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N. Englisch, A. Heller, W. Hardt

Chemnitz University of Technology (GERMANY)
Due to internalization in university study programs more and more multilingual study courses are released. These multilingual courses are mostly provided in the first language of the country and English language. This has consequences for everything which is related to education like educational material, lecturer and Learning Management Systems (LMS). For the wide integration of net-supported teaching and learning scenarios a simple handling of e-Learning applications shows a key place to users. To extend e-Learning systems on a huge number of suppliers and users multilingual content is necessary. This paper provides a generic approach for a multilingual concept of LMS which can be used for the conception of new LMS or to migrate a monolingual LMS to multilingualism.

Most of the current available LMS have an individual implementation of multilingualism. Some of them offer multilingualism only for system text but not for the user content. For y high acceptance of users a user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) is important. So the multilingualism offers good possibilities for the user but for the administrator in LMS it raises the effort for the creation and maintenance of content. Through this approach a general approach is made to have a common handling for multilingual content in LMS in future.

The main content of a LMS can be reduced to courses which represent the learning content like lectures, exercises or online courses. The data of courses can be split into elements which represent the learning content, documents or information (Info-Elements) and elements which have an abstract function like contact form or forum (Func-Elements). Both types of elements are organized in a tree structure. Info-Elements can be divided into content and properties. To define multilingual content it is necessary to define all these elements multilingual. So it suggests itself an inheritance of the defined languages, hence languages which are defined for a course are set to all the elements in the hierarchy. An important fact is the definition of standard and additional languages. The difference is that the standard language has to be defined for each element and content – additional languages are optional. This implicates that the standard language can be used as fall back layer especially for optional languages which are not defined completely in a course. The multilingual handling of Func-Elements does not need to be treated special because they are represented by multilingual system text and properties.

The presented concept has been implemented in the LMS OPAL (Online Platform for Academic Learning). The OPAL is used by Saxon universities (Germany) and was planned as a monolingual system. So the challenge was the migration of a monolingual online system to a multilingual LMS without consequences to the users. For a good usability an automatic migration and user-friendly wizards have been implemented. The first features of this roadmap have been already released to the user in July 2013.