INFO 281-15
Intercultural Communication
Fall 2017 Syllabus

Dr. Debra K Buenting
Telephone: 719-685-0829
Office location:
Office Hours:
 Monday - Saturday by appointment 

Syllabus Links
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 23th, 6 am PDT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets. INFO 281-14 starts September 18.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This 2-unit course (August 23rd - October 20th) focuses on developing skills for working in racially, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse communities. It will help you identify and solve cultural differences so essential for navigating a flat world. This course is designed to give you very practical tools to understand the worldview and experiences of others, helping you become a more competent professional, no matter what your career goals.

Course Requirements

You need a computer with regular internet access (broadband recommended, especially for video assignments) and an environment conducive to learning. You need to obtain the required books, and have a means for accessing a film you choose to watch and critique. You will also need Adobe Reader for pdf content (free from and Microsoft Word for writing papers (in APA or MLA format).


Discussions (280 points) This course requires weekly reflective discussions based on course materials and informed by lectures and readings. Each discussion is worth 25 possible points, which entails reading all the posts in your group, and posting at least three times; this includes your initial post answering the topic question, and at least two questions, responses, dialogue with classmates. Points will be awarded based on quality and extent of participation.

Cultural visit & report (100 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1, 2, 3, & 7. You will visit a gathering of your chosen culture. This could be a religious service, community meeting, cultural even or other formal or informal get-together. There you will pay attention to cultural beliefs, values & communication styles. Afterwards you will write a report to the class (2-3 pages single-spaced or equivalent).

Culture (Cultural Overview) paper (100 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1, 2 & 5. This paper has five main sections that need to be emphasized: 1) History of the culture, 2) Cultural beliefs, 3) Cultural values, 4) Communication styles and, 5) Self-reflection of this process (compare & contrast with your culture). This will be a 5-7-page paper double-spaced, with a 2-3 page summary posted for your classmates in a discussion thread.

You have a choice for the next assignment: a Film Critique or a Cultural Interview. Here are the details of each:

Film Critique (100 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1 & 2. You will choose an intercultural film you will watch, being careful to identify principles you are learning in the course. You will then research background on the film and write a critique of the film from an intercultural perspective.


Cultural Interview (100 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1, 2, 3, & 5. Schedule an interview with a someone from a culture other than your own. It is recommended this be the same group as your cultural visit and cultural overview paper, but it doesn’t have to be. You will seek to understand attributes of the culture that go beyond the surface. As you will learn, these are the “whys” of culture that reveal beliefs, values and social norms, or what you will come to see as “below the surface” using the iceberg analogy.

Literature Search (100 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 6 & 7. You will do a thorough search for two key and timely articles that deal with library and information science and intercultural communication. If you have access to digital copies of the articles, you are requested to attach or post links for them to your report. Your report will include a full reference for the source (in MLA format) and an abstract written in your own words.

Final paper (145 points) This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1-7 as well as core competencies C & M. Your 7-10-page final paper will be a very practical application of some aspect of intercultural communication with your chosen field. It will be the culminating expression of what you learned and how you plan to implement it in your career. This will be a semester-long project; note your topic is due week 4, and you are expected to post updates on your progress throughout the semester.

All assignments are due by Sunday midnight of the week they are due. Late submissions will be reduced by 10% of the total points possible for that assignment. No late submissions to the weekly discussions will be accepted.

Tests (175 points)
You will take a mid-term and a final exam that will test your knowledge of basic concepts and skills learned throughout the semester.

Course Calendar

  • Partial Week - What is communication? What is culture? Why do we need to study intercultural communication? 
  • Week 1 - Culture & Intercultural Communication & Intercultural Communication Competence
  • Week 2 - Cultural Patterns & Communication: Foundations
  • Week 3 - Cultural Patterns & Communication Taxonomies
  • Week 4 - Cultural Identities
  • Week 5 - Verbal & Nonverbal Intercultural Communication
  • Week 6 - The Effects of Code Usage in Intercultural Communication
  • Week 7 - Intercultural Competence in Interpersonal Relationships Episodes, Contexts & Intercultural Interactions
  • Week 8 - The Potential for Intercultural Competence & Course Wrap-up


  • Culture visit & report 100 points
  • Culture paper 100 points
  • Discussion board participation 195 points
  • Film critique or cultural interview 100 points
  • Literature search 100 points
  • Mid-term exam 75 points
  • Final exam 100 points
  • Final paper 145 points
  • TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS 1000 (see grading scale below)

Other Relevant Information:
A note from your course facilitator: My hope is that you will find this course both fun and informative. I look forward to sharing experiences and insights with each of you. I trust we will all grow as we share this particular aspect of our journey, forming an online community that makes for challenging and rewarding experience together.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe cultural values and communication styles among various regional groups.
  2. Identify specific communication styles including direct and indirect communication, cultural norms for making decisions and solving conflict, the role of history in creating culture, differing perceptions of power and gender roles, implications of individualistic and collective groupings, the importance of context, and other cultural influences on communication.
  3. Recognize various dominant and non-dominant co-cultures that exist in North America and other places where students live.
  4. Analyze play and workspace challenges related to culture.
  5. Practically demonstrate effective practices of listening, observing, interpreting and conversing with colleagues and clients from various cultures.
  6. Apply intercultural communication skills in adapting individual career paths and solving culture-related job challenges.
  7. Demonstrate cultural literacy in articulating world trends.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.
  2. M Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.
  3. O (for students entering from Spring 2015) identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.


No Textbooks For This Course.

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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