Creating multilingual Open edX courses

Learners come from all over the world, and your site has a need to deliver multilingual courses. You may need to offer the same course in a different language, or even mix multiple languages in one course. Let's start with an important note:

There is no cost-free, simple, push-button way to deliver the same course in another language without sacrificing quality.

There are a number of free widgets and auto-translation tools that claim you can embed them into your site without needing to perform any further work. They just click a button and the job is done. This is sadly an over-simplification, and will lead to inaccuracies and poor courses which cannot deliver a learner experience that's anywhere near as good as your original work. There are more considerations to take into account than just text! 

  • What happens when your video isn't translated?
  • What happens if one of your instructors has tried to be funny and throw some puns into a problem that makes it impossible to complete because the pun doesn't translate? 
  • What happens when your learner support team doesn't know how to speak the language of someone taking your courses?

Multilingual courses are not something to enter into lightly, which is why we felt the need to start with this caveat. If you've taken these into account and accept the risks, let's look at the two methods of actually doing this.

Method 1 - Create an entirely separate copy of your course

The simplest way to do multiple language courses is by simply creating multiple copies of your course. The best way to do this is typically dependent on what translation service you're using to create your website's copy. Some will simply ask for a course export file, which you send over to them and they'll return translated for you to import into your site. Others will ask you to create a copy of the course and then translate it in Studio, provided you grant them access to do so.

Pros

  • Very little setup necessary
  • Easy for whatever translation company you use to work with
  • Separates everything by default

Cons

  • Splits your course completely in two (or however many languages you support), with no way for multilingual learners to interact
  • Requires separate course management
  • Requires you to manually combine analytics and reporting to get an overall view of all copies of the course

Method 2 - Use content groups

Content groups allow you to present the same course run to multiple groups of learners. They ensure that despite being on the same page, different groups of learners get different content experiences. For more details on setting these up, consult our article on providing different content to cohorts of students in Open edX via content groups

Pros

  • A single course to manage enrollment, analytics and reporting centrally
  • Learners can interact in discussions where you choose to allow the cohorts to intermingle

Cons

  • A lot more setup required
  • Harder for unfamiliar translators to work with
  • Moderators can always see posts from both cohorts (so harder for monolingual moderators to dig through)
  • Does not allow you to localize things like custom pages in the course, your welcome message or course title
  • Cohort assignment must be done per learner after enrollment

Overall, we recommend method 1 for 90% of courses. In multilingual environments where you're sure that learners will all be able to communicate in either language, method 2 may be suitable, but even then it's only feasible to do this if the course is for a smaller cohort of learners whose enrollment is being managed manually, not for open access courses.

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