A World of Difference: Exploring Intercultural Communication

A brief introduction to the theory, research and practice of intercultural communication
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  • Lectures 10
  • Length 1 hour
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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About This Course

Published 10/2013 English

Course Description

This course will introduce you to general themes, issues and perspectives associated with the study of intercultural communication. In exploring these issues, the presenters provide a brief introduction to the topic, a basic examination of important themes of culture and communication, two frameworks for viewing culture and examples from the presenters' research and life experience. We hope this project serves as a catalyst for thought and discussion regarding the challenges and opportunities associated with living in a diverse world.

What are the requirements?

  • You will not need any special supplies to begin the course. Additional readings are suggested as part of the class.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • By the end of this course, you should be able to explain the importance of studying intercultural communication.
  • By the end of this course, you should be able to Identify the basic building block of culture and note examples of each.
  • By the end of this course, you should be able to apply Hofstede's Cultural Taxonomies and Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck's Cultural Patterns in exploring how culture can be viewed and understood.

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is intended for people at all levels.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction

Dr. Foeman argues that an appreciation for intercultural communication is vital in today's society. She briefly discusses what this short course seeks to accomplish and the motivations behind its creation.


Drs. Foeman, Thompsen and Lawton briefly introduce themselves and discuss their interest in teaching intercultural communication.


Dr. Thompsen explores the meaning of communication and culture. He suggests that we should first consider the meaning of "meaning," since the concept of meaning has much to do with both communication and culture. He presents two key insights from the work of Ogden and Richards: (1) meaning is multi-dimensional, existing at the intersection of the physical, semiotic and conceptual dimensions, and (2) meaning is contextual. These insights into the nature of meaning help us understand communication as a process of creating meaning, and culture as a community of meaning-makers that provide much of the context for meaning.


There are over 7 billion people in the world. That's a lot of people, and it can be very difficult to grasp the human diversity that exists on Earth. But what if we could take the population of the Earth and reduce it to just 100 people, keeping the same proportions we have today? Watch this short video to get a better understanding of the human condition on Earth.

Section 1 quiz
5 questions
Section 2: Cultural Building Blocks

This lecture covers building blocks of culture, namely: beliefs, values, norms, and social practices. Dr. Lawton then applies these concepts to funeral practices common among people of Chinese descent.

Much of the material in Sections 2 and 3 of this course is based on:

Lustig, M.W., & Koester, J. (2012). Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.


Dr. Foeman continues the first lecture on cultural building blocks by exploring her experience with her mom's illness and death as an African-American woman.

Section 2 quiz
5 questions
Section 3: Cultural Taxonomies

Dr. Lawton explains Geerte Hofstede's cultural taxonomy, explaining the dichotomies of individualism/collectivism, high and low uncertainty avoidance, high and low power distance, masculinity/femininity, and long-term vs. short-term orientation.

For additional reading on applications of Hofstede on global branding and advertising strategy, you may read the following:

de Mooij, M., & Hofstede, G. (2010). The Hofstede model: Applications to global branding and advertising strategy and research. International Journal of Advertising, 29(1), 85-110.


Dr. Foeman and Dr. Lawton apply Hofstede's taxonomies to a particular cross-cultural parenting issue related to educational priorities for children.


Dr. Foeman explains an alternate framework in Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's cultural patterns.

Section 3 quiz
5 questions
Section 4: Conclusion

We hope you've enjoyed this short course, and will want to continue your exploration of intercultural communication. Here are a few links for further study...

The DNA Discussion Project

The Hofstede Center

Teaching Tolerance

If It Were My Home

The Miniature Earth Project

Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's Values Orientations Theory

Want to continue the conversation? If you have a specific question about intercultural communication, please ask it in the questions box on our course home page. And please consider joining the discussion on our Facebook page:

Exploring Intercultural Communication Facebook Page

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Instructor Biography

Philip Thompsen, Professor of Communication Studies

Philip A. Thompsen, Ph.D. holds the rank of Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Thompsen is a scholar of communication media and technology, with particular interests in broadcasting and computer-mediated communication.

Dr. Thompsen's scholarship has been published in a variety of formats, including book chapters, journal articles, conference proceedings, convention papers, panel presentations and various online resources. Scholarly journals that have published his articles include The Electronic Journal of CommunicationComputers in Human BehaviorEt Cetera: A Review of General SemanticsFeedback and The Pennsylvania Communication Annual. He has held faculty fellowships at the Time Warner MediaLab in New York City, C-SPAN in Washington, DC, The Apple Teacher Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and at KYW-TV and KYW-AM in Philadelphia, PA.

In addition to West Chester University, Dr. Thompsen has taught at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana, Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, and the Ron Baile School of Broadcasting in Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a B.S. from Northern Arizona University, an M.S. from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah.

Instructor Biography

Dr. Bessie Lee Lawton received her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication. She received her BA and MA in Communication from the University of the Philippines. She is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests are intercultural communication, identity issues, communication and power, and basic course issues.

Instructor Biography

Anita Foeman received her PhD from Temple University in 1982 with a focus on organizational communication.  She has been a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at West Chester University since that time.  Her work examines diversity in organizations, in public speaking, and in interpersonal communication as well as identity issues for multiracial people and families.  Her co-authored work on the stages of development in interracial relationships (1999) continues to be used as a template for research in the field.  Her most recent work considers the relationship between DNA ancestral data and the social construction of racial identity.  


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