eLearning is gaining immense importance and adoption with every passing day due to its flexible and cost-effective nature. Most organisations are reaching out to their employees spread across the world via eLearning but are these eLearning programs culturally adaptive? Well, it is becoming increasingly important for organisations to deliver eLearning courses which are culturally responsive and accommodate the learners’ preferences and their learning outcomes.
When designing for cultures that are very different from their own, instructional designers face certain challenges and that’s where cultural adaption eLearning content providers play a part. While solutions for eLearning content needs might differ for industries, it is of utmost importance that knowledge transfer in eLearning is applicable in the learner’s environment. So, to help you promote your eLearning programs cross culturally, we have mentioned some beneficial tips alongside the challenges faced by instructional designers for the same.
Cultural Challenges in E-Learning
The effects of culture on learners’ experiences in eLearning environments is acute. Culture profoundly affects social behaviour, cognitive processes, and the way how one interacts with learning technologies. Therefore, the eLearning programs designed today are not culturally neutral.
The various hardships faced by course designers revolve around language translation, localization, and access, the details of which are as mentioned below. However, these must be overcome for providing a better learning experience to the audience.
- Language Translation: Since learners possess different communication styles, course designers have to promote their course cross culturally. For the same, they have to translate it in different local languages which includes possibly making changes from American to British English or vice-versa.
- Localization: Apart from language, there is a localization factor which needs to be taken care of. Certain elements of the same include usage of colors, clothing, social gestures etc. Hence, course designers are stuck in a dilemma of choosing the most appropriate color for different sets of audience. Alongside, they have to spend large amounts of time to ponder upon gestures to be used and the type of clothing to be selected.
- Access: Apart from the above two challenges, course designers also need to take care of whether users have access to the technology they need in order to undertake the course. Various examples of the same include computers, internet, broadband connection, plugins, and others alike.
Tips to promote eLearning programs cross-culturally
As already highlighted how important it is for eLearning programs to be culturally responsive and adaptive, hence it is of vital importance for course designers to boost their cultural agility and provide solutions for eLearning content needs, the steps for which are as follows.
1. Develop a frame of reference
One of the key ways to develop cultural agility is to have a frame of reference for all the different cultures. And one of the best ways to do this is by setting aside any assumptions (or premature judgments) that you have about those cultures followed by understanding the basics of how cultures are framed.
Some of the various factors to be taken into consideration for the same include communication styles (direct vs indirect), relationships (interpersonal vs. transactional), control (external vs. internal), motivation (status vs. balance), style (formal vs. informal), and time (controlled vs. fluid). Such a framework shall help you learn to leverage the similarities and differences across cultures in a way that it brings together learners from a wide range of backgrounds.
2. Gain culture-specific knowledge
One of the easiest ways to understand other cultures and gain in-depth knowledge about the same is by researching about them at first. This is a good way to go before interacting with people as it shall help you gain the prerequisite cultural intelligence. Start with searching the internet, reading books, watching movies, which is then followed by interacting with co-workers and friends from other cultures. This indeed is great ways to gain culture-specific knowledge that can be leveraged to help you provide the best learner experience across all cultures.
3. Cross-Cultural Adjustment Process needs to be understood
When you’re interacting with other cultures, it might not always be easy or you may not always feel comfortable. Feelings ranging from anxiety and uneasiness to excitement and maybe even a loss of perspective can occur when beginning to interact with unfamiliar cultures. Hence, a cognitive understanding of the behavioural changes is required, such as knowing that a handshake is considered overly formal in some cases or any other particular gesture is deemed to be inappropriate. And, this is only the first step to successfully interacting with other cultures.
There are ways by which these cross-cultural adjustment challenges can be minimized. These include: gaining knowledge of the principles of cross-cultural interactions, and also the different ways in which cultures differ, and what behavioural changes are required. Secondly, practising mindfulness is what is required so it’s best to focus your attention on cues that require adjustments. Lastly, stocking up behavioural skills is recommended as it will help adapt to different cultural contexts at any point in time.
When you interact with people from different cultures, it is not necessary that you immediately follow the information you come across. It might take you some time to process the experience. Meanwhile, you can reflect upon what you experienced by asking yourself questions such as: what seemed familiar or different, what was interesting, what insights you could draw about the work done or people involved, and what could you focus on to deepen your understanding or to improve future experiences.