These days it’s not uncommon for companies to have global locations and a remote, multicultural workforce. As more companies expand their eLearning programs on a multinational scale, instructional designers are more frequently finding themselves in positions of having to design for learners with backgrounds and cultures very different from their own.
Chances are if you've designed instructor-led courses, you've witnessed those "lost in translation" moments (of hesitation, a lack of participation, and even downright rejection) that learners experience when their culture has not been appropriately taken into account. For those of you who have designed for multinational eLearning experiences, you also are more than likely aware of how difficult it can be to recognize those visual cues.
Often in situations where instructional designers are left with limited knowledge about the cultures they are working with, the approach taken is to design with multiple learning styles in mind using a variety of materials and activities. Although targeting multiple learning styles is one way to cater the experience to the needs of multiple individuals, it is not always the most feasible solution in cases where the eLearning must be delivered across multiple cultures at a moment's need. There is also still a risk that learners will become overwhelmed when too much of a variety fails to align with their learning culture.
Instructional designers can follow these strategies to ensure learning experiences are culturally-adaptive and authentic.
1. Keep it real.
Consider using games or simulations that mimic the reality of the workplace or community where the knowledge will be transferred, and that require the learner to take an active role in the experience. Research shows that not only can games and simulations immerse learners in deeper, more authentic experiences, they can also lead to strong behavioral changes.
An example is the cyber-security facility simulator developed by our custom solutions team and MetaMythic that provided learners with an opportunity to build and customize a virtual facility with defenses based on the CIP standards. In this simulator, the learners (identified as recruits) see the real impact of a robot cyber-attacks against their facility, add CIP defenses to protect the facility, and then are given opportunities to re-run the cyber-attacks to see how the defenses work. The results of the experience was an 83% positive response in engagement—a substantial increase from the normal methods that were previously used to deliver the compliance training.
2. Go social.
Integrating social media tools such blogs, microblogs, and discussion forums can be a great way to engage learners in higher levels of critical thinking, while also helping to build positive relationships across teams.
An example is a course that I designed earlier this year that connected learners to a discussion forum on their intranet, where they were prompted to share solutions for pitching a new product to a customer. Through collaboration, the learners explored alternate solutions to meeting a customer's needs, increased their product knowledge, and improved their level of confidence in selling the new product. Additionally, as new and innovative ideas were shared, the learners developed a mutual respect and trust for one another.
3. Give the learners control.
Modern technology provides many opportunities for learners to control their eLearning experience. With mobile features such as Geolocation, for example, learners can automatically be shown relevant content based on their preferences, location, and even their language. In mobile learning experiences, location-specific push notifications, text messages, and documents can also be delivered on the spot to learners, further immersing them in deeper levels of learning.
Our custom eLearning development team can help you develop a culturally-authentic learning experience. Contact us for more information.