With eLearning becoming an increasingly common fixture of corporate training and professional development, many have pointed to higher education as the next frontier in online education, particularly in light of the current pandemic. What many may not realize, though, is that universities have been cautiously making their way towards offering full online degree programs for some time now. In one notable case, Georgia Tech offered its computer science master’s program completely online for the first time in 2014. Some six years on, 10,000 students were enrolled in that program as of May of this year, while enrollment numbers for on-campus programs at Georgia Tech have yet to see a significant drop.
As New York University professor wrote in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, universities received a rude awakening during the pandemic. Without the option of attending classes in person, getting a university degree online seems increasingly advantageous: it’s cheaper (Georgia Tech’s master’s program costs a sixth of what the same coursework costs in person), more inclusive of those with disabilities or chronically ill who have been the unheard market for more online education, and more recession-proof, as most American college students find themselves in precarious financial situations when it comes to tuition. Meanwhile, international students form a whole second demographic that would benefit from an online shift in higher education.
Admissions data for recent years has shown that incoming college students are increasingly eager to learn online, no matter their location. Massive online open-source courses (MOOCs), as courses offered for free online, have begun to figure as a qualification that candidates list on their college applications, especially among young people abroad. Seth Allen of the Pomona College admissions department said that online classes help fill out specialized high school curriculums like those in India or the United Kingdom.
With robust online learning models, the opportunity for international enrollment essentially becomes boundless, as long as students in other countries find advantages in doing so. For example, Harvard University offers a copyright law degree program that it administers completely online, which it has licensed to 18 universities worldwide as of 2016. In fields such as copyright law, the American mode of education is highly desirable, creating a potential demand for localization services to make course content as accessible and relevant to international students as possible.
Take, for example, a course such as the highly popular “Introduction to Biology” at MIT. EdX, the platform where the online version of the course is hosted, is predominantly localized for non-English speakers by way of crowdsourced translation. It is dubious how well these translators understand the scientific writing and academic language needed to conduct a course as specific as MIT’s, making additional localization efforts a crucial consideration for the providers. Simply put, this work is better entrusted to professional translators with the cultural and subject matter insight to recognize idioms and turns of phrases while accurately reflecting the core material of the course. Feedback from online users has shown these criteria to be sorely lacking where crowdsourced translation stands in for professional localization.
Increasingly, colleges and universities are establishing partnerships with third-party online education platforms. Prestigious universities like Stanford University and Middlebury College, lend the weight and gravity of their names to these programs. Meanwhile, the school is able to employ dedicated instructors and practices specific to online education, as Syracuse University has done in offering its law degree online in partnership with 2U, Inc.
Like eLearning scenarios beyond the ivory tower, bringing college coursework online and across borders creates an implicit demand for expert translators and targeted localization. CSOFT International’s global network of translators and subject matter experts work with the latest translation technologies to tackle global communications challenges across industries and sectors. With rapid turnaround time and the ability to work with any language pair, CSOFT can help pioneers in education meet demand for their curricula and methodologies worldwide.