How cultural backgrounds impact L&D and eLearning experiences

Posted: 11 Sep 2023
cultural backgrounds impact on elearning experiences

Does our cultural background impact how we learn, what we engage with and our training preferences? Research says yes. Find out more here.

We all learn in different ways. Some of us will feel more at home learning in group dynamics, whereas others prefer a quiet space to think. As individuals, we have different preferences and practices — but how far does culture play a part in this?

Research has shown that our cultural backgrounds affect our learning preferences, from how we process information to how we relate to others within a training environment. By recognising these nuances, training can be adapted so that multicultural learners get the best outcomes.

Below, we’ll look at the impact of culture on learning and how having a better awareness of culture-dependent learning tendencies can boost learner engagement and satisfaction.

How learning preferences vary across cultures

Each learner has their individual, natural and preferred way they consume and treat information.

If we consider cultural tendencies when assessing these learning preferences, we can create environments that suit problem-solving from country to country and culture to culture.

So, how do we determine these preferences? Speaking to your team is a great start. There are also multiple studies to look at.

For example, in America, there is a disparity between Americans of Mexican descent and Caucasian Americans.

Mexican Americans assign particular value to personal relationships and are more comfortable with cognitive generalities. These traits indicate a preference for closer relationships with teachers and an appreciation for broader concepts instead of granular facts and statistics.

In contrast, many Caucasian Americans observed valued independence, analytic thinking, objectivity and accuracy. In a learning environment, this translates to grading, tests and competition.

Cultural differences can also be seen in how learners prefer material to be presented.

One study of learning preferences found that Korean, Chinese, and Filipino learners had a stronger inclination towards visual learning, whereas Anglo learners were the least visual.

For global organisations with multicultural teams, it’s important to explore and understand cultural learning traits so that you can develop the best L&D programmes possible.

The impact of culture on virtual learning

Whether live training over video calls or remote eLearning programmes, virtual learning presents extra challenges when training people from different cultures.

In a virtual environment, many things pose barriers to successful training. For instance, a learner can’t necessarily rely on non-verbal signals or social cues that might better contextualise a conversation taking place in person. As such, virtual learning can be problematic for cultures where social interactivity is an important part of the learning process.

Similarly, virtual environments don’t always offer the same basic tools as in-person collaboration. For example, an absence of whiteboards and imagery can limit those who prefer to learn via visual aids.

There’s also the overarching issue of cultural disparity and subsequent lack of confidence when training and learning virtually.

Without face-to-face human interaction, people from many cultures can find themselves less likely to offer opinions or ask questions. Virtual learning can be an intimidating space, where some learners may be used to the concept of independent learning, and others may see the educator as an authority figure. For the latter, having the freedom to work as an individual without discipline or direction can result in a lack of motivation and focus.

How can learning and development (L&D) teams adapt programmes to be more effective across cultures?

The more attention we pay to the learning preferences of different cultures, the more we can analyse and implement lasting changes to L&D programmes to ensure they best meet the needs of a multicultural learning environment.

Some practical ways to achieve this are:

  • Using a variety of learning methods—be they visual, activities-based, fact-based or through peer discussion. This is good practice for any learning programme, but it’s a must for those looking to increase cultural diversity.
  • Fully localising learning programmes. Consider how they might be fully localised rather than simply translating learning programmes into other languages. A localised programme will address language and cultural references and adapt the material to best suit the culture in which it is being used.
  • Get feedback from local teams or pilots. Who better to recognise potential challenges and benefits across a global group than your own multicultural teams? They are best placed to advise you on how effective a programme will be in their region and any adaptations that could be made.
  • Finally, create additional materials to suit the individual learning preferences of specific markets, e.g. handouts to complement learning materials and provide additional information/data for German markets.

At its core, learning is most effective when it is relevant and engaging. Getting that engagement is far easier if the content is localised for the audience, no matter where they are in the world.

How Comtec can help

To find out more about effectively implementing a localised L&D programme, take a look at our Foolproof guide to translating eLearning content.

We’ve been in business for over 40 years and have developed deep specialisms in both eLearning and L&D as well as culture, and how it can impact learning. We’ve developed a whole range of localisation services to help our clients get the most out of their translation projects, from cultural audits to workshops, specialised eLearning localisation to strategic guidance on how best to handle your project.

Whatever you’re working on, we’d be happy to help. We have a network of more than 4,000 linguists, plus an in-house team of very experienced project managers and tech support. We can advise on the most efficient way to get your training localised and make sure it engages learners in any language.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch; you can call us on +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email We’d be delighted to help!