Translation is the key to success when it comes to international students

“Streamlined digital e-learning programs available in the native language of the user are proven to be significantly more effective in increasing engagement”

Pre-pandemic, there were reports that the global online education market would reach a value of $350bn by 2025, writes The Translation People‘s Alan White.

With 1.38bn students affected by the forced closure of schools, colleges and universities around the world, some online learning providers are reporting a 200% increase in usage in their platforms since March.

Earlier this month, Uganda’s First Lady and education minister Janet Museveni instructed the country’s universities to start online teaching if they hadn’t already done so.

“No continuing learner should be left behind or excluded” because of their Covid-19 response, she said.

For the 16,000 international students who come to Uganda each year, this move provided a level of accessibility to education that risked being compromised the longer lockdown continued.

Meanwhile, Stanford and Harvard universities – who welcome a collective 10,000 international students to their establishments each year – have begun providing online courses in computer science, engineering, mathematics, business, art, and personal development for the very first time to ensure students around the world can keep on top of studying while their doors remain closed.

Online learning was already surging in popularity before the coronavirus, but now education providers have been offered a unique opportunity to make sure their traditional learning is accessible and suitable for students to access remotely.

They should now be looking to utilise technology and complementary services, such as translation, to ensure national and international students can achieve an equal level of continuity in their studies.

Streamlined digital e-learning programs, which can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world and are available in the native language of the user are proven to be significantly more effective in increasing engagement and improving performance for the students.

For example, research shows that on average, students retain between 25-60% more material when learning online compared to a classroom. This is because e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn as students are empowered to study at their own pace.

In addition, learners are more likely to feel connected to and appreciated by their education provider if they know they have invested in speaking to them in their own language.

Adapting online training and tutorials to include foreign language voiceover and subtitles on pre-recorded videos for international students makes content truly accessible and relevant, no matter where a student is residing around the world.

The sense of familiarity of receiving course materials in their native tongue will make them more likely to engage with the task at hand, potentially leading to better results.

And this can be achieved before any learning even takes place. For example, translating prospectuses and syllabuses into the languages of prospective students makes universities’ offerings instantly more accessible, and positions the provider as one which places real value on personal interaction – a real benefit in such a competitive landscape.

Organisations that opt to apply this approach to marketing during the application process achieve greater engagement with their potential intake of international students, while the student is made to feel that their heritage and background is welcomed within the university community.

The future of international education still isn’t clear. And while many establishments have long had online hubs for students to access digital information in relation to their course and faculty, we are now presented with an opportunity to bring that content to life and put a more human element behind it, at a time when students are at risk of feeling isolated.

Fully embracing online learning and applying translation to e-materials creates stronger relations with existing international pupils, and can open up your establishment to more students around the world.

Meanwhile, students can boost their productivity, and are given the reassurance that even in a time of such adversity – with a challenge that education providers have never encountered before – they everything they need to achieve their goals.

About the author: Alan White is the business development director at The Translation People. With 20 years’ experience in the translation industry, his role today centres on advising best practice when it comes to communication with international audiences.