In a previous blog, eLearning Localization: Multicultural or Multiple Cultures?, we talked about how we can localize your eLearning courses to suit the needs of a multicultural workforce. We referenced these two figures.
Figure 1 represents a U.S. organization with a multicultural workforce. Your targeted learners, which are represented by the smaller dots, are primarily second generation or later Americans. This workforce also includes several first-generation cultural groups, which are represented as the larger circles. This indicates that while they have different cultural backgrounds, they have certain characteristics in common. In addition, they’re all U.S. residents and, therefore, are constantly exposed to American culture. One approach to addressing cultural differences is to identify overlapping similarities and localize your course to address commonalities.
Figure 2 represents a U.S. organization that does business in other countries. In this situation, you would typically regard U.S. learners as a homogeneous cultural group. In contrast to the approach described in the previous paragraph, you’d now need to modify the U.S.-designed course to accommodate learners in each of the targeted countries. Typically, you start by removing Americanisms. Then you localize versions of the course for each distinct culture or cultural group.
Let’s look at examples of how we localize for multiple cultural groups while minimizing time and resources.
Localizing eLearning Courses
As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we typically adapt eLearning courses by analyzing content, instructional approach and course technology/media to determine how:
- They align with learners’ preferences and expectations.
- We can make adaptations that are critical to achieving equitable learning outcomes.
Concerning content, we localize the language by using global English. Doing so effectively removes American jargon, colloquialisms, slang and other forms of language that tend to increase reading time, decrease comprehension and cause confusion for non-Americans.
Glossary of Terms
Another way to improve learner comprehension, while also reducing translation costs, is to create a standardized glossary of terms to be used by anyone in the course production process (e.g., content authors, script writers, etc.). A glossary not only creates a common language to be used throughout the course, but it also helps to eliminate synonyms. For example, you might decide to always use “the company” instead of “the organization” or “the institution.” Again, this approach improves readability while reducing translation costs.
Multimedia and Images
We also examine multimedia such as images, icons, background scenes, etc. To prepare courses for global audiences, you need to first identify any of those things that indicate the course was designed in the U.S. Then, you replace them with images and multimedia (including audio) that represent the targeted learners’ contexts.
For example, in the U.S. version of an ethics and compliance course, a scene shows a manager accepting a gift of wine from a vendor. However, if your targeted learners are in a country where wine gifts would be uncommon or inappropriate, you’d want to replace the images with something more locally relevant.
The same principles apply to the instructional methods. For example, in the U.S., we’re accustomed to being challenged in training courses by including case studies that need to be solved. However, in many countries, the norm is didactic learning, where the teacher is the expert and simply passes knowledge on to the students via lecture and problem-solving is not an instructional approach.
Consider an eLearning course about ethical behavior in which the designers initiated the course by requiring learners to resolve an unethical situation. Once the learners resolve the issue, they are given feedback as to why or how their responses were correct or not. However, learners in several countries expressed frustration with this approach because they were not first provided with the content that gave them the answers. In other words, they wanted to receive all the information necessary to make an informed decision before being tested on their ability to respond to the situation posed in the case study. In this course, moving the content before the case study made the course more acceptable to learners in risk-adverse cultures who were accustomed to didactic teaching methods.
Preparing Your Training Courses
How can you make such modifications without expending an excessive amount of time and resources? You can use several techniques during the instructional design process that will prepare your courses for cultural modification in a way that saves time and resources.
You can create a template for a course that will be sent to other countries. This is a best practice for any course.
- You design the learner interface with enough space to translate instructions, navigation, etc. without changing the page layout.
- Wherever you need to contextualize the content, you leave gaps or blank spaces to insert appropriate ones.
- You also design instructional events so they can be easily reordered.
- Alternatively, you offer multiple approaches to learning, and let the learners select their preferences.
Catalog Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs)
Once you create alternate content, media or learning events, catalog them so they can be reused in other courses. These are called reusable learning objects (RLOs). For example, if the image of a bottle of wine needs to be replaced with a more appropriate item, you can refer to your library. If a group activity needs to be replaced by a lecture for a more traditional learning environment, you’d search your library of RLOs. If a case study about nepotism needs tweaking for learners in emerging economies, where nepotism is accepted, design it but keep multiple versions. If you design many courses, you need to invest in your own RLO repository.
Provide Additional Materials
Sometimes courses can be modified by simply providing additional materials, such as glossaries, explanations of new learning techniques, definitions of business jargon, etc. Any asset that explains who your business is will help.
It’s not possible, or expected, that you know about every cultural nuance that might affect learning. GPI’s eLearning team can audit your courses to provide this information. In addition, we even label which modifications are more critical than others. We can also help you create glossaries and modify your instructional design processes to save you time and money. Remember, our cultural audit goes beyond identifying appropriate words and images: we’re concerned about learning styles, instructional methods and cultural dimensions. eLearning is not just software: it’s the interface for a very human interaction. Your market of learners will expect, and pay for, the most relevant learning products.