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The People behind the Learning Portal: Dr. Markus Wirtz - Manager Learning Materials

The People Behind the Learning Portal: Dr. Markus Wirtz - Manager Learning Materials

September 8, 2021 - by Andrew Oram

Linux Professional Institute (LPI) launched the Learning Portal in June 2019. The Learning Portal is the repository of all the Learning Materials for our exams. The whole project is managed by Dr. Markus Wirtz, Manager Learning Materials at LPI. We designed it as an international endeavour - learning is easier in your mother tongue! - hence we needed a team of authors, editors, and translators to design, write, and localize the body of lessons.

This series of interviews is a journey toward knowing better the People behind the Portal: the Linux and Open Source enthusiastic professionals who are making the Learning Portal possible.

By reading this series of interviews, you will know more about Contributors’ work, the peculiarities of translating IT educational material, and the challenges Contributors have to face restoring what could be lost in translation. And about why working on the Learning Portal is quite cool and nerdy. 

And if all this sounds interesting and you want to join us, we would be happy to receive your feedback at learning@lpi.org.

This is the interview with Markus Wirtz. Learn more about the Learning Portal and him here!

Was the idea of doing translations planned from the start, when you decided to write Learning Materials? Is the same team translating both Learning Materials and exams? How do they work together?

With our Learning Materials at learning.lpi.org, we want to make preparing for the LPI exams as easy as possible. In addition to the clear didactic concept that works both in class and in self-study, this also includes avoiding language barriers – and here translations into as many languages as possible is crucial. Thus, we published the first Learning Materials for “Linux Essentials” 2019 in English and German at the same time. There are now 9 languages, and counting. So, yes, translations have been an important part of the concept from the beginning.

In terms of translating Learning Materials and exams in fact there are very different requirements and processes behind it. The development as well as the translation of the pool of exam questions is by far the most important task in the area of product development. What is created here must meet the high standards for which LPI certifications have stood worldwide for two decades. Evaluation, standardization, but also confidentiality, for example, are aspects that must be taken into account here at every step of the process. The translation of Learning Materials, on the other hand, is much less critical: here, an error can be corrected in a matter of minutes – this is not so easy with exam questions, which are delivered worldwide and are crucial for candidates and their exam results.

Nevertheless both areas are of course closely related and therefore both belong to LPI’s product development. To give a concrete example, technical terms should always be translated in the same way within a language - both in the exam questions and in the Learning Materials. Attentive translators, but also appropriate software (keyword: translation memory) support us in this.

Are regional staff (Europe, East Asia, etc.) coordinating the translations, recruiting people, etc.?

LPI is a worldwide network of experts – this applies to the small team of employees, the numerous partners, for example in the training sector, as well as the many volunteers. Of course, the translation projects also benefit from this, in that someone always knows someone who is qualified for a specific task. This is wonderful! But the actual coordination and organization of all Learning Materials is actually done in the Product Development department. An author once described our task quite aptly as "herding cats": From the search for translators to the necessary contracts and the familiarization with our firmly defined technical processes to the presentation of our supporters on learning.lpi.org, everything runs through us. With currently about 50 projects on which authors, reviewers and translators are working, there is quite a bit to do in terms of coordination and communication.

Do translators find errors in the English text that tech reviewers failed to find? This was often true when I worked at O'Reilly.

Yes, this happens, of course. Just like the numerous readers who use our Learning Materials, the translators also find mistakes from time to time. But this is hardly surprising, because translators are certainly the text workers who have to deal with every single word most carefully. Fortunately, these are rarely technical errors, but rather inaccuracies that can lead to misunderstandings.

Besides helping people learn skills and pass exams, have the translations helped LPI's reputation and provided less tangible benefits?

Since these benefits are not tangible, they are also hard to describe in concrete terms ;). But, yes, I am firmly convinced of that! The fact that we provide free Learning Materials as a non-profit organization underlines our real concern: “promote the use of open source by supporting the people who work with it”. That can only be a good thing. :) Furthermore, the Learning Materials enable a lot of new ways of collaboration: For our partners all over the world, translations into their respective languages are of course very welcome and often an incentive to support us.

The translation projects are also interesting for the many helpers from the community: not only to deal intensively with the content, but also as an opportunity to network even more closely with experts worldwide or to document their own commitment.

We are happy to give them the opportunity – so, anyone interested in helping out is welcome to contact us, preferably by email at learning@lpi.org.     
 

 

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About Andrew Oram:

Andrew Oram

Andy is a writer and editor in the computer field. His editorial projects at O'Reilly Media ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. Andy also writes often on health IT, on policy issues related to the Internet, and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM (Brussels), DebConf, and LibrePlanet. Andy participates in the Association for Computing Machinery's policy organization, USTPC.