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Global eLearning: Everything You Need To Know

Mar 09, 2016

Learning is going global.  It is happening with all types of learning – especially eLearning.  At BI WORLDWIDE (BIW), we have found that global learning needs have increased by over 350% in the last two years. Market forces have been driving business to a global level for some time.  The scale and speed of the change has been accelerating at a dramatic rate and where business expands, learning must follow. 

In their book, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces, McKinsey presents a fascinating concept called the global economic center of gravity.  They map the global economy in three dimensions and determine the point on the surface of the earth that is closest to this 3D center of gravity.

In 500 BC the economic center of gravity was between India and China, the world’s largest population centers at the time. It took 2,500 years for the economic center of gravity to slowly migrate from Asia to the Atlantic Ocean, so that in 1950 it stood halfway between the powerhouse economies of Europe and the US.  Since 1950, the economic center of gravity has been accelerating back towards Asia. By 2025 it will be back in Asia – very close to where it started 2500 years earlier.

But the return journey will only take 75 years.[i]

Developing world markets are driving this astonishing change by significantly outpacing the world’s established economies.  According to the World Bank Database, emerging economies like India, Brazil, Indonesia, and China are growing 75% faster than developing countries.[ii]  By 2025, almost half the world’s consumption will be coming from the developing world.

 So why is learning so important to this ongoing global expansion? And what are the emerging best practices in globalizing learning? 

Why Global Learning?

All global business expansion activities require ongoing training for effective operations. New people, new processes, new products and new markets all require effective learning solutions or business will only succeed by accident.  Here are four examples of why learning is going global.

1. Onboarding

We recently completed a learning strategy blueprint for a global retailer out of Sweden that determined how best to onboard new employees in its stores worldwide. The blueprint findings show that onboarding is best accomplished by a global eLearning program. However, to be successful, the eLearning is needed in 40+ languages and must be available on PC, iOS/Android tablets and smartphones.

2. All-employee training

Company-wide training, like compliance training, now needs to account for learners in international markets, in multiple languages and on new devices. A UK pharmaceutical customer is rolling out three waves of compliance and regulatory training to their employee base including first tier vendors.  Because of their global footprint, the eLearning initiative is being delivered to 140,000 people, in 23 languages and plays on any PC, laptop or smartphone operating system. It can also track that each learner has viewed every required page of the compliance content.

3. Job-specific training

Role-based training is no longer just domestic but is worldwide in scope. For an Italian global luxury retailer we are delivering eLearning to their store management associates throughout all of their retail locations on PC and iPad. They see the global eLearning – that trains on company culture – as critical to preserving their luxury brand as they continue to expand and replace management turnover in their stores around the world.

4. Channel training

Even companies that may not have direct international operations frequently find that their distribution channel is now global – by design or by necessity. Such is the case for one luxury sunglass manufacturer where we recently delivered product eLearning to their global distribution channel in five languages and made it available on any PC and tablet.

Emerging Best Practices

From the business trends and these latest industry examples, we extrapolate five best practices for globalizing learning.

1. Because the scope of need is so vast, the most cost-effective delivery method for global training is eLearning.  McKinsey calculates the explosion in global business is 3000 times the size of the Industrial Revolution. Traditional face-to-face training can’t keep up.  The change is happening too fast and the scale is too large for face-to-face to play anything more than a supporting role. 

The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) found that learning is one of the top three mobile-enabled products and services for developing markets. They also make this critical observation about technology delivery. “…to reach the widest audience, content needs to be available  on as many devices as possible in languages users understand… ”[iii] 

2. Global eLearning needs to be available on as many devices as possible. The onboarding training example above supports this. That’s why we use our specialized Chameleonä technology to create a single version of a custom eLearning course that plays on PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, Android tablets, WindowsSurfacePro tablets, iPhones, Android smartphones and Microsoft smartphones.

3. Use a UX experience designed differently for large screen versus small screen devices. Most eLearning just shrinks, stacks or stretches screen layouts to work on different devices.  Instead, the best practice dynamically pours the course content into a user-experience (UX) designed differently for large screens than for smaller smartphone screens. Chameleon accomplishes this dynamic UX experience for all devices and delivers it within a single version of the course.

4. Deliver the learning in local languages whenever possible. The examples used above deliver eLearning in three, five, 23 or 40 languages depending on the need.  It is no longer acceptable to assume that English is the language of business when it comes to global learning effectiveness. Operational excellence and capturing distribution channel mindshare require multi-lingual learning to achieve the greatest reach and impact. This eLearning best practice also delivers all the required languages in a single version of the course.

The pharmaceutical example above uses technology to shortcut the laborious translation process with the Chameleon cloud-based translation editor.  All 23 language translations – including right-to-left languages – were created using a streamlined process and are contained in one course version.  That’s one course to upload to their learning management system, one course to test, one course to maintain and one course to track all their global results. No matter if it’s Thai on a smartphone, or German on an iPad, or Russian on a PC or Urdu on an Android tablet.

5. Measure both the learner results and the screen-by-screen effectiveness of your eLearning. Some global eLearning requires end-user tracking to meet legal requirements, like the compliance example mentioned above or a test score at the end of a course; this is an example of measuring your learner results.

However, it is also important to measure the effectiveness of each screen of eLearning.  To do this, the aggregate measures are taken for time on each page, how much of each video was viewed, the results of each assessment question and then correlate mastery of objectives to page views and test results.  BIW’s Chameleon technology measures all of these learning effectiveness elements, which allows for continuous improvement of your eLearning to meet rapidly changing global needs. 

Learning can either hamper the global growth of business or learning can accelerate it.

Market forces are driving our learning solutions global. We need to ensure we’re reaching the widest possible audiences by utilizing eLearning as the dominant global training strategy.  Then we should make it available on any device, in local languages and measure the results. To make the solution globally scalable and sustainable, all this should be accomplished from a single course version.

To learn more about how BI WORLDWIDE can help you execute a global training program using Chameleon eLearning courses or contact a learning specialist today. 


Five of the world’s top ten most valuable companies use BI WORLDWIDE for their global learning needs.

[i] Dobbs, Richard; Manyika, James; Woetzel, Jonathan (2015-05-12). No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends (Kindle Locations 327-328). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

[ii] World Bank database; James Manyika, Jeff Sinclair, Richard Dobbs, Gernot Strube, Louis Rassey, Jan Mischke, Jaana Remes, Charles Roxburgh, Katy George, David O’Halloran, and Sreenivas Ramaswamy, Manufacturing the future: The next era of global growth and innovation, McKinsey Global Institute, November 2012.

[iii] GSM Association, The Mobile Economy 2015, p36


Peder Jacobsen

Peder Jacobsen

Vice President of Learning

As Vice President of Learning, Peder is BIW’s scout “out at the intersection of learning and technology.” Peder leverages his leadership and unique expertise in instructional design and ground up knowledge with the entire production process to evaluate and integrate leading-edge learning strategies for BIW customers globally.

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