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The Culture and Learning Connection

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Can culture affect how we learn? Do people from different cultures learn differently?

With companies operating in different countries, their workforce is becoming multicultural, speaking different languages and coming from different and distinct cultural backgrounds. Does this affect the way they learn? Do organizations take into account the cultural factors when designing learning and training programs? What do they do when they have to translate their eLearning courses into multiple languages?

We wanted to find out, if organizations consider cultural aspects as important, when designing and translating eLearning courses. For the purpose, we surveyed about 100 organizations, spread across 33 countries, using eLearning for training their employees. The key stakeholders, who responded to our questionnaire, were actively involved with eLearning, in one form or the other, within their organization.

Here is what we found out: About 71% of the respondents were very sure that cultural aspects were important, when developing eLearning courses, 10% said that they did not find cultural issues significant. Only 4% expressed that they never gave a thought to the issue.

Here are some of the reasons why the respondents felt that culture was important:

  • Customizing the course, keeping in mind cultural aspects, facilitates learners to better relate to the content and thereby, maximizes learning.
  • The teaching modality varies with each culture and one has to be sensitive to this, when designing e-learning courses.
  • Graphics used, religious sensibilities and the target audiences also influence the way the course is designed. For example, an eLearning course for a machine operator in the US will have to be different, from the eLearning courses for his counterpart in Asia.
  • People from different cultures learn differently. Therefore, supplementary materials may have to be provided, to support varying learning styles along with the eLearning courses – supporting documents, in printable format, videos etc.
  • In courses with high contextual references such as workplace harassment, safety or compliance courses, cultural aspects become important, as examples have to be relevant to target audiences.

Our survey clearly establishes that organizations do consider cultural aspects when designing eLearning courses. What has been your experience? Do you consider cultural aspects important for eLearning courses? Do share your thoughts.

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