Business Edge is a career advancement program that aims to train internationally-educated professionals to leverage their international experience and achieve their full potential in Canada. In March 2019, I joined the design team at Rotman to build the new Business Edge Digital program based on the original program offered on campus. Over several months, I worked to translate the following lessons into the new digital format:
- Resume Skills
- Difficult Conversations
- Negotiation Skills
- Intercultural Dynamics 1, 2 and 3
Each of the above lessons consists of an asynchronous portion delivered on Canvas LMS and a live Zoom webinar.
The three-part lesson on Intercultural Dynamics was the most extensive – and one of the most rewarding – to design and develop. Working closely with the instructor and Associate Director Sabina Michael, I restructured the lessons to provide better scaffolding and built an online environment that encourages interaction between participants. I also remapped the Cultural Integration Plan – a critical component of the lessons – by identifying key decision points to clarify the process.
The Intercultural Dynamics lessons deal with highly sensitive subject matter that may be open to interpretation. For that reason, I had to be particularly mindful of the learners’ sensibilities when working with the content.
Building Intercultural Dynamics
Here’s a detailed overview of the process I took to design and develop Intercultural Dynamics for Business Edge Digital.
1. Goal Analysis
Working closely with the lesson instructor Sabina Michael, I began the project by defining the goals of the lesson. The primary goal is to equip participants with the knowledge, skills and tools to choose and customize a strategy for integrating into a work culture in Canada without losing their sense of identity. To achieving this goal, participants must learn how to develop their intercultural communication competence (ICC) and cultural integration plan.
2. Learner Profile
At this stage, I revisited some learner profiles to ensure the lesson design will consider the participants’ needs and current abilities. I also attended the live lessons on campus to observe how participants respond to the ideas and activities in the lesson. By observing and speaking with the participants, I was able to gain a better understanding of their perspective and personal challenges.
3. Content Assessment and Task Analysis
After defining the goal, I assessed the existing learning material used in the campus version of Intercultural Dynamics. These included presentations, the various worksheets, resources, case studies and the cultural integration plan. In my assessment, I considered how the material can be improved from a learning and user experience standpoint.
Next, I created a full breakdown of the concepts and tasks in each of the three lessons based on my observations and the lesson materials.
4. Course Structure
Following the previous assessments, I worked with the instructor to design the structure of Intercultural Dynamics, informed by the most common challenges experienced by the participants. This step involved prioritizing concepts and tasks – ensuring they link back to the defined goals – to restructure Intercultural Dynamics for Business Edge Digital. Through the mapping process, we were able to establish a theme for each of the three lessons:
- Introduction to Intercultural Dynamics
- Cultural Values and Diagnosing the Cultural Code
- Interaction Styles and Cultural Integration
5. Learning Objectives
For each of the three lessons established at the previous stage, I defined the comprehension-level and application-level learning objectives. The objectives were verified by the instructor/subject matter expert (SME).
6. Lesson Outline
Based on the new structure and objectives, I created detailed lesson outlines that define the high-level learning experience. This step involved the following tasks:
- Dividing the content between the asynchronous (Canvas LMS) and synchronous (webinar) portion
- Establishing the various sections within each lesson
- Interleaving concepts between the three lessons (and other topics throughout the overall program)
- Defining learning activities and their media type to employ research-supported learning methods
- Incorporating discussions to allow learners to share insights with each other and the instructor
- Determining the type of feedback to be provided (peer, instructor or programmed)
7. Content Creation
Taking the content provided by the instructor, I revised, edited and restructured the information to work with the lesson design. This step also involved converting the written content into different formats, such as worksheets, diagrams, explainer videos and various interactive exercises. For example, I helped create and refine scenarios-based exercises that allow participants to practice making realistic decisions.
In tandem with the content design stage, I built low-fidelity prototypes of the lessons using Figma. The instructor and learning technologies coordinator reviewed and validated the content in the prototype, which I revised based on their feedback. The prototype allowed me to capture any significant structural or content changes before transferring the lesson to Canvas LMS.
9. Learning Material Design
Based on my assessment of the existing learning material, I redesigned the job aids, tools and resources provided in the lessons. I converted many of the material into interactive PDFs, which allow participants to reuse these tools during the program and throughout their career. Some of the tools include the following:
Clues for identifying cultural dimensions
I redesigned several documents created to help participants identify the clues that point to the cultural preferences of their work environment. Interactive likert scales between two cultural dynamics help learners make behavioural assessments more easily.
In my redesign of the integration strategy tools, I aimed to reduce cognitive load and increase psychological engagement with the specific strategies. By spreading the strategies onto multiple pages, learners can concentrate on specific strategies that are most relevant to them. Input boxes on each strategy page helps learners practice applying the specific strategy to their own unique situation.
Cultural Integration Plan
The purpose of the cultural integration plan is to help participants select, customize and employ one of four integration strategies without losing their sense of identity. By analyzing how past participants had responded to the cultural integration plan, I remapped the process by identifying key decision points at each of the five steps. By completing my own cultural integration plan, I was able create a better roadmap for the participants.
The prototype and redesigned learning material were reviewed by the subject matter expert and learning technologies coordinator. I made further refinements based on their feedback. User testing would be conducted when the lesson is launched to the pilot cohort of Business Edge Digital.
11. Canvas Development
With the revised prototype, I proceeded to build the pages in Canvas LMS. The following are examples of some of the media that was embedded into the pages to create a rich, interactive learning environment that helped build a sense of community.
- H5P: scenario-based multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, flip cards, interactive videos.
- Padlet: discussion boards
- Videos: instructor videos and explainer videos
The Rotman Intercultural Skills Lab released the three-part series on Intercultural Dynamics to the first cohort of Business Edge Digital (pilot) in summer and fall 2019. The deliverables for Intercultural Dynamics includes the following:
- Three 4 hour asynchronous lessons built on Canvas LMS
- Two 1.5 hr live webinars
- Multiple job aids, tools and resources in interactive PDF.
As part of lesson evaluation, I attended the live webinar sessions which allow participants to review their understanding of the concepts and practice new skills. During the webinar, participants expressed how relevant the content was to their own experience and how it had changed their perspective on certain workplace behaviours. By the end of the webinar, the participants were able to take away the key strategies to address the cultural challenges they face in the workplace. In a debrief session, the team and I discussed what worked well, some challenges and explored ways to improve the sessions in the future.
Overall, the pilot version of Business Edge Digital was a great success. Many participants expressed how relevant the lesson was to their own experience and challenges. The skills they’ve learned in Intercultural Dynamics has helped them to open their mind, learn about others and adapt to differences. The intercultural skills – along with the techniques and strategies acquired from other lessons in Business Edge – helped the participants gain greater confidence in their own ability to perform in Canadian work cultures. As a result, a number of participants had received career advancement opportunities, and recognition from their colleagues, by the end of the program.