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E-learning Translations – Creating Culture-Specific Online Courses

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Diversifying into new geographical locations can be an exciting phase in the growth of an organization, but it also brings with it, added responsibilities and challenges. One of them is training of the globally diversified workforce according to the organization’s requirements.

Academic Research on Culture & Learning

David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, first mooted the idea that culture has a great influence on the way people learn. Years later, Simon Mercado after extensive research, specified the parameters one needs to keep in mind while designing e-learning courses. He suggested that different cultures had different teaching modalities, and these differences need to be kept in mind when designing eLearning courses. What he meant was that, an e-learning course developed primarily for American learners, might not have the desired impact on, say, learners in Asia, in the existing format even if it was translated into their native language. The design of the interface, the interactivities and graphics, language, references, assessments and feedback, may not be relevant to a learner in another part of the world.

Practical Experiences in Creating E-Learning for Multi-Cultural Audiences

What Mercado said makes a lot of sense; but do organizations actually develop e-learning courses keeping these diversities in mind? We have worked with a variety of clients, and all of them without exception agree that culture is an important factor to be considered when developing e-learning courses. However, none of them create multiple versions of same e-learning course to suit different cultures. It is simply not the practice. What do you think is the reason behind it? Three reasons came to my mind:

  • Time involved and coordination with SMEs of multiple languages for course validation
  • Added costs for developing customized e-learning for each region
  • Development of local references and examples, needing local inputs and validation

Essentially, time and cost seem to be the primary challenges in creating culture specific e-learning courses. That is my perception. Do you agree with me? How do you train your geographically dispersed employees with diverse cultural backgrounds?

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