Online Class Improves Workplace Communications With Latinos

Aug. 27, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new online class can help non-Latino managers of Spanish-speaking employees communicate more clearly with their Latino workers – but not by learning a new language.

Claudio Pasian, associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, has modified his “Latinos in the Workforce” college credit course for online learners who can take the course at their own speed and on their own timeline.

Although the typical American or Latino person does not exist, Pasian’s course assumes certain generalizations about people from different cultures.

“We all behave the way we behave because we learned that in our culture. We expect people to react in a certain way. When we interact with people from a different culture, those expectations may not be met,” Pasian said. “This can cause misunderstandings.”

While Pasian is a horticulture and crop science professor, his online course is appropriate for anybody who works with Latino workers.

“The information applies to restaurants, roofers, construction companies, and other businesses,” Pasian said. “What I teach is universal.”

Pasian discovered the need for the online course as he talked with non-Latino managers of horticultural nurseries. He found most were happy with how hard their Latino employees worked, but that they struggled with communications.

“It goes beyond the language,” Pasian said.

For example, English speakers from the United States tend to be very efficient with their words. They explain quickly what they want their workers to do.  If they ask Latinos if they understand, Latinos are likely to say yes, regardless of whether they really do understand.

“That’s because, in general, Latinos don’t like conflict and they want to be positive,” Pasian said. “Also, they worry that if they say no, they are implying that their boss explained it poorly.”

A better way to communicate with most Latinos is to start with light talk, and then slowly work into important information. Then it’s best to supervise for a few minutes to make sure the directions were understood, he said.

“When dealing with a Latino worker, it’s important to be aware of who else is listening or watching. Any corrections should be made in a polite way and, if possible, alone,” Pasian said.

Students would have up to six months to complete the course, which includes 33 modules. A typical module has a video, reading materials, a PDF file with the slides of the video, and a multiple-choice quiz. When all modules are completed, participants qualify for the course certificate.

Participants advance through the modules at their own pace and can watch as many modules as they want each day and repeat the materials as many times as they want.

The course is taught through Canvas, Ohio State’s online learning management system, and costs $600.

Program details and registration can be found at:



A photo of Claudio Pasian is available at



Suzanne Steel


Claudio Pasian