Timezones & cultural differences matter for online classes : Fizzics Education


Timezones & cultural differences matter for online classes

Timezones & cultural differences matter for online classes

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Lately, I’ve received a few questions about how to convert timezones for online classes. Now, it seems a straight forward thing but it’s not when you start thinking about cultural differences, not just time zone differences.

When converting timezones, cultural differences matter.

Not all countries write dates the same way as you do.

It’s natural to think that everyone thinks the same as you, but at a global level, this is never the case.  For example, have look at the following timezone conversion:

  • Sydney, Australia Mon, 6 Apr 2020 at 9:00 am AEST
    New York, USA Sun, 5 Apr 2020 at 7:00 pm EDT

Fairly straight forward right? But there is a hidden catch that gets people all the time… Australians writes DD/MM/YY and Americans write MM/DD/YY. So, what does that mean if you’re sorting out an international meeting or class between Australia and USA? If you simply write the dates in simple notation, you’re going to cause a major stuff up:

  • Sydney, Australia Mon, 6 Apr 2020 at 9:00 am AEST
    New York, USA Sun, 5 Apr 2020 at 7:00 pm EDT

can be written correctly (to an Australian) as:

  • Sydney, Australia 6/4/20 at 9:00 am AEST
    New York, USA Sun, 5/4/20 at 7:00 pm EDT

See the problem? You’re saying to your American colleague that your meeting time it’ll be on the 4th of June and their meeting time is on the 4th of May!

It gets worse… most people would pick that up if you copied and pasted the above into an email, however if you add a booking calendar into the equation it gets tricky… not all booking calendars allow for international timezones! This means that you could potentially pop that meeting into your calendar for the 6th of April and then generate a meeting invite in the numerical notation for 6/4/20 to your American counterpart… which then reads like it is the 4th of June!

I’ve experienced the above first-hand years ago and it’s was confusing for everyone until we worked out what was going on.  It’s not a matter of carelessness, its a matter of not realising what is being generated by your booking software. Now there is another issue to consider with that booking, have a look again:

  • Sydney, Australia Mon, 6 Apr 2020 at 9:00 am AEST
    New York, USA Sun, 5 Apr 2020 at 7:00 pm EDT

If I forget that its Sunday night for my American friends, the chances of people being able to make the class on Monday morning at 9:00am Sydney time are next to nil!

The thing is, I often get enquiries to run programs from overseas as below:

  • New York, USA Fri, 17 Apr 2020 at 11:30 am EDT
    Sydney, Australia Sat, 18 Apr 2020 at 1:30 am AEST

This has usually been because the person hasn’t realised that we’re in Australia, but this is not always the case. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve run many, many, many overnight programs to USA schools (and will continue to do so) … seriously, I have a swag aka bedroll above my video conference room! However, if you aren’t expecting someone on the other side of the world to run a session at 1:30am on Saturday morning, please allow for their timezone too.

It gets more complicated when you’re running a global online science class. Have a look at the timezone conversion for Monday next week:

  • Sydney, Australia Mon, 6 Apr 2020 at 9:00 am AEST
    New York, USA Sun, 5 Apr 2020 at 7:00 pm EDT
    London, United Kingdom Mon, 6 Apr 2020 at 12:00 midn BST

No matter how you try to change the booking time, someone in the world has to to do a late-night connection with you.

What is the solution?

Think globally. Use timezone conversion tools and copy and paste exactly their output to everyone in one go and get an agreement before you put something into your booking calendar. So with this in mind, I thought I’d quickly share the two main tools I use.

  • Time and Date Converter.
    My absolute favourite. User-friendly and produces an output that everyone can understand
  • Doodle Polls
    These polls are great as they allow you to quickly sort out a shared time that everyone can agree upon.

That’s it! I’m sure you have your own way of sorting out global connections and put them in a calendar too but I thought I might quickly write about what I use. I’ve been running distance classes to schools globally for over 10 years and the recent COVID-19 outbreak has certainly made us extremely busy with remote class connections. If you’re curious about these live interactive classes, the following 40 programs are available now

Happy teaching,

Ben Newsome

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