Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Best Practices When Designing Courses for International Audiences

(This is the 12th article of the series of learning design tips from dominKnow KnowledgeBase)

There are a many things to keep in mind when designing a course for international audiences.


Following are a number of tips:

  • Specify the country/currency when referring to pricing.
  • Specify the state/province and country when referring to cities.
  • Specify whether you’re using 12 hour or 24 hour clock time.
  • Spell out dates since numeric forms are different from country to country, or use ISO 8601, the International Standards Organization format for dates (CCYY-MM-DD).
  • Include the country code if providing a phone number.
  • Consider measurement usage and whether to provide alternatives (e.g., mile to kilometer).
  • When using special characters, view your pages on different browsers to make sure they display properly.
  • Be cautious and considerate in the use of images; what is acceptable in some cultures may not be in others, especially for images of people (e.g., bare arms and feet may be acceptable in some places but are unacceptable in others).
  • Hand gestures are often not interpreted the same way in every culture, so it’s best to avoid using these (e.g., the thumbs-up is considered a rude gesture in some areas).
  • Icons may be useful when contrasted to buttons with words, but keep in mind that not all images are universal (e.g., a mailbox may be a familiar icon for mail in North America, but not in Europe).
  • The length of words and size of corresponding buttons needs to be considered if translation to other languages is necessary (e.g., many words may be longer in languages other than English so button sizes need to accommodate them).
  • Avoid adding text to images or Flash files or else these will require re-creation in different languages
  • Consider how to approach spelling variations (e.g., “color” “colour”).
  • Color connotation varies from country to country (e.g., In Catholic Europe purple is associated with Christ on cross and mourning. Black represents death in most of Western world but white is the colour of death in many parts of Asia.).
  • Be conscious of and avoid using stereotypes: region, language, gender, age, color.
  • Avoid slang terms and colloquialisms which may not be translatable and are unlikely to be understood by international readers.
  • Use plain language (See Writing in Plain Language for more information)
  • Test early and often with target audiences!

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
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