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Culturally sensitive eLearning

Out of the box learning – Workplaces Against Violence

Culturally sensitive eLearning
Jesse Kingsley – Creative Director of BSI eLearning has penned a piece discussing how eLearning has the ability to address culturally sensitive topics.

Can you use eLearning to produce outcomes that meet the needs of culturally sensitive materials? Can eLearning adequately present and even emote enough to register with the average learner?

In recent times our business has seen a higher than usual need for eLearning that covers topics that I’d call ‘culturally sensitive’. By this I mean topics that aren’t legislative, procedural or process based, but rather those that address some universal principles of being a human being. This could be simply a progression of the topics that are increasingly being covered online or that organisations are seeing the need to push them above the cacophony of day-to-day training.

For example, large organisations are increasingly looking at Indigenous awareness – both from a historical and cultural perspective; including practical considerations when working with, or serving, Indigenous Australians. This is probably the largest and most common topic emerging within our industry.

Additionally, there are broader societal topics such as financial literacy and financial hardship.  Both relate to projects we’ve completed recently – the latter being for front line staff helping them to better identify and support customers under financial distress, while the former is a set of educational tools aimed at demystifying good financial planning and strategies.

But perhaps the most sensitive and poignant piece we’ve ever produced, and something I was very close to during production, is an eLearning module on family violence and its impact on  the workplace.

BSI eLearning were approached to create an eLearning piece by a private sponsor with a large percentage of the sale proceeds to be directed towards a Victorian women’s shelter.  Essentially it’s an off-the-shelf product – though no ordinary one.

During the production of this piece I was involved in the interviewing, recording and editing of individuals discussing their experience of family violence, as well as those who were colleagues and managers of these individuals.  This was a very real situation I found myself in and to say I was unprepared is wrong, but I would definitely say I was humbled by the experience.

Visualising this highly emotional material was no easy feat. Needing to keep the individuals identities private, we eventually settled on some beautifully animated illustrations by local artist Lucy Fahey. This was an important step in the development of the eLearning because without them, we’d be producing a totally unbalanced piece.

To take on a project of this type, something I’d ordinarily associate with televised content, confirmed to me that some of the principles of these productions are totally suited to online training. As educational tools, current affairs and documentaries are a staple of our educational diet, and one we can and should learn a great deal from. However, while eLearning is often about interaction, it’s also about strong narratives and the increasing use of storytelling to educate and inform learners. Storytelling is one of our most ancient art forms and brings with it a wealth of engagement and empathy, especially when the subject matter is about an individual’s experience.

So to answer my own questions, yes, I do think eLearning is a capable medium. It’ll just take some leaves from some other books to help make it happen.

If you wish to discuss this module, or how BSI eLearning can bring to life your eLearning idea please contact Jesse Kingsley on +61 3 8692 0381 or