Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 are no longer supported. Please use a newer browser.
Concourse works best with JavaScript enabled.
San Jose State University logo

College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Seminar in Contemporary Issues - Intercultural Communication
INFO 281

  • Fall 2023
  • Sections 02, 13, 14
  • 2 Unit(s)
  • 08/30/2023 to 10/24/2023
  • Modified 07/21/2023

Canvas Information

This course will be available on Canvas beginning August 30th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Dr. Debra K Buenting

Telephone: 719-685-0829
Skype: dkbuenting 
Office Location: Virtual
Office Hours: Monday - Saturday by appointment.

Course Information

Thank you for your interest in intercultural communication! Over the history of this course at SJSU, students have expressed how valuable the content has been to their careers and personal lives. 

Course Description and Requisites

This 2-unit course 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.


INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204, other prerequisites may be added depending on content.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

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 Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
  2. M Demonstrate professional leadership and communication skills.
  3. O (For students entering from Spring 2015 onwards) Understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

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

  1. Explain & articulate aspects of personal identity.
  2. Identify & analyze cultural values, beliefs & norms.
  3. Compare & contrast various cultures to self.
  4. Use course principles to educate & serve various communities.
  5. Demonstrate ability to communicate with culturally diverse people.
  6. Exhibit Cultural Literacy based on principles & mindfulness.

Course Materials


Required Textbooks:

  • Ting-Toomey, S., & Dorjee, T. (2018). Communicating across cultures (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press. Available through Amazon: 1462536476

Course Requirements and Assignments

We will meet for a total of eight weeks, with each week beginning on Wednesday and concluding the following Tuesday. All assignments are due by Tuesday midnight except the final project, which we shall discuss.

Identity surveys (2 x 25 points)

This assignment is to get you thinking about your identity at the beginning and end of the course. You will reflect on the influences, experiences, roles, etc., that have shaped the sense of who you are. Please complete this initial survey before you work through the week 1 content; thoughtfully think about your personal cultural identity and describe it in 300-500 words. Then during week 8 (the last week), do the exercise again and consider how your cultural identity has changed, expanded or become clearer.

Discussions (50 points X 8 weeks = 400 points)

This course requires weekly reflective discussions based on course materials and informed by lectures and readings. Discussion threads are designed to create a learning community where students wrestle with course content, demonstrate knowledge, and learn from each other. Each discussion is worth 50 possible points. Weekly discussion participation entails reading all the posts in your group and posting at least three times each week; this includes your initial post answering the topic question and at least two questions, responses, or dialogue with classmates. Points will be awarded based on quality and extent of participation. Initial posts should be 150-200 words. Your first post should be made by Saturday of each week for full credit; all threads close the following Tuesday evening.

Cultural visit report (150 points)

This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1, 2, 3, & 7. The culture of a group exists in part “to organize and coordinate their actions, activities, and social relationships” (Lustig & Koester, 2013, p. 31). Therefore, attending an event of a culture other than your own can be so educational.

You will visit a gathering of your chosen culture. This could be a religious service, community meeting, cultural event, or another formal or informal get-together. There you will pay attention to cultural beliefs, values & communication styles. Afterward, you will write a report of 3 pages double-spaced).

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

Film Critique (150 points)

This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1 & 2. You will choose an intercultural film you will watch, being careful to identify the principles you are learning in the course. You will then research the background of the film and write a critique of the film from an intercultural perspective (3-4 pages, double-spaced).


Cultural Interview (150 points)

This assignment satisfies learning objectives 1, 2, 3, & 5. Schedule an interview with 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 the 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 (3-4 pages double-spaced).

Final paper (250 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 to 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.


Identity surveys (25 pts X 2) 50 points

Discussion board participation (50 pts X 8 weeks) 400 points

Film critique or Cultural interview 150 points

Cultural visit 150 points

Final paper 250 points


Grading Information

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

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

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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA) level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, or 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 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule



Tasks & Readings

Assignments/Class Schedule


Aug 30-Sept 5



Intercultural Communication: An Introduction


Intergroup Engagement

Read the syllabus


Print the Course Calendar


Locate your copy of the textbook


Read chapters 1-2


Work through module content in Course Intro Start Here AND the Week 1 module

  • Familiarize yourself with the course shell


  • Make initial post to Discussion board (DB) by Saturday. Notice you will introduce yourself AND participate in the week 1 content discussion.


Sept 6-12

Culture Shock & Intercultural Adjustment Patterns


Acculturation Process & Intergroup Contacts

Read chapters 3-4


Work through module content for Week 2


  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Declare cultural film you will study & critique OR interview you will conduct by midnight Tuesday


Sept 13-19

Intercultural & Intergroup Com Competence


Cultural Value Dimensions & Intercultural Encounters

Read chapters 5 & 6


Work through module content for Week 3

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Declare Cultural Visit choice & details by midnight Tuesday.


Sept 20-26

Mindful Intercultural Verbal Communication

Read chapter 7


Work through module content for Week 4

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Turn in film critique or cultural interview paper due by midnight Tuesday


Sept 27-Oct 3

Mindful Intercultural Nonverbal Communication

Read chapters 8


Work through module content for Week 5

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Declare final project topic by midnight Tuesday


Oct 4-10

Understanding Intergroup Perceptual Filters, Biases & Communicative Distance


Attending to Intercultural-Intercultural & Intergroup Conflict Issues

Read chapters 9 & 10


Work through module content for Week 6

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Turn in Cultural Visit report by midnight Tuesday


Oct 11-17

Intimate Relationship Development


Read chapter 11


Work through module content for Week 7

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday



Oct 18-24

Becoming Ethical Intercultural Practitioners & Improving Communication Practices

Course Wrap-up

Read chapter 12


Work through module content for Week 8

  • Make initial post to DB by Saturday
  • Turn in final project
  • Submit SJSU SOTE Course Evaluation
  • Submit (optional) Course Feedback to Dr. Deb in Canvas