Localization of Asian e-Learning Content: Meeting Educational Standards

The onset of Covid-19 ushered in a new era of learning. Schools, colleges, and universities around the world implemented study-from-home policies to continue students’ educational journeys while keeping them safe.

For foreign educational institutions operating in Asia, this meant a need to adapt quickly through e-learning localization. Adapting to challenges such as determining which content would need to be localized, these educational institutions are now experiencing a high sign-up rate for their courses even though many stay-at-home orders have been lifted.

With this in mind, what does the e-learning landscape look like in Asia? What are some of the challenges foreign and local educational institutions need to overcome to deliver quality content to their learners? And how are some Asian countries adapting to e-learning? These are the questions we answer in this article, so keep reading to find out more!

A brief definition of e-learning localization

A brief definition of e-learning localization entails localizing educational content for online learners who rely on digital tools and non-physical educational facilities to study course content online while pursuing specific educational goals.

Such localization necessarily looks at translating educational content not only in terms of gaining the accuracy of the content’s meaning but also tailoring that content for specific Asian audiences.

This takes into account factors such as local customs and cultures, linguistic nuances, the use of expressions and idioms, marketing content, frequently asked questions (FAQs), tests and quizzes, colors and fonts, and so much more.

The rise of Asian e-learning and e-learning localization: Opportunities and challenges

There are multiple opportunities for e-learning in Asia. Factors influencing this landscape include high internet and smartphone penetration and adoption, which are critical elements for a successful e-learning course.

However, the landscape is not as equitably distributed as it could be and what appear as opportunities can also mean challenges for many educational institutions.

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Examples include low English speaking rates or language barriers, students living in rural areas with a lack of access to technology, and limited numbers of IT experts to implement e-learning, in addition to the need for fast and adaptable e-learning localization.

What elements require e-learning localization in Asia?

For any online educational course material to be delivered with precision, timeliness, and high quality in Asia, there are several e-learning localization elements that will require translation and localization. Educational institutions—both local and foreign—delivering educational materials, it’s essential to consider factors in their localization efforts that focus on both the course material itself and the marketing aspects related to promoting one’s educational courses. These include:

Course material localization

  • Units of measurements, dates, and currency
  • Spellings and local expressions
  • Names, examples, references, slang
  • Idioms and abbreviations
  • Colors and fonts
  • Images, illustrations, and gestures
  • Music and accent
  • Images and graphs
  • Study and reference material
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Video subtitles
  • Video on-screen text (OST)
  • Audio

Marketing factors localization

  • Website or application
  • Course information and FAQs
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Community section and comments
  • Marketing material and supporting legal documentation

Considerations involved in e-learning localization

With so much to localize in terms of materials, educational institutions must have clear goals and timeframes in mind to ensure that they deliver their content to market in the fastest and most accurate way. For this reason, it’s necessary to consider elements affecting e-learning localization, including:
localizing e-learning content

  1. English proficiency: if an Asian country ranks high on the English Proficiency Index (EPI), course materials may only need to be partially localized and vice versa.
  2. Cultural match: any cultural references must be understood by the learners and some will require adaptation or recreation to fit the local culture.
  3. Cultural sensitivity: there are many cultural nuances in many Asian countries and as such, course material should not offend the learners. This includes references to examples, names, gestures, and others.
  4. Strategic decision: moving into a new market and testing it out can be daunting. If you are merely aiming to see if your efforts will be successful, it may be worth only localizing some of your content. However, if you’re planning a full-on market entry, all your content assets will need to be localized.
  5. Age of the target audience: depending on the age of your intended learners, you will need to adapt your content accordingly. For example, K-12 students will fare better with local language voiceovers and translation of on-screen text as opposed to using subtitles.
  6. Budget: e-learning localization efforts can be expensive. This requires doing a careful evaluation of your most valued assets that have the potential to deliver faster and higher returns on your investment. Also, audio and visual materials are much more expensive to localize than text-based content.
  7. Time frame: depending on when you want to launch your e-learning course in an Asian country, you’ll need to consider the time it will take to localize your content. This means you should carefully evaluate the offerings of different service providers to ensure you get your content out on time.
  8. Compliance: many countries have legal requirements for accurate translation and localization. This includes legal documents, policies, and other related information. In addition, some partners may also request that you localize certain aspects of your course content and supporting documentation.
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Case studies: China, India, and Malaysia

e-Learning localization is nowhere best analyzed than through actual cases of the process in certain Asian countries. Below, we briefly explore the e-learning landscape in China, India, and Malaysia.

China: although China has a high smartphone usage rate and strong internet connectivity, there are hundreds of millions of people living in rural areas where this is not the norm. Previously, education was carried out through radio and television programs for such audiences but today, efforts are being made to ensure that greater portions of the rural population get access to quality education as a way of equalizing the playing field.

India: India is another country that is seeking to level the educational playing field. Despite the country having numerous official languages (excluding English), and Hindi being spoken by a majority of the population, e-learning content needs to be localized for local learners while access to mobile technology and the internet will become major focus areas.

Malaysia: among one of the Asian countries with some of the fastest-paced efforts aimed at e-learning and delivering educational materials to a wider segment of the population, Malaysia has a high pre-tertiary education enrolment rate but is aiming to make Massive Open Online Courses more easily available to people living in rural or underdeveloped areas.

In conclusion

e-Learning localization is a complex process that requires consideration of multiple different factors simultaneously.

Both local and foreign educational institutions seeking to penetrate the Asian market will need to take into account their target audience, budgets, and ultimate goals when deciding on an e-learning localization partner.

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There is great potential to bring education to hundreds of millions of people in Asia. However, the process must begin with accurate and timely localization for e-learning that is in line with cultural and societal norms.