"Barriers in putting visions into action"
The solution created by the IntCultNet project: Tools for visionary self-management

Varis, Venla,
Häme Polytechic, Finland, venla.varis@hamk.fi

Lindh, Kirsti,
Häme Polytechnic, Finland, kirsti.lindh@hamk.fi

Gashi, Ljuan Marko,
University of Novi Sad, Serbia and Montenegro, lmg@eunet.yu

Fellner, Rostislav,
St. John College, The Czech Republic, rfellner@svatojanskakolej.cz

Aro, Irmeli,
Häme Polytechnic, Finland, irmeli.aro@evo.hamk.fi


This paper introduces results of the Intercultural Learning in the Internet (IntCultNet) – A Ladder of
Personal Success – a research project of seven partner countries. Finland, the Czech Republic, the
United Kingdom and Greece have received two-year funding from the European Union
Socrates/Minerva programme. Serbia and Montenegro, Vietnam and Israel represent a more global

The aim of the IntCultNet is to develop an on-line web learning training programme to face the
challenges of life long and life wide learning, visionary self-management and global cultural

Tools created by the IntCultNet support and guide learners to build their learning taking into
account personal strengths and value of personal experience and perspectives for improvement of
organizational culture in one’s own working environment. The approach the learner adopts will
significantly help him/her in further international communication, team performance, setting
targets, creation of effective corporate strategies, and help him/her set up better performance in
personal and organizational level.

1. IntCultNet – the unique approach
2. Design of the learning process
3. Putting the theory in practice
4. Achieving a transformable and tailor-made learning product for use of a variety of
multicultural and multinational corporations and public organizations
5. Conclusions
1. IntCultNet – the unique approach

Intercultural Learning in the Internet (IntCultNet) – A Ladder of Personal Success is a research
project of seven partner countries, out of which Finland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom
and Greece have received two-year funding from the European Union Socrates/Minerva
programme, starting October 2002. Serbia and Montenegro, Vietnam and Israel represent a more
global dimension. The coordinating partner has been Häme Polytechnic, Finland. Other key players
have been St. John Teacher College, the Czech Republic, Athens University of Economics, Greece,
Middlesex University, the United Kingdom and Centre for Multiculturality, Serbia and
Montenegro. The Primus Motor of creating the new learning product has been Ms. Venla Varis,
Lic. Educ. and Special Expert from Finland.

The goal of the IntCultNet project was to create a new visionary learning product – Holistic
Cultural Competence Assessment Model (HCCA Model). The project aimed to introduce a new
approach to the field of methods of cultural studies – towards increasing the learner’s socio-cultural
competence. Instead of learning about possible differences of a new culture the learner should
increase his/her sensitivity towards his/her own culture – learn to increase his/her cultural self-
awareness and mutual understanding in communication. The HCCA Model makes it possible for
the learner to evaluate and measure his/her own level of cultural competence.

2. Design of the learning process

The national project coordinators have conducted altogether six pilot course programmes to
develop, test and refine the product. Certified teachers i.e. web-tutors have been trained in liaison
with the pilot programmes. Throughout the process the coordinators, tutors and students have been
encouraged to participate in the development work by bringing their ideas into action. The pilot
programmes have been run in Serbia-Montenegro, Finland, the Czech Republic and the United
Kingdom during the period of time from autumn 2002 to spring 2005. Part of the courses have had
an international web-learning dimension i.e. students from two or three participating countries. Also
the courses held nationally have always used virtual learning environment to ensure possibility to
collaborative learning and improving one’s skills of communication, team building and sharing in
the web.

3. Putting the theory in practice

Declarative meta-cognitive skills, the awareness of one’s own learning is essential to the learning
process. This is awareness of one’s own learning and the ability to direct and adjust it. There is a
direct relationship between the manner of dept of processing information and learning. Declarative
meta-knowledge includes experience and knowledge about one’s own abilities, skills and
cognitive deficits. In the intercultural virtual learning it means; knowledge about web-techniques
and language skills for mastering various tasks, compensating for missing knowledge and setting
goals by collaborative learning and by the help of tutoring. Declarative self-evaluation creates a
foundation for the control and development of all socio-cultural learning activities, self-regulative,
problem solving, creative and transformative learning. (Campbell, Tirri, Ruohotie & Wallberg

During the development process the following targets were formed to welcome and encourage the
learner to start the portfolio learning process equalling 4,5 ects credits. The goals are:

1. How to integrate socially – how to
• create confidence in a virtual environment
• improve intercultural and multicultural relationships
• know your personal cultural impacts to others
• understand your own and others' team skills orientation
• enlarge your self-awareness and cultural self-awareness
• develop your collaborative and life long learning skills
• evaluate your socio cultural competence with others

2. How to accept challenges – obstacles and difficulties; you will discover how important it is to
• change the way you see the situation
• manage emotions and develop proactive reaction
• reduce stress and increase coping skills
• reduce cultural biases and negative efforts in our own and other societies

The course is scheduled to be completed in approximately three months time. The learner finds all
necessary incentive material in the web learning environment. The incentive material has been
produced in format of the most frequently used web documents, like HTML, PDF, JPEG picture
etc. in order to guarantee its usability in all existing virtual learning environments. The incentive
material consist of three learning modules as follows.

1. Network in confidence – understanding how to improve intercultural relationships and create
confidence: 1.1 Who am I? 1.2 Where am I from?

2. Diversity Competence – awareness how to develop diversity orientation and team skills
orientation: 2.1 Diversity orientation 2.2 Team skills orientation.

3. Transformation – ability to renew and develop value competence and evaluate one’s own socio-
cultural learning: 3.1 Value competence 3.2 Socio-cultural competence.

Picture 1. The portfolio learning process.

Throughout the learning process the learner reflects his/her own previous experiences by writing
short essays and participating in web team discussions created around the topics and themes of the
incentive material. In addition to this self evaluation the learner gives and gets peer-evaluation to
and from his/her co-learners and tutors’ evaluation from the (international) tutors’ team. So far all
web courses have included at least one face-to-face learning period. Otherwise the learners have a
great freedom to plan their own learning process – inside the learning product guidelines, goals and
targets though. In future the face-to-face learning periods can also be replaced with video lectures
given by the tutors via the internet. Towards the end of the course the learner gathers and completes
his/her learning process by producing a personal or team portfolio. The learners are encouraged to
include personal innovations in their portfolios – like drawings, video clips, music samples… The
portfolios can vary from Curriculum Vitae portfolios – aiming to improve one’s ability to get a job
to any creative expressions of the learner’s personal development targets and future plans in digital
format. The IntCultNet Project describes the portfolio learning process as expressed in Picture 1.

In addition to the above, the learner utilizes four self-evaluation tools during the course: Diversity
orientation, Team skills orientation, Value competence and Learning orientation. The learner gets a
scale as a result of using each of the tools. With help of self-reflection in form of essays and web
team discussions or web team works the learner assesses his/her own level of socio-cultural
competence. The tutors evaluate the learners results according to the HCCA Model created by the
IntCultNet Project and issue the learner a certificate showing the learners cultural competence in
form of HCCA points. This process is described in Picture 2.

Team skills
3 - S p.
2- 6 p.
2 - 5 p.
2 - 4 p.
9 - 23 p.

Picture 2. The Holistic Cultural Competence Model by Varis, V. 2004.

The learners are encouraged to continue the reflection process by comparing their written self-
assessments with the HCCA results calculated by the tutors and step by step adopt the portfolio
learning process as a self-development tool – to be utilized as support and guide for the learners to
build their learning taking into account personal strengths and value of personal experience and
perspectives for improvement of organizational culture in one’s own working environment. The
approach the learner adopts will significantly help him/her in further international communication,
team performance, setting targets, creation of effective corporate strategies, and help him/her set up
better performance in personal and organizational level.

Table 1 explains the six different phases of socio-cultural competence – “A Ladder of Personal
Success” – the above picture of HCCA Model and corresponding points refer to. Socio-cultural
learning levels are based on constructive theory, transformative learning and moral estimation
which all are needed in all interaction. Phases are modified by Venla Varis from Bennet, M.,
Mezirow, J., Rost, JR.& Narvaez, D.

Level Points Qualitative evaluation, Some example how
a learner has shown it in practice
Having balance
between own
integration and
cultural renewing

- synergy and interdependence
- ability to create confidence
- critical reflection of own presuppositions, new roles,
perspectives and creativity
- flexible identity, loyalty and satisfaction
- motivation to release power and endowment
- transformation

Facilitate public
20 -18
- reflection of premises and adaptation
- increased awareness of own personal and
other cultures’ philosophy
- improved own cultural understanding and empathy
- seeking at first to understand others
then to be understood

Proactive behavior

17- 15
- positive attitudes
- respect diverse values and attitudes
- awareness cultural biases and presumptions
- ability to solve problem and create security
- win-win communication

Arrogance and
reactive behavior
14- 12
- thoughtful action
- analyzing and judging others and situations
as well as at the same time protecting her/ himself
- dysfunctional meaning schemes and pre-expectations
- irony and impolite joking

actions and superiority
11- 9
- self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame
- unrealistic expectations and negative pre-assumptions
- protection of own identity
- impatience and hostility

Reactive behavior,
isolation and

8- or less
- reflecting upon assumptions
- disorientation and chaos
- inability to construe cultural diversity
- superficial statement of tolerance and aggressive
ignorance laying stress on familiar
- seeks to be understood and private victory

Table 1. Socio-cultural competence – qualitative evaluation and interpretation of learning levels

4. Achieving a transformable and tailor-made learning product for use of a variety of
multicultural and multinational corporations and public organizations

Towards the end of the project the above mentioned self-evaluation tools were validated with the
help, support and supervision of Prof. Pekka Ruohotie , Research Centre for Vocational Education
and Training, University of Tampere. Prof. Markku Verkasalo, Department of Psychology,
University of Helsinki and Prof. Shalom Swartz, University of Jerusalem.

The development of the self-assessment tools, their validation process and its results are
summarized as follows in an internal evaluation report of the IntCultNet Project. “The incentive
materials, created by Lic. Ed. Venla Varis for learning socio-cultural competence
have been modified in the Intercultural Learning in the Internet project according the experiences of
the pilot courses. A Ladder of Personal Success course has been built with interactive, social and
collaborative elements, which enhances group formation and social bonding during net-based
studies. The aim of the HCCA Model is to help the students to grow as learners and human beings.
Self-assessment tools help learners to identify their strengths and growth needs as life long learners
and it increases cultural self-awareness and cultural understanding.

The Holistic Cultural Competence Assessment Model (HCCA Model) has been created and
tested also in the project. The tutors have guided learning and evaluation processes. Declarative
evaluations have created to be a foundation for the students for control and development of their
activities. Portfolios display and review students’ socio-cultural learning and competencies in a
relevant and holistic way. The world needs self-directed learners who can perform collaboratively and
creatively with minimal amount of supervision and stress.

According to the statistical analyses the overall reliabilities are for: 1) the Diversity Orientation scale
questionnaire good (Alpha = .76), 2) the Team Skilsl Orientation scale questionnaire very good
(Alpha .86) and 3) the Learning Orientation scale questionnaire is good (Alpha .75) and 4a) the Value
Competence scales – the Individual Value Scale questionnaire very good (Alpha .70) and 4b) the
Cultural Value scale questionnaire good (Alpha .70).”

As one more detailed example of the validation process: The Value Scale consist of two parts, the
Individual Value Scale and the Cultural Value Scale. The latter part of validating the Value
Competence self-assessment tool is explained and described in the IntCultNet Project Final Report
as follows (Varis, V. 2005):

“B. Cultural level. Schwartz (1997) identified three basic issues with which societies must
cope with, that might underlie cultural values in intercultural and multicultural interactions. This
cultural value dimension form is a dynamically integrated system. From the above named
value scale have been rotated by two factor orthogonal solutions the factors on cultural level.

Cultural values have been measured according to the same value scale as above individual values
(Schwartz. S, 1997). The survey asks respondents to rate each vales “As a Guiding Principle of
My life” using 6 –point scale as before.

The Schwartz’s items ( N= 40 ) have been rotated by eight factor orthogonal Solutions. The
reliability estimates of the scale were good in eight new factors.

The reliabilities of the scale was good (Alpha .70) an only in one factor barely acceptable (Alpha
.40) in one factor:

AC 1. Intellectual Autonomy (Alpha .70)
AC 2. Hierarchy (Alpha .40)
AC 3. Egalitarianism (Alpha .88)
AC 4. Mastery (alpha .69)
AC 5. Affective Autonomy (Alpha .82)
AC 6. Embeddedness (Alpha .69)
AC 7. Harmony (Alpha .72)

P-value Factor Mean Std. Dev P-value
AC1 . 2226 AC4 <-0001
1 4.538 1.322 4 3.719 1.234
22 4.635 1.321 11 4.838 1.257
AC2 13 3.669 1.288
2 2.919 1.477 15 3.596 1.316
17 2.935 1.258 24 4.012 1.331
38 3.588 1.317 32 3.638 1.373
39 3.304 1.164 34 4.604 1.318

Factor Mean Std.
P-value AC6 Mean Std. Dev. P-value
AC3 .0280 AC5 <.0001
3 4.865 1.395 8 4.150 1.380
8 4.735 1.296 10 4.408 1.377
12 4.742 1.217 26 3.881 1.349
18 4.958 1.265 30 4.227 1.294
27 4.796 1.163 37 4.492 1.299
29 4.800 1.273
AC6 < .0001
5 3.777 1.363 28 4.342 1.225
7 3.338 1.439 31 4.300 1.357
9 3.158 1.575 33 4.269 1.354
14 4.365 1.484 35 4.438 1.312
16 3.604 1.381 36 4.404 1.183
20 3.804 1.605 AC / .0201
21 4.192 1.292 19 4.642 1.411
25 3.196 1.250 23 4.688 1.291
40 4.462 1.295

Table 2. The statistical description of the cultural value scale questionnaire.

There were not any statistically significant differences between age groups
in each cultural factors.

Differences between countries.

Finnish students stress maintenance of embeddedness - status quo (as social order, respect of
tradition and self discipline) more than students from Serbia-Montenegro who stress autonomy
(curiosity, broadmindedness and creativity)

Finnish students stress maintenance of hierarchy (social power, authority, humility, wealth), the
legitimacy of an unequal distribution of power, roles and resources more than students from
Serbia-Montenegro who emphasize transcendence, equality, social justice, freedom,
responsibility and honesty.

The highest Correlations between value factors were:
A6 - A5 Enjoying life -. Intellectuality, curiosity and creativity .682,
A1 - A7 Security and respect of others - Close friendship, equality and love of one’s
neighbor ..643,
A8 - A1 Protection of human being and nature - Security and respect of others .616,
A7 - A5 Close friendship, equality and love of one’s neighbor - Intellectuality, curiosity
and creativity .602
A6 -A4 Enjoying life - Searching for success .600

Dependency model shows the strengths of the arcs and also take a look at two causal graphs that
speculate about the possible causalities underlying the observable statistical dependencies.
(Ruohotie, Nokelainen, Tirri & Silander 2000.) Dependence model is made by a naïve causal
model. During the search, 8486721 candidate models were evaluated. The results show:

Variable 22 & 1 = Intellectual autonomy (,2226), Variable 6, 30, 37, 10 & 26 = Affective
autonomy (<,0001),
Variable 27. 12, 18, 29 3, 8 and 33 = Egalitarianism (, 0280), Variable 19, 23 & 40 = Harmony (< ,
and variable 24, 13 & 4 = Mastery (< .0001)

Picture 3. Dependency model; Strengths of dependencies (arcs)

In naïve causal models may be two kind of connections between variables: Indirect arcs and direct
arcs. We can see from Picture 3 that there is no variables predicting each other value base behavior
and 12 variable are independent of all other variables: ( 2, 9, 15,17, 20, 25, 28, 31, 32, 36, 38, 39. ).

Very clear direct dependency can be find between ‘Intellectual autonomy with ‘Affective autonomy’
‘and between ‘Intellectual autonomy’ with ‘Egalitarianism’.
‘Mastery ’ is totally independent group, as well as ‘Harmony’ group.”

5. Conclusions

The results of the validation process and the students’ and tutors’ feedback on the IntCultNet pilot
1 37
27 6
35 7 18 24
21 5 13 14
8 33
40 23
courses have proved that the project Intercultural Learning in the Internet (IntCultNet) – A Ladder
of Personal Success has created and produced a unique prototype of a visionary learning product
worth developing further.

The project partners are actively negotiating with different interest groups to form letters of intents
to jointly make possible the take-off of the next phase of this project. New visions of the use of the
HCCA learning process are under construction – new approaches and ideas are warmly welcomed.
The next goal is to implement this learning product in use for a true variety of multicultural and
multinational corporations and public organizations. The next targets include promoting
interdisciplinary views for understanding, appreciating and maintaining cultural and biodiversity.
To achieve the targets transformative learning in multicultural context needs to be further
encouraged. Learning self-evaluation and self-reflection throughout whole organizations reduces
the amounts of barriers in putting visions into action and strategies to succeed.


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