Think about your existing training programs. If you had to present them to a group of learners outside your current location, what elements stick out to you as potentially problematic? In Jennifer’s experience helping organizations deliver virtual and blended learning across borders, four elements commonly create issues:
Different countries are on different schedules. We all know about time zones. In the United States, we have six of them! Scheduling live online sessions can become complicated when we need to support global learners. We have to consider delivery times for virtual training events. The best global learning programs recognize the need for adaptable schedules and remember the little things like which locations observe daylight savings time and which don’t. Different countries also have different weekends, observed holidays, and standard working hours.
Time differences. Piggybacking off the previous need for truly global training design, it’s important to acknowledge that these time differences, if left unaddressed, can put undue stress on our learners. How would you feel if your manager enrolled you in a mandatory training program, and you discovered the live events take place at 3am local time? You would probably resent not only the learning experience, but the entire organization for its lack of consideration. It’s not reasonable to ask learners in Asia to participate in complex training in the middle of the night just because that time works best for the facilitator. As learning managers and designers, we will have to find ways to support all learners, and that won’t happen if you simply create a single inflexible training program and expect it to work for all learner groups.
Content does not translate. Try this: as you go through the day, write down the idioms you hear and say. The figures of speech you understand and use directly relate to where you live. When delivering content to learners across the globe, these turns of phrase will confuse learners if you do not update content for every region. Turning over a single instructional design to a translator and asking them to translate from English to Portuguese, for example, will not work either. We need to truly regionalize the content.
Technology. Did you know some technology doesn’t work in some countries? For example, if you rely heavily on video in your training programs, it may not work in countries with low bandwidth or high security firewalls. Beyond the internet, other technology capabilities can impact your delivery when moving it beyond a single location. For example, the InSync team once worked with an organization that created a complex eLearning series, only to discover that one group didn’t have sound cards on their organizational computers! Inventorying the technology across the learner base prevents these kinds of catastrophes and reveals the importance of a global training methodology.
Global training programs require planning, and a lot of heavy lifting. On the surface, it sounds like a waste of time and effort. But we promise, going the extra mile matters. When supporting an international audience, these programs have massive exposure; if we do not make a strategic effort and they fail, we will never have another chance to change the learning game in our organizations.