COMM311: Intercultural Communication

Course Syllabus for "COMM311: Intercultural Communication "

Please note: this legacy course does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

We live in an increasingly globalized world. Technology enables us to do business just as easily with our neighbors as with a businessperson thousands of miles away from us. Knowing how to navigate cultural differences is an increasingly valuable skill that will make you a more valuable employee. Encounters among members of different cultures frequently fail simply because of basic cultural differences, such as the importance of time, proper greetings, or even the use of eye contact. This course is designed to help you identify how to become a better communicator in these sorts of cross-cultural situations. You will learn about barriers to successful communication that involve cultural differences. You will also learn more about your own communication style and how it can be developed to facilitate more successful intercultural encounters. Though some of this course addresses a Western/U.S. perspective, much of the course focuses on characteristics of specific cultures and how generally one culture may adapt to another, regardless of which cultures they may be. While some information is presented from a Western perspective, the information in this course can be applied to other cultures. You should consider how your culture fits in terms of interacting with other cultures learned about in this course. This course builds on other communication courses. You will learn to apply various skills that you have developed in other courses, including the ability to analyze an audience and the context of the communication in an intercultural encounter. Likewise, skill and insights into message development and the ways in which different groups receive and interpret messages will take on new meaning when applied in an intercultural context. Much of the information in this course will refer back to the pioneering work of Hofstede and his cultural classifications. Geert Hofstede is one of the foremost influential scholars in the discipline of cultural studies, particularly organizational culture. His pioneering work, such as the cultural dimensions theory, has been the basis for subsequent research and the growth of the field and understanding of how members of differing cultures interact.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • compare and contrast communication styles between cultures such as African American, Latino, Indian, Middle Eastern, Native American, and Asian;
  • explain how cultural differences affect business and the workplace;
  • identify and explain the five dimensions of intercultural communication;
  • identify primary differences in communication practices of different cultures;
  • identify the benefits and challenges of intercultural relationships;
  • analyze the constraints on communication and relationships among people of different cultures; and
  • articulate a set of strategies for the development of intercultural communication competence.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to COMM311. General information on this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: David E. Williams

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. While there are several different readings throughout the course, extensive use is also made of YouTube and other online media, which offer insights from experts regarding specific content. Online sources are also used to allow those involved in various intercultural relationships to share their insights and experiences with you. The course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  You will also need to complete:

  • Subunit 1.4 Activity
  • Subunit 2.5 Activity
  • Subunit 3.4 Activity
  • Subunit 4.3 Activity
  • Subunit 5.5 Activity
  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the resources in each unit as well as the discussion board activities listed above.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 135.75 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories, determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then set goals for yourself.  Many of the videos and readings will ask you to apply the material in various manners to your own thinking. This time is accounted for in the time advisories. For example, Unit 1 should take you 29 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete sub-subunits 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 (a total of 2.25 hours) on Monday night; sub-subunit 1.1.3 (a total of 2.75 hours) on Tuesday night; sub-subunits 1.1.4 and 1.1.5 (a total of 4.25 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.