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eLearning on a Global Scale August 7, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , ,

I was presented with an interesting task recently: I was asked to recommend a learning management system (LMS) that can support 6 different languages (English, French, French-Canadian, Italian, German, and Spanish). This is new territory to me; I have only worked with LMSs and eLearning courses in English. So I embarked on many hours of research (thank you, eLearning Guild) and web surfing to learn about multi-lingual LMSs. I read data sheets and sales-speak until my eyes glazed over. (Side note: Why do most LMS web sites use so many buzzwords? Do we really to target seamless functionality while harnessing talent and performance management in order to align our metrics with a user-centered approach? Sheesh.)

I found a few LMSs that offer multiple languages, but it was a trickier search than I would’ve expected. LMS vendors tend to bury this information, which surprised me. So here are some of the LMSs I found in my search: IntraLearn LMS, Cornerstone OnDemand, Meridian Global LMS, and
SumTotal. These LMSs made my short-list for two reasons: First, they supported the required languages, and second, they all rated well in The eLearning Guild’s 2008 360-Degree Report on Learning Management Systems.

So, here’s where I’m a newbie: When purchasing off-the-shelf content, do vendors typically provide you with separate SCORM/AICC files for each language? How do you manage multi-lingual LMSs and multi-lingual content?

I’d love to hear from eLearning developers/integrators, as well as any vendors that may be listening. I doubt I’m the first person to tackle multi-lingual eLearning. And just maybe this info will be helpful to others who are tasked with researching, selecting, and implementing multi-lingual eLearning.


1. John Hathaway - August 7, 2008

This is an area that in my opinion most LMSs do an absolutely terrible job!
For part of my time at Autoesk I ran the tech side of our World Wide Channel Readiness group. We had a single LMS serving content to partners in 8 languages. Our content did have a separate SCORM packages for each language of each course. Most LMSs do seem to treat each of these as a separate course, not as variations of the same course. This makes reporting a bit of a pain, since often you want to know things like “how many people are trained on X” regardless of their language.
When we had English only content we had it organized into curricula by roles for each product division (e.g. architecture, manufacturing.) When we added the languages, we ended up with a curriculum for each of these roles for each language. This was a real nightmare to maintain. Would be nice to have a single curriculum per role that would easily let people see the courses in their language. But I’ve not seen an LMS that actually does that well.
We had a person or 2 in each region (e.g. EMEA, APAC) to do admin and support. This allowed us to provide support in a more timely manner and helped with the language differences as well. Would definitely recommend this if you have the resources.

2. B.J. Schone - August 7, 2008

Hey John!

Excellent point about reporting – I hadn’t thought about that. The next version of SCORM is in the works; perhaps they’ll include a way to handle language specification for content (and subsequently reporting). But then we’d have to wait several years for content providers and LMS vendors to become compliant. 🙂

3. Jon T - August 7, 2008

Hi John.

The Oracle iLearning LMS also supports those languages.

In my experience (of both procuring and developing eLearning content), vendors do tend to provide seperate SCORM/AICC files per language which can be a nightmare from a workflow perspective.

The best work around is to seperate the text/audio from the course files and include all languages in a single SCORM/AICC course. This reduces the need multiple courses on the LMS but requires the learner to select the language manually (it is possible to set it up to do this automatically by parsing the users preferred language to the course via a SCORM/AICC variable and selecting the right version of text/audio).

Here’s an example: http://portal.quistor.com/demos/astratech/intro.html

Email me if you want any more info.

4. Janet Clarey - August 8, 2008

Hi B.J.
Please email me and I can give you some more organizations to look at via our LMS KnowledgeBase. I work for Brandon Hall Research and we have a database of 100s of LMS companies and filter systems by languages (62 of them) for both the learner and administrative side of an LMS. I would be glad to assist you.

5. Janet Clarey - August 8, 2008

BTW…In addition to the systems you found, I show the LMSs listed below as offering the languages you need. (but would need to clarify a few things, i.e., is Spanish, for example, Latin American or European?)

Affiliated Computer Services, Inc., Mzinga, Oracle USA, PeopleSoft (Oracle), Saba, Technomedia Training Inc., GeoMetrix Data Systems Inc., Novasys, CERTPOINT SYSTEMS, Inc.

6. Iain Clements - August 12, 2008

hi all

I’d absolutely echo all of the comments made above. Our vendors provide seperate AICC/SCORM files for each language version of a course, and because our system is entirely in English we were treating each course as a completely seperate offering, which allowed us to at least add the course title, description, keywords, eligibility criteria and more in the same language as the content.

However, as John pointed out this becomes an administrative nightmare, so I recently completed a project to set up all multiple language coures inside a single class object.

Single classses with multiple course languages inside of them greatly help reporting and administration, but it did throw up one new issue.

When we set up class X with languages English, German, and Spanish courses inside it our LMS expected the user to complete ALL content inside the class before marking them as complete. So, with a bit of retrofitting we set up rules to allow a person to complete either language option and be marked as complete on the entire class.

Roll on the next SCORM version if it helps with this.. : )

7. Therese Owen - August 19, 2008

Element K’s LMS, KnowlegeHub, is translated into 11 different languages and can be changed on the fly by the student or controlled by the administrator.

The LMS allows and administrator to target particular courses to groups or regions so that for example only the Chinese speaking regions would see Chinese language courses. Reporting can be consolidated.

Element K has Solutions Architects that can work with you to set up a successful program that works well for your learners and administrators. I would be happy to help get that conversation going.

8. Steve Nguyen - August 28, 2008

We use PeopleSoft Enterprise Learning Management (ELM) and the interface supports 11 languages. You should also make a distinction between the interface and the metadata that supports the courses (course titles, descriptions, etc.). PeopleSoft actually has a pretty cool interface for the entry of this metadata in the native language. So if I choose to see the interface in Spanish, and there is metadata entered in Spanish, voila! I see Spanish titles and descriptions for the same course record which might also have English metadata. So from a reporting standpoint, we’re able to report on one course ID and know everyone that has taken it.

We do, however, have to have a separate “activity” for each course that is in a different language. I can understand why from a course perspective each language has it’s own course. But I wish the LMS was a little smarter and able to figure out that I’ve selected the Spanish interface, if there is a Spanish version available, serve that one up.

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