Developing & Localizing for Global Delivery

By August 31, 2019June 1st, 2021LTEN Focus On Training


Developing & Localizing for Global Delivery

Feature Story – By Jonathan Ha

In a regulated industry such as life sciences, localization is critical.

Life sciences companies exist to help patients and save lives.  When developing and commercializing products that global regulatory agencies govern, the smallest misstep can result in major problems.  Proper training is not a luxury – it’s a requirement. This is why developing and localizing elearning courses and hosting them on a validated regulatory learning management system (LMS) is crucial to your organization.

eLearning Creation and Localization

eLearning localization consists of adapting online training to a specific market. This process includes translating the content into another language, tailoring the content for life sciences audiences, converting items into local codes (e.g., phone numbers, dates and addresses), customizing graphics and complying with the legal regulations of each country. Providing an in-language, culturally relevant experience for each learner improves content absorption.

Localized courses allow companies to include the totality of the global workforce, increasing retention of the content and boosting productivity.

Life sciences corporations with global teams are aware of the importance and value of localized learning — not only to reach a broader audience, but also to boost the effectiveness of training, employee morale, retention and loyalty. In a regulated industry such as life sciences, localization is critical, as misinterpretation of poorly designed and non-localized course material can lead to a very negative impact on patients.

Developing courses in English is a good way to reach a wide audience, but there are some limitations. By contrast, localized courses allow companies to include the totality of the global workforce, increasing retention of the content and boosting productivity. However, the localization process is complex and can be lengthy. To avoid pitfalls, design your source materials with localization in mind.

Make Wise Choices Early

First, it is important to confirm that the LMS is compatible with all target languages and that its maximum upload size meets your requirements. Next, it is time to choose the authoring tool to use for course development. Target languages play a big role in this decision — for example, if there is a need to translate into a right-to-left language such as Arabic, choose a tool that allows for a flipped interface.

Equally important in the decision is how much the learners will interact with the course and if there is audio, video or animation. Some file types are more laborious to localize than others; so, it is a good idea to factor in the need for potential updates to course content. For example, Flash animation looks great in the source, but is challenging to localize. When designing with localization in mind, HTML5 is a better choice.

Write for a Global Audience

While sports metaphors, pop culture references and local expressions can effectively convey concepts in the source language, it’s not always possible to translate them into other languages. To avoid problems during the localization process, write source content in the most culturally neutral way possible. This recommendation also holds true when it comes to designing graphics and choosing photographs, especially when dealing with life sciences.

Colors or images that are appropriate in one culture can be offensive in another. Research these cultural pitfalls in advance so you can select graphics that are usable for all target markets. While working on the structure of the course, it is  also advisable to segment out the information that is likely to change from language to language (contacts, local information, regulations, etc.) or that may need regular updates and store it in a separate file that will be simple to edit down the road.

There are also some important considerations when developing the module. One of them is the fonts — not all alphabets support the same font families, so check in advance which ones work for each language. The development team should also consider the text spacing and positioning of the design.

There is often significant text expansion when translating from English into other languages. Therefore, if the space you’ve allocated to the text is non-responsive or specific to the source, the text may not fit after translation, or font size will need to be decreased, making the text difficult to read. Breaking text into bullet points is a good option, and avoiding lengthy paragraphs is key.

Keep Multimedia Simple

Redesigning graphics and videos can be particularly difficult and costly. For instance, if the localized videos will have subtitles, any graphics or onscreen text appearing in the video should leave enough space for the subtitles to avoid overlaps.

Audio synchronization and cuepoint calculations are among the costliest components of the localization process. Breaking up source audio into smaller files can help improve efficiency during these steps. For example, avoid full audio files per slide if synchronization is needed with on-screen elements such as bullet points — by using a separate audio file for each bullet point, you prevent having to
synchronize each bullet to the audio in every language.

Finally, any questions used to evaluate the learner’s knowledge need to be as neutral as possible, considering varying sentence structures across languages. For example, most romance languages use articles in front of nouns and need agreement between nouns and adjectives, while English does not. Therefore, if we literally translate the source, we might inadvertently reveal the answer to a question. A good solution would be to match terms with their definitions or to use multiple-choice questions.

Thinking thoroughly about the full scope of a project while designing your course is going to have a very positive impact on the localization process in terms of time,  effort and cost.

Jonathan Ha is director of distance learning for TransPerfect Global. Email
Jonathan at


About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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