Importance of Audience Analysis for Global Learning Success
Project Manager, Caveo Learning
Before designing training that will be used by learners from varied regions and cultures, it’s smart to begin with an audience analysis. By knowing who the learning audience is and what business objectives the learning initiative aims to address, it can make the eventual translation and localization process that much easier.
For a global audience, we need to delve into cultural differences and preferences in order to make the learning solutions truly relevant and to avoid unforeseen hiccups that can doom the entire effort.
A global audience analysis should include the same points as for a typical domestic training program, but then take it further. There are two main components to any audience analysis: a demographic breakdown, and an understanding of their expectations and learning preferences.
Basic Demographic Breakdown of Learners
First, conduct a standard demographic analysis of the target audience. This should address:
- Audience size
- Job roles
- Typical education background
- Relevant interests
- Skill levels
- Existing knowledge of the topic
Determine the business challenges that the training will attempt to address, and management’s role in any potential learning solutions. You’ll also want to evaluate whether there is likely to be resistance to the training—understanding the impetus for the training is a good place to start—and if resistance is likely, identify tactics for overcoming that.
Go Deeper for a Global Audience
The preceding audience analysis points apply to any instructional design project or training facilitation effort, but a global audience requires a second layer of examination: language skills, timeliness, local culture, and learning technology.
You may end up needing both localization and translation services for your global learning project, but it’s possible you’ll only need the cultural localization component. Knowing up front whether translation is likely to be necessary will inform your design sensibilities and save some trouble on the back end.
Confirming that your learners are competent English speakers is not always as simple as asking your local contact the yes or no question. Ask follow-up questions to get a better handle on just how comfortable they are with the language, and find out whether any native speakers will be present at the classroom training event who can help bridge any language barriers.
Reading, writing, listening, and speaking a second language are different skills—don’t presume that all participants can do all four things well. Consider using simpler vocabulary, and enhance handouts and PowerPoint decks with extra context and content. Where you might otherwise use short bulleted text, write out multiple sentences. Make sure written training materials contain all relevant information, including items that would otherwise be exclusively verbalized. Provide handouts in advance, and encourage learners to read through and ask questions. In short, give them every opportunity to understand what you mean to say.
The training facilitator needs to be on time—that's a given. However, some countries and cultures are event-focused, rather than time-focused. It's a good idea to know what to anticipate as far as audiences arriving to class and their expectations for breaks, both for curriculum planning and for facilitating the classroom training.
German culture is famously structured and punctual, but many places around the world are rather less strict in their adherence to the hands of the clock. Gain an understanding about local mores around time, and adjust your agenda and schedule accordingly. Likewise, while a quick working lunch may be acceptable in some cultures, you may find that a lunch break of anything less than 90 minutes is unreasonable someplace else.
This is where an eLearning localization service like Interpro becomes indispensable, of course, but you can do your part by reading up on local culture in an effort to meaningfully connect with participants. A facilitator who is able to hold conversations about everyday topics—the economy, politics, pop culture, even the weather—is far more likely to successfully engage learners.
There are practical reasons to know about the local culture and geography, as well. For instance: Will rain make the roads impassable and force you to reschedule? Are there regional holidays to be aware of? Should you avoid discussing certain topics to avoid offending participants' sensibilities? A little research ahead of time will help you avoid a faux pas, or worse. While it’s smart and helpful to do this kind of research on your own, you’re wise to also seek professional input from a localization service.
Check on technological issues, confirming that end users have the necessary infrastructure to execute the training. Is there a high probability of intermittent or extended power outages? Do you need to prepare for voltage surges? What about the method of file exchange—in some countries, viruses are so commonplace that even exchanging flash drives between machines is a terrible idea.
Also, don't make assumptions about the technical competency level of the participants; it could be just as likely that they can write complex code as it is that they can't type. Over- or underestimating the audience's technical skills could throw a major wrench into your learning plan, so ask specific questions of your local contact well in advance.
Ultimately, basic adult learning principles still apply, whether the curriculum design and training facilitation is for a domestic audience or a global one. Asking good questions, preparing well in advance, working with a reputable localization service, and being adaptable to change are important qualities to bring to global training projects.
This was a guest post provided by Renie McClay, CPLP of Caveo Learning. Renie has facilitated training for corporate, academic, and nonprofit audiences in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. As a learning project manager with Caveo Learning, Renie helps organizations design and deliver solutions to improve performance and productivity.
She is the author of The Essential Guide to Training Global Audiences, 101 Ways to Engage Global Audiences, and Interactive and Engaging Training. She also authored 10 Steps to Successful Teams and Fortify Your Sales Force and is a contributor the the ASTD Handbook, 101 Ways to Make Learning Active Beyond the Classroom, and more.
Renie has trained with Second City and uses improvisation as a tool to help companies develop more productive and innovative teams. She has a bachelor’s in marketing from Missouri State University and a master’s in global talent development from DePaul University.