A plea for diverse learning content
Why you shouldn’t neglect diversity in e-learning projects
Diversity is increasingly becoming a hygiene factor in our working world. We have arrived in a time where young people are specifically looking for employers that allow them to unleash their potential and to be themselves. Yet, that is not the only reason companies benefit from strategic diversity management. In the German imc E-Learning Inc. podcast, Mohanna Arzamandi, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft Germany, recently announced: “Diverse teams are better at problem-solving.” Mohanna knows that the Diversity Management and Corporate Learning segments are closely linked.
This starts with training intercultural competences, encompasses barrier-free learning offers and involves illustrating diversity in the actual learning content. We discussed that last point with our E-Learning Content Project Manager Kenneth Littlepage.
“The diversity you want must also be reflected in your learning content.”
Kenneth Littlepage hosts the English-language imc E-Learning Brunch podcast while also looking after e-learning content as a project manager – a role he has held since 2014. Here, he supports clients from the initial design of learning content to its realisation and implementation. We spoke to him about the role diversity plays in e-learning content projects.
Hello Kenny! What does diversity mean to you?
Kenny: Diversity has several meanings. Most people tend to think of cultural diversity when they hear the term. Yet, there are other aspects of diversity, like workforce or job diversity. For me personally, that primarily means not just sticking to the same routine day in day out, but also being able to realise projects that push the envelope.
You are project manager at imc, looking after clients like the UN, UNICEF, Lufthansa and PwC. How much do your clients really bring up diversity?
Kenny: It always depends on the company. Cultural diversity, at least, plays an increasingly important role in the e-learning projects we realise together with these companies.
Is there a difference between public institutions, national and international companies?
Kenny: Yes, I would say so. The more global a company is, the more sensitised it tends to be to diversity issues. They will often be very direct in their project specifications. Sensitisation is less pronounced among local companies. Then we need to interject and ask: “Hey, should we make a point of XY?”
What specific options are available for realising diversity in content projects?
Kenny: That depends very much on the learning content. Of course, if the presentation revolves around a situation with two persons, it is impossible to consider all aspects of diversity. However, multiple characters can be integrated into most web-based trainings, enabling us to represent different genders and nationalities. We like to use animations. Drawn characters allow for a bit of distance.
How important is it that the content fits in with the real world? For example: If 90% of the managers are white and male, does presenting a multicultural learning environment not come across as dishonest?
Kenny: The real question is: What led to the current situation? Was it intentional? Did it happen by accident? Is the company still in the development stage? Is it striving for a more diverse direction? If you want diversity, I don’t believe it is dishonest to show your vision for the future.
What other challenges do you come across? What do you pay special attention to?
Kenny: Usually, it’s gender and nationality. Most of our clients have international operations and want to ensure that the learning content is applicable to as many employees as possible. On the other hand, we also work with NGOs where religion plays a major role as part of the culture. We then try to bring in characters wearing a headscarf based on religious customs.
“Diverse teams should be involved in developing diverse learning content.” Do you back that statement?
Kenny: To me, that’s very much the same as saying: “People who have children cannot take advice from someone who doesn’t have kids.” So, if you don’t have kids, does that mean your opinion is not valid? You are not allowed to say anything? I believe that someone trained on the subject, or even someone very open to it can handle that without any issues. But, of course, it is far more authentic for the learner if the content illustrating diversity was developed by a diverse team. It is far more difficult to represent diversity and write about it when it doesn’t exist.
How important is diversity education? Is more learning content on the topic needed?
Kenny: Yes, I think it is needed. I also believe that governments must be involved a lot more, because they provide directions and set examples. On company level, you need to clarify and provide information: How does our company handle diversity? What do we offer our employees? Now, personally, I haven’t seen any learning content yet that explicitly addresses the topic.
Thank you very much for the exciting interview, Kenny!
tips for creating content that reflects diversity
The interview shows that there are different approaches to including diversity in content creation. To make sure you’re starting on a solid footing, we added our own insights to the points Kenny made and summarised them in 5 tips.
Observe your environment
Ask yourself: What does diversity mean to my company? What do we stand for? For example, if promoting women in leadership positions is a strategic objective, the learning content should reflect that.
Sometimes, more is more
Featuring only one protagonist in the leaning content makes it difficult to represent diversity. Extras and avatars can be used to make the content appealing to multiple target groups, such as different nationalities represented in the company.
You are not the standard
Put yourself in different participants’ shoes: Is the learning programme designed to make it accessible to every employee? Can it be used by employees with visual or hearing impairment? For example, content might be read out from slides, because it cannot be assumed that everyone can read the text on the slides.
Education is the start
Reflecting diversity in your learning content is important – as is communicating to your employees what diversity means to the company and what specific measures are used to drive it. Why not outline your company’s take in some learning content on diversity?
Train the right topics
Now that we’re talking learning content: Provide content to your employees that promotes an open corporate culture, as well as open and honest interaction between employees. For example, training on “intercultural competences” can improve collaboration between different cultures.
In our next Punky Talk, we want to delve deeper into the topic of diversity in e-learning projects and speak to a company that deals with diversity on a grander scale and wants to share its experiences with you.
Diversity as a driver of creativity and innovation
Celebrating the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we asked industrial psychologist Dr. Nida Bajwa three questions on “Diversity and creativity”.
Experience unique learning journeys
100% custom e-learning content: We create training that doesn’t feel like training – maximum customisation, measurable results, 100% success.
E-Learning Punk is an article and talk series for all L&D Pros who want to dare something and believe that digital training has to be colourful and loud.