This post reviews IDT literature on cultural dynamics related to collaboration and communication in learning teams and online settings. For example, Paulus et al. (2005) address the challenges of teams of international students working on project-based learning activities in a study exploring “whether or how one component of culture, power distance, could provide insight into group dynamics” (p.43). Paulus et al. (2005) take a case study approach and collect data through observation, interview and questionnaire data, and analyzed using an affinity diagram technique to organize. The participants are members of an elective course in graduate design at a large Midwestern university in the US, including both US and international students. Paulus et al. (2005) discuss the results in relation to Hofstede’s two levels of power distance: low and high. They described the activities of the groups and cross-referenced with low or high power distance indicators to show where groups fell in different group dynamic topics, e.g. roles, decision-making, etc.  They found that low power distance was revealed within group interactions of international students and high power distance was revealed in inter-group conflict between international students and US students. Ku and Lohr (2003) also rely on Hofstede’s dimensions to examine cultural influences in the online learning environment. Problems associated with the use of Hofstede’s dimensions will be discussed later in this literature review. Young’s (2009) CBM model addresses group dynamics with attention to cultural relations, providing questions for guided inquiry of how learners relate to each other.
Burniske (2003) takes a case study approach to examine an online community of educators in Ghana and Uganda, finding that communication issues related to culture were a challenge: “Participants confronted myriad challenges, including a cultural bias with respect to questions and criticism (two fundamental activities in the telecollaborative process), which predisposed them to consider such gestures ‘impolite’ among strangers” (p. 107). In a case study of intercultural online communications between US and Taiwanese college students, Shih & Cifeuntes (2003) found “six intercultural issues and phenomena during

[e-mail] exchanges: a) the need for visual images, b) bewilderment of Taiwanese students, c) excessive expressions of gratitude of Taiwanese students, (d) disparate expectations, (e) direct versus indirect writings, and (f) misinterpretation” (p. 86). Young’s (2009) model provides extensive attention to cultural communications, defined as the exchange or transmission of information, and provides levels of inquiry on this topic that include: language, nonverbal and verbal; writing; temporal communications; visual communications; and semiotics, signs and symbols.


Burniske, R.W. (2003). East Africa Meets West Africa: Fostering an Online Community of Inquiry for Educators in Ghana and Uganda. Educational Technology Research & Development, 51(4), 106-113.

Hofstede, G. (1984). National cultures and corporate cultures. In L.A. Samovar & R.E. Porter (Eds.), Communication Between Cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ku, H. Y., & Lohr, L. L. (2003). A case study of Chinese students’ attitudes toward their
first online learning experience. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51(3), 95-102.

Paulus, T. M., Bichelmeyer, B., Malopinsky, M.P. & Rastogi, P. (2005). Power distance and group dynamics of an international project team: a case. Teaching in Higher Education, 10(1), 43-55.

Shih, Y.D. & Cifuentes, L. (2003) Taiwanese intercultural phenomena and
issues in a United States–Taiwan telecommunications partnership. Educational Technology, Research & Development, 51(3), 82-102.

Young, P.A. (2009). Instructional design frameworks and intercultural models. Hershey, PA: IGI Global/Information Science Publishing.