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first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article TheInternet has opened up a whole new world to learning, giving multinationals theopportunity to coach staff in their own corporate style. But providers mustbeware of using a blanket approach across different cultures. Sue Weekesoutlines some of the potential pitfallsInthe Western world, tapping your index fingers together may at worst indicate atouch of impatience or mild irritation with the person next to you, but inEgypt it can be interpreted to mean, “Will you sleep with me?” Hardlythe message you want to get over to your new Middle Eastern sales team, whowere expecting to be taught the finer points of customer relationshipmanagement via the company’s latest e-learning initiative.Thisexample highlights only one of the potential pitfalls for a training or HRmanager who has been led to believe that e-learning is a panacea for training aglobal workforce. The programme may represent an investment of hundreds ofthousands of dollars, but a finger, foot or eyebrow in the wrong directioncould be enough to lose its credibility from the opening credits. “Itis very short-sighted to produce a single training course and simply translateit for use in other countries,” says Michael Smith, managing director ofbusiness course content provider Xebec McGraw-Hill, whose headquarters are inNew York. “If the course depicts scenarios that wouldn’t happen in thatculture, the entire content becomes suspect.”Thefuture success of the global online learning market depends upon suppliersproducing courseware that reflects not just the linguistic but culturalrequirements of their local markets.”Researchshows this needs to happen fast. According to IDC, the Western corporatee-learning market will have nearly doubled by 2004 and in a survey carried outin April by e-learning solutions provider NETg, at its annual e-learningconference, more than half the respondents (223 corporate training managers)said their e-learning budgets had been increased in the last year. Eighty-fourper cent said their senior executives had become more committed to e-learningover the past 12 months and more than half said they believe it will have adirect impact on their recruitment and retention strategies within the nextthree years. Andwhile it’s always difficult to estimate return on investment, research carriedout for e-learning provider Skillsoft, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, byTaylor Nelson Sofres, is encouraging. Eighty-five per cent of directors andsenior managers of US public and private organisations said e-learning has madea positive impact on employee efficiency and 83 per cent reported a reductionin training costs.Whenthe first e-learning programmes arrived, they failed to live up to theexpectation of being a cure-all for training problems. The theory of trainingbeing delivered to a desktop at a time and place that suited the learnersounded irresistible, especially with its potential to cut costs. However,early courses frequently proved to be little more than traditional contenttranslated into hyper text mark-up language (HTML), the coding language used onthe Web, and they paid scant regard to the all-important pedagogical issues.Best practice e-learning is best summed up by the US e-learning guru ElliotMasie, who says, “Online learning is not about taking a course and puttingit on a desktop. It is about a new blend of resources, interactivity,performance support and structured learning activities.”Theword “blended” holds the key here since the more recent preferredoption when it comes to online learning is to combine it with traditionalmethods such as classroom-based learning. An e-learning programme is availablefor every subject imaginable these days and providers also create and customisecontent. Butsome subject areas lend themselves more to being taught online than others,which may benefit from the blended approach. For instance, learning a newsoftware package online will be easier than learning about leadership, sincethe latter relies on elements such as role-playing and human interaction. Inthis case, a blended solution would be more appropriate.Overall,e-learning courses have improved considerably over the past two years but theglobal e-learning market is still a developing one and, in places, suffers froma residue of the poor practices seen in the early days – all e-learningproviders claim to offer multi-lingual content, but not all live up to theculturally sensitive and customised options that they claim.Untilnow, the choice of multi-lingual training has been “pretty paltry”,according to Ian Shaw, communications and development director for pet foodmanufacturer Friskies Europe, part of the worldwide Nestl‚ Group. Shaw isinvolved in a Europe-wide e-learning programme of 2,500 users at Friskies. Healso sits on the e-learning steering group for Nestl‚. “We need Italian,we need Spanish and more,” he says. “Theproblem has been that many of the origins and starting points for the coursescome from the English. However, we’re starting to see the fruits of investmentin multi-lingual and cultural content.” Friskiesis currently using course content from Xebec McGraw-Hill, which has so farimpressed both Shaw and the learners. “They don’t simply translate. Theyare culturally sensitive and tend to re-shoot the whole thing,” he said.Xebecprovides more than 170 e-learning courses and is involved in an ongoingprogramme of localisation, based on the territory’s individual needs andpriorities. True localisation, it says, includes changing people and companynames, acronyms, currencies, terminology and re-shooting any video to featurenationals from that country, as well as paying huge amounts of attention torace, gender and other cultural issues.X.HLPhad to take a more cosmopolitan approach from the start because it comes fromOslo. “We have no issues adapting [e-learning programmes] becauseadaptability was the key criterion when the tools were originally created.Because X.HLP is a Norwegian company, the tools were designed to operate in anylanguage,” says UK director Brian Carroll.Thereare also all sorts of finer points of country- and sector-specific detail to beaware of. For London-based Inmarkets Training, which specialises in courses forthe financial markets, translation is only the first part of the task. Chiefoperating officer Catriona Pointer says, “We work with subject matterexperts in specific countries to ensure the content is 100 per cent accurate –factually, grammatically and socially.”Todeliver a programme to UBS Warburg in Germany, Inmarkets teamed up withBanAkademie, the largest provider of financial classroom training in Germany.”There were a few cultural differences that we encountered along theway,” says Pointer. “Forinstance, we discovered that Germans may typically save up for different thingsto the British, so we had to come up with alternatives that the Germans couldidentify with.”UKcompany Futuremedia, which delivers e-learning around the world through itsEasycando learning portal and lists motor company Ford among its globalclients, is another that bemoans the lack of customised content. “There isa shortage of this [multi-lingual content] and there are issues even in theEnglish-speaking markets. Where there is an audio component, for example,American accents result in negative feedback from some UK customers,”explains Futuremedia’s head of marketing, Paul English. Jokingly, he adds,”It’s not surprising when you think about dubbed TV adverts. But there ispressure for this to change and the content providers are addressing it.”Thereare also more tangible requirements to be aware of, such as differing laws andpolicies, explains Stephen Bennett, vice-president of e-learning providerClick2Learn, whose head office is in Bellevue, Washington. “In the US, itis illegal to track gender in test scores, whereas in France it is encouragedas a form of guaranteeing equal opportunities. You have to remain on top ofeach country’s requirements.”AndSteven Bird, who is managing an e-learning pilot at Allied Worldwide, says oneof the first questions he wants to ask his provider is whether the health andsafety modules of the course adhere to local laws.HRmanagers and trainers must look beyond course content when buying an e-learningsolution, since it is vital that the overall structure, design and navigationof the programme is right for its audience. Not all nations read from left toright, for instance. Anyone who surfs the Internet will know that navigatingsome websites in your native language can be hard, so imagine the problems ifthe text on the screen is also “back to front”.E-learningconsultancy, eLearnity, based in Cirencester in the UK, was commissioned byCopenhagen business college Niels Brock to work on the complete methodology fordesign, development, implementation and support for its e-learning projects.Niels Brock is Denmark’s second largest educational institution with about40,000 students and 1,800 employees, and the project is a good example of ane-learning programme that was built from scratch rather than adapted.eLearnityworked with the college’s course manager and tutors to redesign the learningfor online use and to customise the software to create a Niels Brock-brandedproduct. It also defined the pedagogical approaches to ensure high-qualitylearning. “We created a methodology database accessible to all staff inthe programme and used a Lotus Notes discussion database to determine the bestway forward based on Niels Brock’s culture and environment,” explains SueHonore, the main eLearnity consultant on the project. “NielsBrock approached this programme the way we wish all our customers would do.They thought of it as a complete programme, not a quick conversion of onecourse to another.”Thecourses were created in both Danish and English and eLearnity explains thatsometimes it’s preferable to use the English version because they know it willbe the latest version, since there can be a time lapse with the translations.Overall though, the programme has been adjudged a major success – one year on,several courses are on their second run and the college now has more than 1,000students on 30 e-learning courses. Inkeeping with the Niels Brock example, the best chance of success seems to comeout of a long-term, two-way relationship between client and provider. Globale-learning projects are being announced daily, one of the most recent being theMcDonald’s Corporation’s deal with San Francisco e-learning provider DigitalThink to deliver an e-learning pilot in five languages. McDonald’s has 1.5million staff in 121 countries. By turning to an integrated provider such asDigital Think, which provides the learning environment, sources the coursecontent and implements and supports the system, provides the best foundationfor a long-term e-learning strategy.Anotheradvantage of pledging allegiance to a major supplier is that you reap thebenefit of its multi-lingual and cultural experience. NETg, whose corporateheadquarters are in Naperville, Illinois, has built up a profile of mostcountries – its library of 1,300 courses is available in several languages –and is aware not just of content and language difficulties but how each countryperceives training and the best ways to entice them into it. NETg managing directorNige Howarth has seen Japanese clients introduce e-learning to staff as part ofrelaxed, fun sessions where they can also sit down and play Nintendo games. Itis in stark contrast to the company’s German clients, he says, like theirtraining to be scheduled.Althoughsome companies are further down the line than others in implementing e-learningstrategies, the e-learning community – providers as well as users – must acceptthat they are all on a learning curve when it comes to global best practices.Cost savings mean that e-learning often appears irresistible to CEOs and a bigpart of a global trainer or HR manager’s challenge will be keeping theproviders at arm’s length while they find the right supplier. E-learningprogrammes in general have proven difficult for many organisations to getright, with drop-out rates still much higher than in traditional trainingprogrammes (sometimes as high as 50 per cent). Let’s face it, if we can’t getit right in our own language, there’s little hope for the Swahili version.Whatto look for and what to ask your e-learning provider1.Who translated it and did they use subject matter experts?2.Can it ensure there are no cultural faux pas, ie hand gestures that are innocuousin one country but will offend in another? (A good checklist can be found at it ensured there are no race or gender issues with the training?4.Will the learner understand how to navigate through the training – not all nationalitiesread from left to right and top to bottom?5.Has it checked there are no acronyms or English terminology that will confuse?6.Check the provider is aware of any legal issues pertaining to the countrieswhere the training is bound.7.Above all, don’t rush into pledging allegiance with a supplier until you’reconvinced it is aware of all the global issues.FurtherinformationE-learningsuppliers:–Academee–Click2Learn–Docent–Easycando–Futuremedia–Educational Multimedia Corporation–Elearnity–Electric Paper–Interwise–Knowledge Pool–NetG–Pathlore–Skillsoft–Thinq–Xebec McGraw-Hill–WBT–X.HLP Different strokes for different folksOn 1 Oct 2001 in Personnel Todaylast_img

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