Crowdsourcing in education: Let's Translate Coursera

March 24, 2014, 19:00


Let's Translate Coursera is a cloud-based platform for collective translation of subtitles for video courses into Russian. It is officially supported by the leading free e-Learning Platform.

Starting from March 24th, anyone gets a chance to join it, as the platform has successfully came out of beta testing stage.

To participate in creating subtitles that the whole world will read on, all you need is simply a wish to connect with the online translation process, even if it is only a couple of phrases that you are ready to commit to. In this way lectures by the world’s best professors, which currently require knowledge of English to watch, will become accessible to a wider audience.

Those who visited the open presentation of Let's Translate Coursera held by the platform developers, Digital October center and ABBYY Language Services, met people, who wholeheartedly support the idea of crowd-powered translation:

Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng and Richard Boyatzis,

author of a course that was one of the first to be translated by Russian volunteers during the beta testing. Andrew and Richard joined the event via videolink, while distinguished guests, including spokepersons from ABBYY, IBS and other well-known figures in the IT and science world attended the event in person.

The story behind the translation of Coursera into Russian

began almost a year ago: Digital October became the official partner for translating the content of the educational platform into Russian.

After the first experience, when the subtitles for the Gamification course were translated by a translation services company, it became clear that translation by several people takes a substantial amount of time, while the goal was to organize the process so that in the future the Russian translations for new sets of lectures would appear on every week. The solution was crowdsourcing. The only issue remaining was technical implementation.

The idea of making the translation a mass process was then supported by ABBYY Language Services, the leading Russian company in the field of linguistic technologies. It set about creating an online platform, where people from all over the country could simultaneously create subtitles for their favorite courses and vote for the best translations. Upon obtaining Coursera's consent, the company began development based on its SmartCAT software last summer. In fall the project had its first participants.

On November 7th the platform was presented to guests and the online audience of the Knowledge Stream broadcast with Eli Bildner, the international translations curator at Coursera.

In the following months, the first users – at first members of DO and ABBYY staff, then professional translators and students from linguistics faculties of MSU, RSUH and MSPPU, and finally volunteers – focused on a collective task to create the first official user subtitles for Coursera. More than 760 people took part in the testing.

They began by translating three courses, but later, when one was completed and the two remaining courses were translated more than halfway, the Coursera team submitted more sets of video lectures for translation. By March 2014, 900 pages (more than 225,000 words) of subtitles for 9 courses were translated, and the comments by those who participated in the testing helped improve the platform, making it more understandable and fast.

The first translations made by the current and future participants of the Let's Translate Coursera project will appear on soon. Our next goal is to make these updates occur regularly.

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