Once the COVID pandemic shut down offices and quarantined us in our homes, virtual training exploded overnight. According to Forbes.com, the transformation to digital has been rapid in all areas, but the progression in L&D to the virtual classroom over the past 12 months is arguably greater than that seen over the last 10 years.
And it’s not going away.
This L&D transformation, while providing greater outreach and arguably more timely training interventions, offers a unique set of challenges that we didn’t experience in more traditional settings.
Our training offerings need to evolve to support a more global workforce that works in remote teams. Programs need to be designed to be culturally aware, engaging, and relevant to the workforce. And logistically, they need to be scalable and accessible to thousands (tens of thousands!) of learners.
Below I address key considerations for going global. In upcoming posts, I’ll address each point individually, providing guidance and implementation strategies.
Considerations for Going Global
When going global, consider how to:
- Maximize the learner experience. When designing and delivering virtual content, we need to consider five aspects of the learner experience: technology, design, people, place, and time. Now that remote learning is (FINALLY!) accepted as a legitimate way to upskill the workforce, we need to understand that all learner experiences are not created equal. Where people are learning (home office, traditional office setting, airports) impact the experience, and therefore should impact the design. I am not advocating being all things to all people, but we at least need to consider how we will maximize the learner experience.
- Maximize outcomes for BOTH learners and the business. After all, who cares if content is delivered in a traditional classroom or a virtual classroom, if the outcomes support the business?
“Alignment” is certainly the key to success. The business has overarching goals, which our learning programs should consider when we define and design our learning programs. Learning objectives especially should speak to and align with those business goals. Obtaining this alignment can be especially challenging with a global initiative. Just getting all the global stakeholders on the same meeting can be a challenge. Getting them to agree on priorities, or how to achieve alignment, can also be a potential roadblock. Training professionals need to be able to facilitate these conversations and negotiate a design that supports all stakeholders and learners.
- Deliver scalable, relevant programs quickly across the globe. What are the holidays specific to China? Spain? Brazil? Can you combine US Pacific learners with Japanese learners and ensure no one is learning in the middle of the night? Where are your facilitators and producers located?
By the way, what day is it in Singapore? (That darn international date line gets me EVERY TIME! I have bookmarked https://www.timeanddate.com/ on every device I own.)
Creating a global schedule means we need to learn to “Follow the Sun”. The logistics involved can be daunting. Technology doesn’t always support us either. For example, MS Teams will roll out updates to its virtual classroom on a phased schedule across the world – meaning someone in the United States often has different options from someone in Australia – and they can be in the same session at the same time.
A global program requires an experienced project manager to create the schedule, manage technology, and monitor the rollout in real time.
- Create learner engagement in a cross-cultural initiative. Ensuring learner engagement in a virtual program has always been a concern for training professionals. How can we connect with learners without true body language and eye contact? As we start to integrate learners from across the globe, the criticality of designing and facilitating to achieve maximum engagement is even higher. InSync’s learner engagement model focuses on three different dimensions of engagement: environmental, intellectual, and emotional engagement.
Environmental Engagement: A learner’s environmental engagement in the multicultural virtual classroom is highly dependent on the ability to interact with each other, the Facilitators, and the materials. In many cases, language – THE principal tool with which we communicate – may limit engagement rather than facilitate it. Virtual classroom platforms over varied support in non-English language (some good, some marginal, some non-existent), so work to ensure learners are provided the support that is available in advance of the instructional experience. Once in session, some key steps in every classroom are to ensure all learners are familiar and comfortable with interaction tools, encourage participation in multiple formats (chat, verbal, icons/emoji tools, test tools, etc.), and in a multi(lingual) classroom, provide native language support in the platform, and at least consider using a virtual Producer fluent in the native language.
Intellectual Engagement: In a sense, intellectual engagement is probably the element of the learner engagement construct least affected by a multi-cultural context – developing and sustaining intellectual engagement in each learner is a function of how each learner will perceive the utility of the instructional experience for themselves, notwithstanding any individual cultural context. It is, however, critical to think about how different cultures think about training generally as a means to develop or contribute to expertise of development. If a culture places a high value on training generally, learners could reasonably be expected to be coming into a learning experience positively disposed to being intellectually engaged in the subject matter and experience. The converse is also true, and thus the multicultural virtual classroom requires the Facilitator to assess any cultural disparities in advance based on prior experience and adjust delivery accordingly to address the intellectual engagement needs of a particular cultural group.
Emotional Engagement: Emotional engagement is all about how someone reacts to and feels about the instructional experience. Experienced Facilitators are often adept at establishing ground rules in the virtual classroom to ensure that people feel encouraged to participate, volunteer opinion, and contribute. Recognition is, perhaps, the MOST powerful tool in establishing and sustaining a level of positive emotional engagement with the learner – and it’s not just the individual – they’re watching the Facilitator’s reaction and recognition of others. In a multi-cultural environment, this is doubly so – different cultures may place additional barriers or an “uneven playing field” for some learners contrasted with others by placing cultural mores on some to not contribute, whereas others feel compelled to contribute (the so-called “frequent flyer”). It is thus very important to ensure all learners contribute something and receive positive feedback for doing so.
In June, I’ll be leading a live conversation focusing on these critical considerations for a global virtual training implementation. In the meantime, look for additional posts going into each of these items in more detail.
Join us for the June Virtually There, where we will discuss all of these ideas.
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