Years ago, when I was young and had promise, I was occasionally called an “Ugly American.” (At first I chalked it up to being from America and being marginally less handsome than most.) Being referred to in such an unglamorous manner typically followed my making a statement about how weird something was or looked, e.g., wall maps in foreign countries where the United States isn’t in the middle, or Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving in October. Fortunately, I’ve since come to realize that there are a great many world views besides mine.
I mention this because our world is growing smaller as more people get connected via the internet. The engine driving this connectivity and communication is information technology. This is particularly true when it comes to learning IT online. Not every IT student understands U.S. cultural, societal and business references. I noticed this when dealing with colleagues in India. There have been days when I haven’t received a response to a critical email, only to find out that their offices were closed for a holiday or festival. (While we have just 10 officially recognized holidays here in the United States, India literally has dozens of them where people in various areas of the country don’t show up to work.)
This is why the localization of online learning courseware is so important. Localization means adapting software to the different languages, regions, cultures and technical requirements of a target market. Getting the process correct is no easy task. Some of the differences to consider when localizing courseware include formats for telephone numbers, postal addresses and codes, and electrical sockets and plugs. Even something as straightforward as a map can be a problem because of geographical naming disputes and borders — in India, failure to show Kashmir as Indian Territory is a crime.
There are four advantages for companies like TestOut to localize courseware to be country specific:
- It extends global reach by showing they value their audience and appreciate cultural differences. Doing so makes it easier for local partners to sell their courseware.
- It leverages the online learning market. E-learning is growing by leaps and bounds — 17.3 percent in Asia last year. By 2018, the global market for e-learning is expected to reach $169 billion. Expanding educational and learning content to country-specific audiences allows them to exploit new market opportunities
- It enhances student learning experience. It’s a fact that people learn better and faster when they learn in their own language, and the content is culturally relevant and appropriate. Increased learner satisfaction means higher rates of retention.
- Higher pass rates. Higher-retention rates, leads to higher success rates for exams and by extension an increase in the perceived sense of value of the courseware, and a greater likelihood of additional courseware being utilized in the future.
TestOut is going into localization in a big way. Courseware is presently being sold officially in 26 different countries, and in three different languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese. Recent releases include a Spanish version of Desktop Pro, and Portuguese versions of Desktop Pro, PC Pro and Network Pro.
The IT world is shrinking. Business is regularly conducted across borders at an increasing rate, and localization is becoming more important by the day. It makes sense to appreciate cultural and national differences.
About the Author — Calvin Harper is an associate editor for GoCertify and a veteran of the publishing industry. Far from being an ugly American, Calvin is actually a handsome devil.