Last updated: 08.11.18

How to overcome PEST factors in delivering impactful e-learning content

PEST analysis was first introduced nearly 50 years ago by Harvard Business School professor Francis Aguilar. It stands for: Political, Economical, Socio-cultural and Technological. Recently, the variant PESTLE has come into play, the extra letters standing for Legal and Ecological.

At Virtual College, we work with a range of different factors in the UK and overseas. The content which we would create for a safeguarding board in the UK may vary greatly to the content which we would create for a client in a different country. Different factors need to be taken into consideration, and that is where the PESTLE model is useful.


Virtual College undertook a large project creating military courseware for a client in the Middle East. Many issues which may not immediately come to mind had to be considered. For example, any maps could not include the disputed territory of Israel. Being aware of international issues guides the way in which content is created.


The budget for a bespoke project will mean that the right balance of creativity and learning outcomes needs to be addressed. At Virtual College we have different options available depending on the size of your budget, but elements such as bespoke graphics vs stock images and levels of interactivity all have an impact on cost.


As mentioned earlier, when working for clients in the Middle East, the representation of people was something that was extremely important. We were not permitted to show any women, and all faces had to be blank.

But even something as seemingly simple as creating a food hygiene course for Burma has thrown up unique challenges! The pictures of the food had to be relevant to the learners, as there is no point showing images of food which would be unfamiliar to a Burmese chef.

We have also recently worked on a project with Fujitsu which has been translated into many different languages. This means that not just images, but also the text we write has to be ‘translatable’. For example, in the UK, ‘tailgating’ is a term we use to describe someone who is driving too close to the car in front. But in the USA, it means a party or social event held on and around the open tailgate of a vehicle, so when writing a course about safe driving, it was better to write ‘Do not drive too closely to the car in front’ rather than ‘Do not tailgate’. This also means when it was translated, the intended meaning is not lost.


We would also need to think about the devices being used by learners to take the course. We are currently working with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and have been advised that the courses will only be used on PCs. This information is important, as we usually need to think about how our courses work on devices such as iPads or mobile phones.


Our award-winning Carbon Literacy course was intended to teach learners about their carbon footprint. This is especially relevant for us at Virtual College, as e-learning means no paper and no time spent travelling to undertake face-to-face training. Companies are increasingly aware of their ecological impact.

In conclusion

Working in a global market brings many challenges, but also many rewards. PESTLE analysis is a great starting point when undertaking a new e-learning project as it forces us to ask questions which we may not have thought of initially.