Lessons on Developing International Business Courses


With the reality of increased globalization, key opportunities exist for students of business – whether at the undergraduate or graduate levels – who will soon enter a globalized workforce that requires cultural competence.

With the Cultural Navigator – and its constituent assessment tool, the Cultural Orientations Indicator (COI) – students of international business have a wealth of cultural competence learning solutions only a mouse click away. They can learn about their own cultural preferences and those of their classmates and people in different countries, thus generating knowledge of and respect for other cultures – the basis of cultural competence.

Yet creating international-focused courses in business schools is not always as easy as many instructors wish it would be. Here are some lessons learned after years of developing international business courses and facing the unique challenges that come with each new curriculum:

  1. Start small – Budgets are tight, and administrators often challenge why investing in an intercultural learning tool like the Cultural Navigator warrants the financial commitment. Helping administration see the need takes time. Rather than developing a new program or course, it is wise to incorporate the Cultural Navigator into an already existing one.
  2. Find funding – There are always alumni or local businesspeople who understand first-hand the importance of cultural competence in business. If securing one is not possible, university deans may be interested in piloting the new course short term. When approaching alumni, businesspeople or a dean, instructors should write a report that documents their program’s methods, outcomes and cost, and how the instructor will measure the students’ learning.
  3. Find a Way to Measure Results – Every administrator wants to see results. One way to show them is for instructors to use the aggregate of the class members’ COI assessments. The report aligns the cultural preferences of the class members and lays out any possible gaps that could exist between individuals that may impede smooth collaboration. It provides a visual aid for students and their instructors on the class’ internal cultural dynamics and acts as a roadmap for successful cultural synergizing. In addition, in order to demonstrate the global reach that the class has achieved, instructors could also list the countries whose profiles in the Cultural Navigator the students used for their learning. Instructors could add anonymous student entries about what they learned, the challenges they overcame, and how they can use the Cultural Navigator in the future. Short, specific examples of not only what the class did, but how they did it and why it mattered to students go a long way in painting a vivid synopsis of the course’s success.
  4. Learn from the Experiences of Others – Instructors may wish to talk to faculty at other colleges and universities who have successfully deployed the Cultural Navigator. They may be willing to share how they built the business case to invest in this powerful tool. TMC also offers live, virtual demonstrations of the Cultural Navigator to key decision makers.
  5. Consider COA Certification – The Cultural Orientations Approach (COA) encompasses the principles, concepts and learning tools on which the COI and the Cultural Navigator are based. The COA certification process engages participants in a dynamic experience that blends multiple learning methods to increase individual cultural awareness and awareness of others. Similarly, it gives them the tools to gain cultural competence and to help others gain it too. A highly experienced facilitator leads participants through an engaging learning journey that includes self-paced work and synchronous formal training. The learning includes written and video case studies, research projects, peer-to-peer practice sessions, planning for on-the-job application, and advancement of the participants’ insights into the importance of cultural competence in achieving business objectives. Educators who become COA certified are able to learn about, integrate and leverage the Cultural Orientations Approach with their students. Certified practitioners also have access to the COA Practitioner community on social media, and are invited to participate in regular collaboration forums to share lessons learned and best practices.

The Cultural Navigator is adaptable across any course and can be tailored to suit the needs of the class and the individual learner. This is one of the powerful and unique ways instructors can incorporate cultural competence into their already existing programs and find ways to demonstrate the outcomes of student learning at any level of business education.