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SISU | Online Learning towards IC Competence

21 February 2020 | By Intercultural Institute | Copyedited by Li Lei

  • SISU “Intercultural Course”

    Come and join us!


his time of adhering to the wisely recommended measures to contain the spread of the Corona virus provides a unique opportunity to advance and access online education. Since 2015, SISU and FutureLearn have partnered to offer the “Intercultural Course” twice a year. To serve those needing online resources for their course planning during this time, we are offering the 10th run from the start of this new term:

Our latest course launches internationally on March 2, 2020! We hope this helps all who want to learn with us, whether you incorporate it at the beginning of this term or later. We’ll keep the course open up to July in case you want to use it in the middle or towards the end of this semester. But do keep in mind that FREE access to the course continues for just 7 weeks from the time that you or your students enroll (plan your enrollment start accordingly).


Course Contents and Suggestions for Use

If you have visited the course before, you know that it offers a “learning step” design, easy to incorporate into your class lessons. The 15 or so steps included in each week usually take leaners about 4 hours to complete. But we encourage students to spend more time to read the many comments posted and make their own, enriching social learning on each step.

Each week’s content begins with several introductory steps, awareness-awakening videos or articles on IC constructs, learning activities, relevant case studies, questions for response and reflection, and weekly review steps. The five topics included in this IC course include:


Comprehending Intercultural Communication

We introduce the course topic via definitions, metaphors, explanatory articles, an applied case and invite participants to reflect on possible sources of culture differences. Topics include:

Outlining Learning Objectives

Sharing Cultural Highlights

Defining Intercultural Communication

Exploring IC Metaphors (“Fish out of Water,” “Cultural Baggage”)

Accounting for Subjective Culture

Considering an Intercultural Incident (Case Study Learning)

Highlighting Goals of Intercultural Learning

Considering Degrees of Interculturalness



Cultural Identities

We provide ways to get to know others by focusing on cultural identity and begin to adjust our perceptions of and communications with each other. Topics include:

Exploring “Who am I?” and “Who are You?”

Listing your Identities

Understanding Levels of Identity in Interaction

Identifying Differences in Interaction

Understanding Social Identity Theory

Representing Identity (Onion levels, Perception, Descriptions)

Responding to Diverse Identities

Describing Identities in “Your Cultural Story” and Learning from Others’ Stories


Comparing Cultural Communication Styles

We introduce taxonomies that describe how ways of interaction vary across cultures, helping you notice differences in how social contexts, personality, space, and time might be perceived. Topics include:

Considering Communication and Context

Linking Culture and Communication

Adjusting High- and Low-Context Styles

Introducing Time and Space

Observing Cultural Communication Styles

Reporting Proxemic Observations

Considering the Nature of Silence

Introducing Monochronic and Polychronic Time

Understanding Mindfulness

Considering Your Time Planning, Scheduling


Clarifying and Contrasting Values

We explore how values often underlie deeper cultural differences, examine ways to contrast variations of values, and consider how they help us analyze cross-cultural misunderstandings. Topics include:

Defining Values

Exploring Your Values

Introducing IC Values Studies

Describing Your Culture- and Individual-Level Values

Debriefing Value Expectations

Studying Values: History and Concepts

Considering Values Frameworks

Dimensionalizing Individualism, Power, and Time

Understanding Individualism and Collectivism

Speaking Cross-culturally


Cultivating Intercultural Adaptation

We show how adaptation processes underlie all culture learning and interaction, and how engaging in the culture shock, stress, and adjustment process helps develop intercultural competence. Topics include:

Introducing Culture Shock and Adaption

Experiencing Situational Culture Shock

Explaining and Understanding Culture Shock

Learning from Culture Shock Experiences

Engaging in Intercultural Adaptation Processes

Going through Waves of Cultural Adaptation

Coming Back to Re-Entry Shock

Creatively Expressing Adaptation towards ICC

Adopting Strategies for Personal Development

Reflecting Questions to Evaluate your IC Progress


History & Status

SISU and FutureLearn have been partnering in online education since signing a cooperative agreement in 2014. The SISU “Intercultural Course,” launched in November of 2015 was China’s first course on the FutureLearn platform.

54,000 have enrolled from 200+ countries and regions in the previous 9 runs and 30,000+ have engaged in the learning steps (each run so far generating from 6,500-22,800 rich text comments)!

Besides providing helpful foundational contents on the subject of IC, the course encourages active learning with others and responses from each to indicate what they “like,” make comments, offer replies to other learners (to engage in social learning), and provide reflective learning summaries. You and your students can benefit greatly from seeing the thousands of comments offered by learners from this wide variety of ages, educational, work, and travel experiences, as well as the diverse national and cultural backgrounds. Please enroll and engage in this active intercultural learning experience! To get started just copy this link:



Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email :

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading