One of the reasons that e-learning is so successful is that it solves a problem of delivering training to audiences that are dispersed across the country and even around the world. Our workplaces have never been more global and the more global organizations are the more scalable and efficient e-learning delivery can be.
However, that global reach makes it necessary to consider local cultures when developing and conducting training. If you deliver training to global audiences, here are a few things to consider when designing and delivering your training.
Use Global English
Not only is translation not necessarily the answer to conducting training overseas, it might not be necessary or even practical, especially if you need to conduct training in multiple countries that speak multiple languages. The solution is to use global english when developing and delivering training overseas. Essentially, global english is english, but free of complex language and local idioms that do not make sense in other countries.
For example, an American who is writing a training course should avoid the phrase "raining cats and dogs," as this phrase does not makes sense in other cultures. Instead, the writer would simply say, "it rained hard," or use a similar phrase describing how hard and steady it was raining.
In Some Cultures, the Trainer is the Expert
In the United States, for the most part, a best practice of training facilitation is that the trainer should be more of a facilitator of learning than "the" expert in the room. In fact, a major assumption of adult learning theory is that adult learners have experience and want to share that experience. However, in some cultures, the trainer is expected to be the expert who has the answers and provides them.
For example, in American culture, a talented facilitator will ask the group if they know the answer to a question or will ask the group what they would like the contribute. Learners in some cultures will not feel comfortable speaking up like that, expecting the trainer to provide the answer. This also applies to calling on people directly. In the United States, it is common practice to call on people (one reason for name tents, right?). This may not be accepted practice in some cultures.
Develop a Good Foundation, But Allow Localization
A great example of this is a brief story in which an e-learning course on driving principles described that the center lane was the safest lane to use on a multi-lane highway. However, this is not the case in Dubai, where drivers use the center lane exclusively for passing. The fundamentals of the course may have applied to any culture, but some specifics like which lane to use, could be swapped out for local customs, laws, and driving habits. The more specific a suggested action or example, the more likely it is a candidate for being localized.
Awareness is Key
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. However, the point is that when conducting training overseas, trainers should pay close attention to localizing the content and delivery of training, in order to maximize its success.
What experiences have you had with training overseas? We'd love to hear your stories of successes and lessons learned. Share your stories in the comments below.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.