Taken together, these factors ensure that e-learning materials are not only translated, but that the content is accurate and relevant to the region in which the learning is taking place. 

In conclusion

In our International Business Report cited earlier, we also found that 78% of businesses note a relationship between providing e-learning modules in employees’ native languages and increases in their morale and engagement. When combined with the potential improvements in communication, safety procedures and other areas, it’s easy to see how important high quality translation is in the education and e-learning context. 

Whatever sector your business operates in, and whatever your translation needs, trends in the industry mean that the tools with which e-learning is delivered continue to evolve. Our expert education and e-learning translation specialists are on hand to deliver translation services to help you leverage these exciting technologies. Our demonstrable expertise, accuracy and quality control, and cloud-based project management tools combine with our decades of experience to deliver high-quality results every time. 

To find out more about our education and e-learning translation services click here. You can also browse our case studies or talk to a member of the team, who’ll be more than happy to help. 

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