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 7 Cultural Impacts On eLearning Outcomes

7 Cultural Impacts on eLearning Outcomes (and How to Overcome Them)

Cultural differences can and often will affect the effectiveness of eLearning programs. These differences affect not only the learning experience, but also the impression of learning and development programs and training programs in the workplace.

Diversity Matters

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion is critical to creating and managing online learning and train-the-trainer programs. In our increasingly global business environment, course designers, trainers and participants are unlikely to share the same views, experiences and expectations. Materials prepared and delivered from a one-stop-shop perspective can create friction for learners [1]which leads to detachment, incomprehension and even resentment.

We know that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategies are critical to attracting and retaining great talent. As a result, companies cannot afford to exercise deaf. Trainers must understand, accept and incorporate DEI principles into program development, learning environments, content, delivery platforms, assessments and analysis. We cannot expect learners to adapt to teachers. Teachers need to create learning and development (L&D) programs that are inclusive and adapt to learners.

See cultural clues

The following are some of the top issues to watch out for and how to keep them from affecting the effectiveness of eLearning.

1. Language barriers

When courses are designed by people who speak English as their first language and only language, non-native speakers run the risk of not understanding the nuances of the English language. Non-native speakers can interpret words or phrases very differently, and even different dialects of English can present a problem with interpretation. When dealing with a multilingual audience, translate materials into multiple languages ​​as needed, including assistance for the hearing impaired. Avoid slang, jargon, acronyms, and metaphors that don’t translate well or that can be misinterpreted.

2. Cultural norms

Differences in cultural norms can affect learner participation [2] in training programs, including the way they respond to questions and their perceived role in the student-teacher relationship. Some learners may be more reluctant, less involved in the voice, and see a teacher’s roles differently. This can make them hesitate to ask questions or go in a more specific direction. These calm, more reserved students can make it seem like they don’t understand the material. Other learners are more participatory, vocal and likely view the trainer as a facilitator who can / should be interviewed and challenged in order to achieve maximum learning value. These students want more independence and interaction with their peers, which runs the risk of dominating the discussion and making others feel left out.

3. Visual cues

Culture often affects how images are interpreted, and at times the confusion can be uncomfortable or downright offensive. Common hand gestures [3] like the “OK” or “thumbs up” have very different connotations in different cultures and different color interpretations [4] can affect the learning experience. For example, while black is often viewed as the color of mourning, in many countries it is actually white. Red is a warning in the US, but luck and prosperity in China. To avoid ambiguity, confusion, or offense, use universal visual cues in training design, have content checked for cultural sensitivity, and tailor training for each audience to ensure maximum relevance and understanding.

4. Technology distortion

The lack of internet access is a real problem in much of America [5]and with the popularity of eLearning, it can inadvertently discriminate against rural and communal areas that lack internet access or that experience poor bandwidth from providers. Tech bias can also be an issue for those working in industries that don’t need 24/7 access to technology or need a computer to do their job. To avoid disenfranchising those who do not fit or do not fit the profile of a “typical online learner”, design programs to be lightweight, use minimal bandwidth, and use mobile-accessible platforms can be.

5. Time zone bias

With today’s dispersed workforce, scheduling synchronous training programs can be extremely problematic. For example, a one-hour session scheduled for 3 p.m. in California falls right during dinner / family time in New York, which puts these workers at a disadvantage. If the training has to cross international borders, the situation can get even worse. Lunch and study at noon in some parts of America is equivalent to late evening in Europe. The trainers also need to know the cultural holidays so as not to disturb or force people to train on days off. This time zone bias is one of the many reasons self-directed learning management systems (LMS) and streaming-on-demand training tools are far better than synchronous or in-person lessons – they allow learners to learn at the time and pace that works best for they.

6. Gender bias

Content that does not reflect any person beyond their gender identity will not resonate with learners and alienate many. This is an area where implicit bias occurs [6] This is particularly common when materials frequently depict people in roles typically associated with gender – for example, male doctors and female nurses or male truck drivers and female school teachers. Implicit biases are sometimes difficult to identify (especially within yourself) so course designers and trainers can make an assessment to identify potential hidden biases. Beyond the bias, gender norms also vary widely between different countries and cultures. For training materials it is important not only to represent different genders in different roles, but also to be culturally sensitive to gender roles and expectations.

7. Assessment bias

In addition to the course materials themselves, cultural differences must also be taken into account when assessing training and course completion. For example, when conducting assessments, evidence is revealed [2] that some cultures are more exam-oriented and learn and memorize materials to pass the test. While other cultures are more process and application oriented, they are keen to learn how the material can be applied in real situations. Taking these cultural differences into account when designing and delivering learning assessments is critical. Otherwise, the material will appear to fall flat or the learners will not understand it when in reality the assessment method just does not suit their learning style.

Content designers, trainers and administrators need to learn to be aware of the influence of culture on the learner and the learning process. Culture is fluid [7]- It sometimes changes quickly and trainers need to be constantly aware of changes in the environment and their impact on the learning experience. When cultural norms change, HR and learning and development functions must be prepared to adapt learning methods, messages and systems accordingly.



[2] Cultural Differences in Online Learning: International Perceptions of Students

[3] 5 Everyday Hand Gestures That Can Get You In Serious Trouble Outside Of The US

[4] The importance of color in cultures around the world

[5] COVID-19 lockdowns reveal the digital not-have in rural areas – here are the guidelines to which they can be linked


[7] The Effect of Cultural Awareness in Online Teaching: An International Perspective

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