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E-Learning for Intercultural Competence: What Is Important to Know?

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E-Learning for Intercultural Competence: What Is Important to Know?
In our increasingly diverse society, organizations are constantly challenged to create inclusive environments where every person feels included and valued. Yet, despite these efforts, some employees end up feeling excluded as a result of implicit and explicit biases of others.
Studies conducted by the Intelligence Unit of the Economist show that 90% of executives in 68 countries cite cross-cultural leadership as the biggest management challenge of the century. In order to overcome this challenge, organizations implement diversity and intercultural competence training programs to help their employees understand and confront their own biases and stereotypes.
The conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic challenged many organizations to move large pieces of their operations to digital environments. This also concerns diversity and inclusion training programs as many companies are scrambling to move their training efforts to an online format.
To help you make sense of e-learning for intercultural competence, this article explores the key aspects of e-learning for diversity and inclusion training programs, from goal setting to analysis and safety.
Can Intercultural Competence Training Change Behavior?
Before we move further to understanding e-learning for intercultural competence, let’s first assess the effectiveness of such training programs.
The meta-analysis of the longitudinal study of over 40 years of diversity training evaluations shows that diversity and intercultural competence training are effective under two conditions. Firstly, the training must be focused on awareness and skill development. Secondly, it must occur over a significant period of time.
Harvard Business Review research suggested that diversity and inclusion training, particularly bias-focused training, has a positive influence on employees. The study of over 10,000 employees concluded that after completing a bias-focused training, employees were more likely to acknowledge discrimination and their own biases, and support the pro-diversity policies.
But did the training really change employees’ behavior? The research found very little evidence that diversity and inclusion training affects the behavior of employees after the training is completed.
Based on the results of studies, I have a few suggestions for how organizations can better leverage e-learning for intercultural competence training programs.
Goal Setting
The success of your e-learning diversity course majorly depends on your ability to set measurable, specific, and challenging (yet attainable) goals. Referencing the aforementioned research, while it can be challenging to change particular behaviors, you can still aim to improve pro-diversity attitudes and intentions towards minorities in the workplace.
Setting goals and objectives will help you evaluate how your training is performing, so you can make further adjustments. To help you get started, here are some examples of intercultural competence training goals:
  • Increasing awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion issues.
  • Promoting the support of policies, practices, and procedures that are inclusive and sensitive to the various cultures.
  • Actively creating a productive environment within diverse teams that is free of harassment and bullying.
  • Developing and improving products, so that they are culturally sensitive and accessible to all target groups.
Creating e-Learning Exercises
Your ability to create empirically supported diversity exercises and activities is another factor that will determine the effectiveness of your e-learning course. While there are many e-learning exercises out there, only a few are backed up by research.
Here are some research-based diversity and inclusion exercises you can employ in your e-learning training course.
Perspective taking
Perspective taking helps to understand the biases and prejudice cultural minorities face every day. Exercises and activities that prompt learners to walk mentally in someone else’s shoes prove to encourage more positive attitudes and behaviors towards racial minorities.
How can you implement perspective taking in your e-learning course?
One way to get learners to take others’ perspective is by asking them to submit a few sentences through a custom essay writing exercise explaining the key biases and prejudices affecting cultural and racial minorities in their day-to-day lives, and particularly in the workplace. By understanding the experiences of cultural and racial minorities, learners can recognize their own biases, which is the first step to positive change.
Goal setting
Goal setting is another exercise that is backed up by empirical evidence. Studies show that goal setting is effective in developing more supportive behaviors and attitudes towards minority groups.
How can you implement goal setting in your e-learning course?
You can ask trainees to set specific, achievable, and measurable goals. For example, the goal can be to challenge inappropriate behaviors or comments towards minorities in (and outside) the workplace. When the e-learning course comes to an end, ask participants to measure their achievements and reflect on the goals they’ve set.
Creating Interactive Activities
Here are some ideas of how you can give the participants the power to participate.
  • Asking interactive questions through pop-up quizzes and polls.
  • Creating breakout rooms for group activities and discussions.
  • Leveraging video conferencing tools to imitate face-to-face communication.
The Safety Aspect
Enabling effective e-learning diversity courses requires you to understand the basics of providing safe remote training. You want to ensure your corporate data is secure and shielded from possible cyberattacks when you’re educating your employees on multicultural competence.
These practices will help you launch a remote diversity course that is safe for your trainees and your organization.
  1. Enable cloud-based training solutions to accommodate the needs of geographically distributed trainees.
  2. Leverage video conferencing tools that use end-to-end encryption.
  3. Use data collection tools to assess the information needs of your trainees.
  4. Use employee engagement software to collect feedback,
  5. Require remote trainees to follow corporate remote safety policies and protocols.
  6. Educate remote learners on possible cybersecurity threats and ways to prevent them.
Final Tthoughts
The bottom line is that intercultural awareness and competence can be facilitated by e-learning environments. E-learning tools enable creating an inclusive container where the best diversity learning can happen. Considering the aforementioned aspects when developing your e-learning intercultural competence course will help you make the workplace a more inclusive and pro-diversity place.

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