2015 in Academia: Talent for Providers, Money for MOOCs

In the five months since Slator went online in August 2015, we identified a couple of trends within academia that are relevant to the language services market at large.

First, the growth of the language industry is pushing universities and other academic institutions to offer relevant courses. Second, massively open online courses (MOOCs) are benefiting from developments in machine translation and crowdsourcing.

Demand Spurs Supply

2015 saw a number of academic institutions open new language translation courses. The Goethe Institute in Cairo, Egypt, the University of Bath in the UK, and the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in the US all announced language translation-related courses in succession last September 2015.

The Goethe Institute in Cairo, Egypt, inaugurated a new language center that will begin teaching German language courses. The University of Bath’s Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, on the other hand, announced the new one-year programme MA Translation with Business Interpreting (Chinese) to be offered starting September 2016. Finally, in the US, the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ Department of World Languages and Cultures announced a new certificate program: the Graduate Certificate in Translation Studies. It aims to address the growing need for more translation professionals and is already accepting applications. It will officially begin in 2016.

MOOCs Leverage Technology for Translation

As the rise of MOOCs is increasingly making online learning a legitimate alternative to physical classrooms, MOOC providers are constantly finding ways to further democratize their courses. In fact, global demand for online learning has spurred the EU to take another shot at machine translation for MOOC platforms.

TraMOOC, or Translation for Massive Open Online Courses, secured EUR 3 million (USD 3.2 million) from EU’s largest Research and Innovation Programme, Horizon 2020. A collaborative project of ten academic institutions and businesses, the project’s goal is to create a translation plugin for MOOC platforms which can machine translate the content of online courses.

Slator talked to Dr. Joss Moorkens about the EUR 3 million project. One of the people involved with TraMOOC, Dr. Moorkens is a post-doctoral researcher at the ADAPT Centre in the School of Computing and a lecturer in Multimedia Translation at the School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies at Dublin City University. He told us the end-goal of the project was to commercialize the tool for business use. He explained that the three-year project was creating niche-specific machine translation tools. It will also probably venture into crowdsourcing translations in later stages.

In terms of crowdsourcing MOOC translations, Coursera is already leading the way. As the MOOC provider expanded, it allowed its own learner base to voluntarily translate content into their native languages, building a Global Translator Community of crowdsourced translations while also partnering up with philanthropic and academic institutions for funding and expertise.

These trends will continue in 2016 as more academic institutions respond to the continuing growth in the industry and further technological advances enable MOOC providers to globalize.