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Using e-learning for effective training and development

How businesses can train and develop their international workforce effectively
in Education and Training

The more globalised businesses become, the more challenges they face. One is ensuring that training and development programmes are consistent, effective and streamlined across the globe. We look at how technology and a forward-thinking approach can ensure success.

The industry has changed rapidly in recent years, causing companies to continuously alter their approach and find new ways of improving their performance and creating a more up to date working environment for their staff. Thanks to advances in online technology, it is now easier for companies to have staff from separate countries collaborating on the same task at the same time.

However, such a transformation demands careful consideration and preparation. As a business leader, you will need to get your team tuned into the benefits of organising training across a number of different offices. If you only provide training to certain countries, you could risk causing disharmony and a drop in employee engagement.

The primary obstacle for international training co-ordinators to consider is the language barrier. While Google Translate is a very useful tool, adapting content to suit another country is far more complex and requires an expert knowledge of the source and target languages, the culture of the company and a deep understanding of effective e-learning support mechanisms, such as visual content, audio and video.

Therefore, you need to make sure you adapt your training to suit all of the different countries and cultures that operate in your company.

The growth of e-learning

E-learning has emerged as one of the best ways for businesses to train their workforce across different countries without sacrificing any quality. The market will grow at a CAGR of 18.86 per cent between 2014 and 2019, according to a study from Research and Markets.

The report found that many businesses are branching out their activities to other regions across the globe, meaning there is more need for companies to manage communication and collaboration among workers and customers.

Massive open online courses (mooc) are a big trend in e-learning at the moment, with a number of leading universities introducing this technology to allow people to learn effectively without being in the same room as other students.

Challenges of e-learning across different countries

When introducing e-learning across different languages and cultures, companies need to address the numerous challenges that come with offering teaching in different areas of the world.

A good example is a study by the University of Huddersfield which looked at how e-learning in higher education differs between the UK and Libya, identifying technological barriers, cultural differences and other hurdles linked to management attitudes.

“Libya has demonstrated resistance to change and faces the disadvantage of lack of experience of use of the internet amongst many of its students. Therefore, the Libyan ICT policy must consider the UK’s attempts at using ICT in teaching, and evaluate how e-learning impacts on education,” the paper read, referring to the fact that distance learning and e-learning courses are not considered valid modes of education and thus not acknowledged by the educational authorities.

Furthermore, the report identified a “digital gap”, of poor connectivity and outdated equipment, which prevents many prospective students from accessing relevant resources via the internet.

From a business perspective, it is essential to consider the physical and technical parameters of the e-learning environment, as well as the receptiveness of the staff across multiple cultures.

How to adapt learning for different cultures?

While many businesses are aware of the challenges that come with inter-cultural learning, addressing them is not always easy.

Cisco’s study Cultural Considerations for Global e-learning listed a number of implications for policy and practice, including recognition of the need for cultural adaptation, while local insight is important in helping to make resources culturally relevant by adapting global e-learning resources to the target markets.

With these factors in mind, it is key that companies plan their international learning plans in advance and address the barriers that affect all of the countries they provide e-learning to.

For any international training project, it is vital that companies have a deep understanding of how each country they work in learns. For example, a standard verbatim translation may not work effectively, as there are many other barriers that need to be considered, including how the style of writing will transfer between countries and how idioms are not easily translated.  Furthermore, consideration of cultural perceptions of imagery, colour and tone of voice can have a tremendous impact on how the content is received and ultimately processed by the staff.

By researching markets properly and gathering regular feedback, companies can benefit from improved learning that can boost the intelligence and resourcefulness of employees.

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