Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi

Second Advisor

Pink, William

Third Advisor

Maranto, Cheryl


While research on online MBA courses is growing rapidly, teaching specific skills using online delivery formats is a relatively new stream of research in graduate business education. In this study, adult learning methods such as experiential activities, discussion, teamwork, and action learning were used in a seven-week online MBA course to explore in what ways intercultural sensitivity could be developed. A two-trial, pretest-posttest research mixed methods design was implemented in the summers of 2004 and 2005 at a Midwestern Jesuit university.

Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered and analyzed from thirty-eight participants (N=38). First, quantitative analysis of pretest-posttest scores from the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) (Hammer & Bennett, 1998, 2002, 2004), and demographic variables, revealed that sixty-eight percent (68%) of participants developed greater intercultural sensitivity while age, gender, and degrees of course engagement were predictors of IDI score change. Second, qualitative analysis of survey data found that the quality of virtual teamwork impacted perceived learning outcomes and most participants found the online MBA course to be a useful and complementary addition to "traditional" MBA face-to-face courses. Finally, six case studies were developed to explore IDI stage shift and construct explanatory schemas. Conclusions suggest that coping strategies, cooperative/collaborative efforts, flexible cognitive orientations, course engagement, introspective reflection, and cultural curiosity were factors that impacted intercultural sensitivity development.

The results of the study confirm that intercultural sensitivity can be learned and measured using an online delivery format and the IDI. Recommendations to further develop this online MBA course include: 1) expand length of course, 2) incorporate role of intercultural coach, 3) include synchronous components, 4) provide clearer course expectations, 5) structure purposeful teams, and 6) enrich course content. Four directions for future research that emerged from the study include testing course effectiveness using larger graduate student samples, examining the effects of different team composition on intercultural sensitivity development, comparing a blended learning environment with purely online delivery, and conducting longitudinal studies to measure behavioral change.