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E-learning for Excellent Training For Your Global Workforce

Are you the person in-charge of training the international staff of your company? Do you intend to provide the best training to your people at reduced cost? Then, eLearning is the right solution for you. Let me share more on how eLearning is used by multinational organizations to impart effective training to their global workforces.

E-learning is the preferred mode for imparting training to the staff of multinational companies (MNCs). We conducted a survey about the use of online courses by global organizations. It was revealed that 86% used eLearning which indicates the popularity of online courses among international businesses. So, why is eLearning widely adopted? E-learning has certain decisive advantages that make it ideal to impart effective training in a global context. They are:

  1. Online courses can be quickly rolled out on a global scale.
  2. Training can be easily and effectively standardized.
  3. The reach of eLearning is global.
  4. Learners can access online courses anywhere, anytime
  5. Last but not the leasteLearning is far cheaper and more effective than Instructor led Training (ILT).

Before we see how online courses can be adapted for global audiences, we need to understand the importance of culture on learning.

Role of the learners’ cultural background

English is the global language of business and most of the educated people in any country are quite proficient in reading and speaking English. So, why can’t we just make a course in English language and roll it out? In any case most of your workforce in different countries understand some English at least. It is because of the cultural differences among the trainee populations.This is arguably the most important and often overlooked aspect that needs to be considered when you develop an eLearning course for your multinational staff. According to David Kolb, an eminent American educational theorist, culture plays a key role in determining the way people learn.

His theory says that each of us will have an inclination or propensity to learn in a particular way — kinesthetic, visual, or auditory. All of us learn combining all these ways, but we do have a preference for a particular learning style.If a culture learns predominantly through visuals then compelling them to learn in a way that an oral culture would, could be highly counterproductive. Furthermore, it has been proved that various elements of culture such as social organization, customs and traditions and gender disparities in the society have a profound impact on learning.

For example the way an eLearning course has to be designed for a Middle Eastern audience is substantially different from how you design the course for North American learners or for your Indian staff. You may like to check out this presentation for more information.

We now have an idea of the impact of culture on learning. We also understand that it is important to roll-out eLearning courses in languages other than English for global workforces. So, how can you make your online course suitable for a global audience? Through localization and translation of your eLearning course.

Importance of localization and translation

Localization may be defined as the process of making an online course linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target audience in a country or regionwhere it will be used. The goal of localization of eLearning is to fully adapt an online course so that it accurately reflects linguistic, social, technical and cultural norms in the target markets.

Translation is a part of localization. But as it deals with language which is a big part of any culture, it is given prominence in the localization process.

Getting the localization right

The key to effective localization is designing a course that is culture neutral or culture agnostic. How can you make a eLearning course culture neutral? – The answer lies in formulating the right localization friendly strategies for instruction, content, visuals, audio and development. Let’s see more on how this can be done.

Formulate the right instructional strategy

It is important how you present the information to the learner – how you instruct him and how you facilitate him to go through the course. Then comes the other important aspect — how to evaluate his learning and what kind of assessments to give depending on his culture and what kind of feedback you need to provide.

So if you look at these at a strategic level of instructional design, you see different extremes of the continuum. On one hand, you see the symmetry and orderly layout of the design as opposed to an open and intuitive one. For example. western cultures prefer more open and intuitive structure and course design, whereas, if you move towards Middle East or South East Asia you’ll see that people there prefer more rigid, orderly and structured design. Here we need to make a very fine subjective judgment to strike a balance between the two extremes.

Similarly, we need to strike a fine balance between:

  1. Information heavy content vs. No Information overload
  2. Artistry and aesthetics vs. utilitarian design
  3. Precise information & instruction, detailed guidance with strict timetables vs. a more informal and open communication with responsibility on the learner
  4. Flexible, unstructured learning situations and case studies vs. highly structured, straightforward knowledge transfer
  5. Individual assignments vs. Group assignments
  6. Definitive and assertive vs. Diplomatic feedback with justification

By taking care of these aspects, we can make a course fairly culture neutral and avoid the trouble of making multiple customized courses.

See that your language is simple

It is advisable to use international English to develop the content of your online course. You would do well to avoid idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms and sports references. Sports are highly culture specific — soccer is very popular in Europe and Latin America and when it comes to India, you will find more about cricket here. So it is better that we steer clear of these kind of references. You also need to be careful while using humor. Humor is very culture-centric. What is very funny in one country may be very offensive in another. So the focus should be more on “visualization” rather than “verbalization”.

Use the right visuals and graphics

It is advisable to have neutral humanoid images such as the one below.

We prefer to avoid human photographs because they tend to communicate a lot of cultural aspects — the way people are dressed, whether their head is covered and so on. But if you have to use photographs, then we suggest you use photos of people belonging to different ethnic backgrounds, genders and ages.It goes without saying that using cultural or religious symbols and images needs to be avoided so that you don’t run into problems when we translate the course. So, you need to be very careful in the choice of visuals.

Choosing the right voice

Efficient narration can go a long way in enhancing the effectiveness of your online course. You need to choose the right narrator because in some cultures such as Middle-East and South Asia, people expect the voice of the narrator to be very authoritative and firm. But when you ask western learners, they would definitely tell you that they expect a friendly tone that is informal. The narrator needs to sound professional. For more on the use of narration in eLearning courses, please refer to How Can We Use Audio Narration Effectively in eLearning?.

Use the right authoring tool

You now have your storyboard ready. It is now time to use the right authoring tool to develop the eLearning course you want. We advise you to go in for standard authoring tools because they help you overcome the challenges that different languages pose. You have languages written right to left like Hebrew and Arabic and then you have top to bottom languages like Japanese. You will not run into technical glitches or your compliance glitches on your LMS and of course it is very easy and fast.

It will take very little time to develop as compared to Flash based courses. We have developed an interface exclusively for multi-language courses. It is a single GUI from which the learner can switch to any language at any point in the course. Also, it will avoid the clutter of having a course in each language hosted on the LMS.

Thus, you can create a highly effective online course for your global workforce. ELearning is indeed the best format for global training. What do you think? We’d love to hear your views.

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