It was his "home run". She applied the "kaizen" principle to her project. It is as common as "sauerkraut". The traffic flows like on "US-101" …

Well, if you are taking a course and do not Google while encountering those words in quotation marks, you may have difficulties understanding them. If you are from North America, you know what a "home run" is (since baseball is a national sport) or what "US-101" is (a highway). If you are from Japan, you know what "kaizen" is (since the Japanese economy is based on that concept). If you are from central Europe, you know what "sauerkraut" is (since this food may be on your plate quite often). If you are not from the continent where the words (or principles) originate, you may have troubles learning and applying what you learn.

In the time of the pandemic, the exchange of information and experience is limited by the lack of travel, especially with respect to local contexts and country specifics. In summary, global vs. local is getting more pronounced. On the other hand, we consume more eLearning than before, more training deliveries are done remotely than ever before. And evidently the question arises: "How to create (e-)content so that it suits a global audience?"

There have been many guidelines in the style of "How to write for global audiences?" even before the pandemic. Yet we have to stress the simplicity—and universality—of training materials over and over again. No matter who the learner is, he or she should be able to "get" the content right away. Now more than ever! As a content developer, it is great if you occasionally mention something that requires the learner to investigate further. You just want to stimulate their curiosity so they learn things beyond the topics they study. But in general, lowering the cognitive load by eliminating "local specifics" is crucial for the (global!) learner to stay focused on the topic.

So, let me list—based on my personal experience as a learner as well as a content developer for the global audience—some key things to remember when making your (e-)content suitable and attractive for a global learner.

  1. Explain. If you mention something you think is not universally known, always explain (in a sentence or through a note) the key point of the term you use. But—do not become a wiki. Let people Google from time to time; keep them curious. That is also a part of their learning experience.
  2. Use simple language. Not everyone`s first language is English. So keep the sentences short, the grammatical structures simple, and the vocabulary simple as well. When you include multimedia, provide the transcript. Make sure the narrator has not got too much of an accent and does not speak too fast. When delivering training in Japan, I as a European got higher scores than my fellow instructor from US; the students said: "You were speaking slower than the 'US guy' and were using simpler vocabulary."
  3. Avoid politics and religion. The former often does not last long, the latter can be very different in various parts of the world. Both are "sensitive" topics.
  4. Avoid names of governmental institutions, laws, and forms. DoD, IRS, I-94 sound obvious to someone from the United States, but not to everyone. Avoid the names of highways (A1, SR-20, I-5, US-101 …) or small remote cities (no matter that locally they can have an important meaning), too.
  5. Possibly use both systems of measurement (imperial/metric). It is not hard to add kilometers (in parentheses) to miles or vice versa.
  6. Use sports analogies with care. Some sports are not universally known and use terminology and rules that are extremely complex (baseball, golf, cricket …). Your point is not to teach someone about sports, your point is an analogy that will help someone learn a concept better and faster.
  7. Use movie titles or TV shows with care. First, not everyone is a fan of movies and series, and secondly, often some movies and series are quite local. It is better to take care also when referring to book titles, awards, cultural events
  8. Avoid mentioning things that can possibly hurt audience. (One of my colleagues mentioned a certain country as an example of "less developed infrastructure"; the students protested).
  9. Try to find universally understood words. For example, if you struggle between "evangelists", "apostles" or "ambassadors" (for someone promoting an idea), why not try with "champions"?

In summary, try to use "low context language"—the language where you do not need a whole paragraph to describe the context. And, when you use less known concepts, remember item #1 from my list—and explain the concept, or at least give a hint what it is all about.