E-learning is an essential part of our life and is an efficient tool for knowledge transfer utilized by educational institutions, individuals, and companies. The technological boom and swift evolution of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices contributed to the better positioning of the industry and lead to coining terms such as mobile learning, micro-learning, gamification, etc. Online training has been adopted by companies as one of the most efficient ways to train their employees based at different locations. The globalization of the market and the attempt to present the best content in the mother language of the learner made e-learning localization a service often associated with online learning.
The importance of both e-learning and its proper localization is significant so we compiled this simple guide to answer some of the most popular questions related to these two notions.
What is E-Learning and How Did it Evolve?
The Oxford Dictionary gives a simple definition of the term “e-learning” as learning conducted via electronic media, typically on the Internet. It also points out that successful e-learning depends on the self-motivation of individuals to study effectively.
The Economic Times defines e-learning as a learning system based on formalized teaching but with the help of electronic resources. Teaching can be conducted both inside and outside the classroom with a focus on using computers and the Internet. E-learning can also be described as a network enabling the transfer of skills and knowledge that allows multiple users to access the modules simultaneously or at different times.
The corporate sector has embraced e-learning with the coming of the new century (in the 2000s) as one of the best ways to train new employees. It is a highly productive method to share company values and convey the same message to all your employees globally, while maintaining the same high standards.
The initial attitude towards e-learning was not very positive as people were afraid that it will replace the teacher and lacked the human element that is necessary for efficient learning. Some of the voices against this system said that it lacks the intuitive approach and that a machine cannot show empathy or diversify the approach towards different types of learners. The rapid technological progress and the advanced learning systems, however, helped the masses to embrace e-learning.
It is interesting to mention that the term e-learning was first used in October 1999 at a CBT Systems Seminar in Los Angeles. The idea of this type of education, however, has much earlier roots.
The first steps of machine-assisted learning were made by Sidney Pressey who invented the teaching machine back in the 1920s. It looked like a typewriter and was used to answer multiple-choice questions. This idea was further developed by B.F. Skinner a few decades later. He constructed another teaching machine in 1954 that allowed learners to view an open-ended question via special window and write down the answer on a roll of paper. The machine allowed the student to proceed further only when a correct answer was given. Both inventions were not very popular at the time. They were perceived as a threat to the teaching profession. Nevertheless, the ideas developed by these two professors, are now incorporated in some modern assessment management systems.
The first actual distance learning took place in the 1840s. Isaac Pitman used written correspondence to teach shorthand (stenography) in Great Britain. He sent the assignments to his students via mail and they returned them for assessment. The element of student feedback was a crucial innovation of Pitman’s system and is now widely used in e-learning modules.
The first actual online classes were offered back in 1976 by the Open University. They even used a special system that allowed teleconferencing before the era of Skype. The Coastline Community College was also established the same year and it became the first school to offer a fully online degree. With the popularization of the computer and the broader access users had to it, electronic learning started emerging in many educational institutions in the USA and across Europe. Distance education has evolved quickly to the extent that nowadays we cannot imagine our education without some web-based learning.
This, in a nutshell, is the history of e-learning and how it become a popular tool for accessing new knowledge.
Who can Benefit from E-Learning?
The answer to this question is actually, quite simple – everyone. E-learning modules can be developed to be accessible on different mobile devices and can incorporate different learning systems to match the specific needs of the learner. Basically, we can divide e-learning users into four main groups:
Kids love playing with gadgets – smartphones, iPads, tablets, computers, just name it. Interactive learning comes as somewhat natural to them. Instead of trying to limit the time they spent in front of the computer and perceive it as our enemy, we can turn it into our ally.
Everyone can benefit from e-learning – even toddlers!
E-learning can be utilized from a very young age and even toddlers can benefit from it, as long as it is done under parental control with limits. Kids going to school can find it to be an excellent supplement to their in-class activities, as long as it is optional and places them in charge of what and how much they are going to learn.
- University and college students
E-learning makes it possible for anyone to get a college or university degree, regardless of their location. Just one click on a computer or other mobile device allows you to enter the campus and interact with other students and professors no matter that you might be thousands of miles away. Distance learning is suitable for various types of learners: those who live in remote locations, those who would like or need to work while studying, those who have some physical challenges that might prevent them from entering a traditional class room or those, who simply prefer the comfort of their home instead of the busy college environment. No matter what your reasons are, the final result is getting the degree you wanted.
Embracing life-long learning is what responsible adults do. In this dynamic environment it is always a valuable asset to attend some qualification courses or add additional skills. E-learning makes it possible to do so, without interrupting your daily routine. The online courses allow you to progress at your own pace and learn whenever you have time. Since people are quite busy to devote longer chunks of time to learning, micro-learning is becoming very popular these days. The content is divided in very small units that can be only several minutes long. So, learning can take place while you sit in a traffic jam or wait for the bus, for example.
The corporate world quickly realized that e-learning offers excellent opportunities for corporate training. Online courses can be utilized at any stage of employee training – from induction to skills building. One of the most common functions of e-learning in the corporate world is the training of employees based in different locations. With the help of e-learning localization, the courses are adapted to the specific requirements of each market and provide the learners with precise information and guidelines. The benefits for the company significantly outnumber the investments made for the proper development of the courses.
How do you Create a Successful E-Learning Course?
Regardless of the purpose and users of an e-learning course, there are several elements that differentiate the successful product from the run-of-the-mill training. If you want to achieve your goals and have happy and engaged learners, you need to pay attention to the following:
- E-learning design
The overall design of the e-learning course is as important as its content and even more. Even though a book should not be judged by its cover, it is the cover that sells.
The same applies to e-learning courses. If the design is not appropriate, is overloaded, or fails to follow the industry trends, the learners will be destructed by its “defects” and won’t be able to focus properly on the learning. So, proper research and analysis of the results are necessary in order to create the ultimate awe-inspiring design for your content-rich modules.
- E-learning storyboards
Storyboards are a very helpful tool that helps visualize the e-learning course you have in mind. Learning how to use them properly is a skill that is worth mastering. There are different types and free templates that you can find online and download for your convenience. There is also a possibility to create your own template using the program or software you are more comfortable with. Anything can do – a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation. An efficient storyboard can be compared to the blueprint an architect uses: it has all the necessary information about the content, the media to be used and the design elements.
- E-learning software tools
The e-learning software known also as authoring tools are one of the elements you need in order to create an e-learning course. The market offers a great variety of tools that can meet anyone’s criteria. There are free tools such as H5P. It is an open-source tool that can be used by newbies in the branch or for one-off content creation. Then, there is a great variety of authoring tools that offer different plans depending on your needs. Some of the best tools according to professionals in the branch include Articulate, Adobe Captivate, and iSpring Suite. There are many other good ones as well, so the best thing to do prior to choosing one is research the market and read different reviews and assessments given by those who have tried them. Some of the e-learning software tools are also offered with a trial period, so that you can personally make sure that this product is the right one for you or your business.
- E-learning trends
Following the trends in the e-learning industry is a must when creating a new course. It doesn’t matter if the modules are developed for college students, kids or corporate employees, they should be in line with the latest developments and technology innovations. Learners will be more motivated to proceed further and engage deeper if presented with useful content in an interesting way. In order to stay tuned to the novelties in the industry you can follow some e-learning blogs and visit conferences and events both in the USA and abroad.
- E-learning platforms
E-learning platforms can be described as the modern digital substitutes of the traditional classroom. This is the place where the e-learning course is hosted and where the participants can share files, videos, give and assess assignments, etc. There are three basic types of e-learning platforms: learning management systems (LMS), social media, and conferencing software. LMSs are the preferred option both for individuals, instructional and corporate training. The market offers both paid and free platforms. Some of the popular open-source platforms are Moodle and Eliademy, while among the cloud-based options Adobe Captivate Prime, Docebo LMS, and Talent LMS are the most preferred. It is good to research their features in order to choose the best e-learning platform for your needs.
- E-learning translation and localization
Translation and localization of the e-learning course is the final step of your successful project. It makes sure that the informative modules you have created will reach a broader audience, since they will be presented in their mother tongue. This element can be compared to the cherry on the cake that will boost the efficiency of your e-learning course.
What are the Key Elements of an Engaging E-Learning Module?
In order to create a sense of satisfaction and engagement in the learners, each e-learning course should comprise of the following elements:
- Outstanding content – include factual up-to-date information, presented in a clear language; look for original data; do not simply reiterate old facts;
- Understandable examples – choose appropriate examples that would be clear to all your learners, regardless of their age, sex, nationality or location. Here, e-learning localization helps a lot, since the experts doing it will make sure that proper examples are used in each language if the English version is not clear;
- Clear images and graphs – the images, graphs, charts, etc., that you use should be of high quality and readable. They should not contain any offensive symbols;
- User-friendly navigation – make sure that all buttons for going forward/backward, help, chat, etc. are easy to locate and use;
Having your voice over done professionally is a great way to gain the trust of your audience!
- Professional voice over – your video voice overs should be high quality. You can choose whether to hire professional voice over talents to or do the perfect voice over yourself as long as the job is properly done;
- Quizzes and assessment – including funny quizzes makes the learning more pleasant. Providing fair assessment and evaluation of the work done by the learners makes them more confident and satisfied with their work;
- Feedback – giving and receiving feedback is beneficial for all parties in the process. Learners are happy to share what they liked and what they want to see improved. This information is valuable for you as the e-learning creator and developer for your next project.
What is E-Learning Localization and Why Does it Matter?
Localization can be broadly described as translating any content into a given language and adapting it to a specific region and culture. According to the definition given by Wikipedia, this is “part of the larger process of product translation and cultural adaptation to account for differences in distinct markets. Language localization differs from translation activity because it involves a comprehensive study of the target culture in order to correctly adapt the product to local needs.” While translation is only textual and focuses mainly on rendering the text from language A into language B, localization also includes non-verbal elements such as images, graphs, symbols, colors, design, formatting, video, etc. E-learning localization can effectively train a broader audience while conveying the same consistent message. When working with professionals in the field, it helps to avoid basic errors since they will spot any abstract concept or subtle assumptions connected to the US culture that will not translate properly into the target language. The e-learning localization is a commitment on behalf of every company to provide the proper environment for the course content so that it can achieve its ultimate goal. It adds value to the numerous benefits each corporate training brings to the company.
Choose a professional language service provider with the necessary knowledge and expertise both in the sphere of e-learning localization and in your industry. This will make it much easier in achieving the goals you have set at the start of developing the e-learning course. The advantages of e-learning localization may differ slightly depending on the purpose of the course, the target group or industry but will surely include the following four:
- Access to wider audience
- Speaking the language of the learner
- Higher retention level
- Quick and measurable results
Instead of a conclusion, it can be said that each e-learning course is created with a specific purpose. The information contained in this guide will help you achieve this purpose easier and assist you in the quicker preparation of the next training.