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For an inclusive remote workforce, training with e-learning localization

Businesses in Asia are grappling with the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic. HR leaders are faced with remote onboarding. You need to maintain continuity in your multinational corporate training programs.

Throughout Asia, team members are separated by travel restrictions. How do we bridge the distance for learning and corporate training that’s still critical to staff development and company growth?

We may have become experts at remote work with video conferencing platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. But education technology isn’t a one size fits all solution. We must satisfy the needs for inclusive and effective learning with a remote workforce.

Do you have an e-learning localization strategy to meet the personalized learning needs of your multicultural and geographically dispersed staff?

Nuances in language and culture is critical in training and e-learning content localization. Photo by Andovar

Corporate training recalibration

The disruption by the global pandemic didn’t only affect classrooms in schools. Workplace learning was impacted, with a pivot towards online training. For companies with a global footprint, e-learning localization maintains consistency, inclusiveness, and effectiveness of upskilling and training programs.

“Many companies had put an immediate hold on training programs to wait and see the situation,” says Steven Bussey of Andovar, which provides content localization and translation for e-learning providers.

Based in Bangkok with offices in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Andovar has localized tens of thousands of hours of corporate training, assessment, and multimedia content into over 80 languages.

“We saw a temporary lull in orders from some of our biggest clients. This has since bounced back and is showing encouraging signs of returning to relative normality,” says Bussey, when asked for his thoughts on how the pandemic has affected corporate training in Asia.

It may be too early in the new normal to call it a trend, but Bussey says that many corporate e-learning clients are looking to switch from classroom to online.

“In our outreach with companies across different sectors, we have had several hits with companies who focus on classroom training — PowerPoint and PDFs — who have inquired into the possibility of us transforming them into Storyline and similar applications so that it can be hosted on an LMS.”

Content localization studio in Bangkok. Photo by Andovar

Translation vs localization in e-learning

Remote onboarding and work upskilling through e-learning is on the minds of human resources departments globally. The job reskilling sector leads Southeast Asia EdTech startups.

With the focus on workforce learning, employee training programs don’t have to be limited to a small cluster of participants in one place. It’s expensive (and currently difficult with mandatory quarantines) to fly employees to one centralized location. 

With current work-from-home and social distancing rules, the future of learning has arrived. Many of those e-learning training modules need to be delivered online.

A translation of your training manual isn’t enough. Translation only converts your e-learning content from one language to another.

Content localization takes a holistic approach. It considers the cultural references of your learners and adapts the entire training material – beyond text – accordingly.

The goal is to deliver the same message as the original content, in the appropriate context, cultural setting, and emotion.

Who needs to localize e-learning?

If your training program targets learners from different parts of the world, it is crucial to go beyond translation and localize the content. Colors, imagery, background, and gestures can mean different things in different places.

Photo by Pawel Janiak

“Working for a major e-learning company in Europe that was selling off the shelf e-learning products into Japan, we had to provide culturalization assessments and recommendations related to the office scenes depicted in their animations,” explains Bussey.

Some audiences may be more accustomed to instructors with a friendly tone, while in Asia, depending on the country, learning can be associated with an authoritative tone.

Translation alone won’t address the nuances in language and culture. If the training content does not speak to a learner’s culture, learners can find difficulty connecting. Localizing the training material will help a learner improve acquisition and retention of new skills and knowledge.

“In countries in Europe, the office hierarchy and level of formality are far less pronounced, than for Japan and other Asian business settings,” says Bussey.

“We therefore advised on adjustments for animations depicting interactions between staff and managers to be more formal. This also applied to the office dress, and office backdrops.”

Implementing e-learning localization can be a win-win for a company and its employees, as it delivers specific and targeted opportunities for upskilling and knowledge.

Diversity in Training Modules

Localizing online training modules allows organizations to create a training program and tailor it to suit the needs of employees in different global regions. 

The source training content module retains basic principles and can be further adapted through e-learning localization, given the context of the target audience.

Details to look out for in e-learning content localization in Asia include specific languages dialects and spoken language — Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic — for voiceover elements.

Multicultural voice talent used in e-learning content production. Photo by Andovar

“Sometimes Asian English is required to simulate an English speaking Asian business setting, which means recording with voice talents in their second language which can be more challenging,” says Bussey.

The maturity of your learning audience may call for a certain demographic of translator and writing style. For example, Japanese has three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji.

Other details to be mindful of in e-learning content localization are course graphics and animations that represent Asian working environments as opposed to Europe or the US.

Also make sure to use colors that don’t have negative connotations such as black in Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, and brown for India.

“As with all projects we look to assign SME translators, conduct thorough terminology management processes, create style guides, implement sample translation milestones, but this isn’t necessarily unique to Asia,” explains Bussey.

Broader Reach, Be Efficient

It is cost-effective to localize source training modules for learners in different locations.  The source training material will have a broader reach through content localization. This saves costs in having to develop individual teaching modules from zero. 

Use simple language in the source training module. Avoid the use of local colloquialisms, complex jargon, or any visual elements with embedded text. This avoids having to create new images and graphs.  

With the coronavirus pandemic, Bussey has seen new topic area requests in corporate training. “We have seen a surge in data protection, compliance, health and hygiene courses, and other topics that reflect the work-from-home trend.” 

Tailoring corporate training content for appropriate cultural contexts. Photo by Andovar

Consistency and Uniformity

Leveraging the same source training module for employees in different geographical locations creates consistency and uniformity in your training programs. 

When the same text, photo, and video content is made available to all participants — in different languages and cultural contexts through content localization —  you can be confident that your team in Asia, Europe, and the US are being empowered with the same set of knowledge and skills.

“We look to leverage technology where possible to be more competitive and speed up time to market,” explains Bussey. “Leveraging tools like machine translation are less viable with Asian languages than for certain European languages, mainly due to Asian languages’ lexical distance from English.”

content localization eLearning
Photo by Bongkarn Thanyakij

Inclusiveness and Higher ROI

Investing in e-learning localization for employee upskilling will boost your brand’s image from within the organization.

Show your geographically dispersed team that you are mindful of the cultural values and differences of your workforce. Content localization demonstrates that your organization is inclusive and values diversity.

Localizing your training and upskilling modules brings a higher return on your investment. Hiring training experts for different office locations across the world is an expensive endeavor. 

Content localization makes your workforce feel valued, irrespective of their location. Employees are more likely to engage with localized training material, retain it better, and apply it in their work processes

Being able to learn in one’s native language improves content comprehension. With e-learning localization, learners can be empowered toward more holistic knowledge acquisition and retention.

LEARNTech Asia
LEARNTech Asia showcases innovation in learning in Asia. We feature stories and resources in online learning, workplace learning, adult education, EdTech, and creative solutions by teachers and trainers in learning institutions, non-profits, and enterprises that enhance human capacity and inspire communities of lifelong learners.