Designing Content for Multiple Languages and Cultures – Part 2

I’ll begin Part 2 by looking at the CAP Principles – Connect and Engage, Actionable and Sustainable, Personal and Meaningful. These are a framework applicable to the design of virtually any learning activity. Before you can engage the learner’s fickle attention you need to connect with them first; learning needs to be immediately actionable and applicable to the learner’s own workplace context so they can practice, explore and develop what they’ve learned; by making the learning experience personal and meaningful to the individual, they are more likely to bring their own understanding to the learning and see it as complimenting their own personal and professional goals. Factoring all of these principles into a learning design can be fun, challenging, and it certainly will lead to more effective learning experiences for the learner. 

But how do you deal with the enormous variation in a multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-language cohort? You can’t possibly profile them other than by making rough edged generalisations. You could take an approach rigorously rooted into the corporate culture of the organisation: after all, this will  (or should) be a common experience for all employees. Doing this effectively and authentically is a little more complicated than it seems. Profiling the corporate culture involves a lot more than looking at the corporate presentation and list of values. And, like me you’re probably not a social anthropologist and you don’t have months to spend studying the ‘organism’. 

You could decide to write an algorithm designed to analyse the background, beliefs and competencies of each individual learner, then assign them to a learning plan accordingly. Machine Learning and Deep Learning are now being routinely applied to learning engagement experiences to provide that personalisation factor. These things obviously take a lot of time to develop, require considerable investment and if you’re really lucky you might get something like an 80 – 90% accuracy rate. They’re not always satisfactory, and we’ve recently seen how poorly designed algorithms intended to provide individual assessment outcomes in place of actual exam result have spectacularly backfired.

So, what’s left? Let’s re-cap the problem. A blended learning solution is required. It’s not practicable to develop an individual profile for each learner and a ‘group profile’ risks being too generalist. We don’t know what local support might be available – local tutors and trainers for instance. We also don’t know how individual locations would deal with any ‘live content’ – some might just not have the bandwidth to be able to engage in live video streaming for instance. Not all learners will be willing or able to use their mobile phones to engage in learning, nor can you rely on using technologies such as AR or even XR because of localised network and internet conditions.

There’s one solution you could consider, but it requires the learning designer to adopt a completely different role and point of view. Co-creative or active learning, both shown to be effective in diverse contexts – formal education, professional development, different cultures, different age groups – and they particularly appeal to those learning practices adults are known to learn most effectively. 

What’s radical about these types of approach is they put the learners themselves into the role of creating the learning – rather than the learning designer per se. What the learning designer is designing is the basic toolkit of facts, procedures, rules and laws, etc. that learners will need to understand. Then even more importantly, the designer is creating the baseline route map for the learner to apply and develop their own competencies through the application of the toolkit to their own, locally contextualised learning project and portfolio. It’s a bit like creating a treasure map – with the treasure map, compass, spade and any other basic resource being the toolkit, the routes and their challenges being the exploration and development of competency, and the treasure chest being what they generate.

The main thrust of the activity is then centred on the learner applying the facts to their own scenario-based experience, and with the learner owning the end result. Connect and engage, actionable and sustainable, personal and meaningful.

Lesley Crane PhD MA BSc

Lesley has been involved with e-learning, blended learning and EdTech since the late 1990s, initially as a developer and video producer. Over the last ten years, she has worked as an independent consultant, strategist and researcher specialising in adult learning, blended learning and EdTech. She is an associate with the Learning & Work Institute, National Foundation for Educational Research, and International Centre for Guidance Studies. Recent projects include an Erasmus + pan-European vocational learning programme, research on the impact of Covid-19 on apprentices for the Gatsby Foundation and development of a practical methodology for blended learning design.

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