The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people. And one of the best ways to experience diversity is through the different cultures of every country and community. When speaking with someone of a different culture, it is important to use language and gestures fine-tuned to their own unique culture. This concept is especially critical in business, as a brand that takes the time to learn its consumers’ cultures is a brand that is better trusted to understand its consumer.
Cultural differences greatly affect the eLearning industry. Before an eLearning course can be translated, it is necessary to examine how cultural differences impact eLearning content. If this step is not taken, it is likely that 1) the meaning of the content will change and 2) the effectiveness of the course will reduce when translated.
Here are a few common cultural differences to consider as you design your eLearning and training programs.
Formality in Teaching Style
The level of formality in teaching styles varies between cultures. For example, informal teaching is typically the norm in the United States. An informal teaching style is characterized by students speaking up and giving their opinions as an active part of the conversation. In contrast, China traditionally uses a formal teaching style where the instructor conducts all of the conversations, and students do not express their opinions. It is essential to research the audience for your course to guarantee that the right teaching style is used.
Signs and Symbols
Signs, symbols, gestures, and colors are all culture-specific. What may be appropriate for one group of students could be offensive to another group. One good example to illustrate this concept is a “thumbs up” sign. In the United States, this sign is commonly used to express approval or say “good job.” However, a “thumbs up” sign could be offensive or misinterpreted in other parts of the world, such as in the Middle East or Africa. Keep in mind other symbols that may not translate well when developing eLearning content, like dollar signs or road signs.
It is critical to pay attention to culture-specific gender roles when designing eLearning content. The roles of both men and women in the workplace vary drastically across cultures. For example, many Middle Eastern countries still designate a male leader as the social norm. Additionally, it is suggested to avoid using images that show men and women interacting together for eLearning courses taught in certain countries.
Language barriers affect all types of translated and interpreted content, not just eLearning. However, it is especially important to consider how language barriers such as acronyms, slang, and jargon may impact the effectiveness of an eLearning course. Non-native speakers may interpret these figures of speech very differently than how an English speaker would. For this reason, steer clear of using language phrases that do not translate well or that may be easily misunderstood.
The Value in Understanding How Cultural Differences Impact eLearning Content
Keeping cultural differences in mind early on in the development stage will assist you in producing culturally appropriate and effective eLearning content. After all, no one wishes to waste valuable resources creating a confusing or offensive course to learners from different cultures. However, be aware that culture is fluid and may change over time. As cultural norms shift, be prepared to adjust your eLearning content accordingly.
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