Jisc report explores international students’ digital experience
Higher education leaders and those working in international strategic planning should integrate international strategies with digital transformation strategies, according to a recent report from Jisc.
The report seeks to highlight “alternative perspectives” and consider issues that might impact the digital experience of international students in the UK.
The not-for-profit organisation said the report aimed to summarise data relating to UK international student numbers and diversity trends and discuss various issues relating to international student digital experience, including potential language, cultural differences and associated digital ‘shocks’.
A key finding was that international students are likely to experience digital systems and tools differently from domestic students.
Jisc suggested that institutions should be prepared to invest in resources, staff training and additional support for students.
“Given the pervasive nature of technology in western HE it is vital to consider the role of – and assumptions surrounding – the use of digital in order to deliver the best experience to international student learners.
“Digital technologies are woven throughout the international student experience: they are the conduit through which students appraise countries and institutions, they are a vital component of the application process, induction and on-boarding, and integrated into common pedagogic practice and learner analytics.”
Jisc noted that full-time international students represent 17% of the undergraduate and 67% of the postgraduate-taught student population in the UK.
“They contribute approximately £26bn per year to the economy and provide an important and valued contribution to cultural and intellectual diversity and talent,” the report reminded.
Analysis of Jisc’s digital experience insights survey data from 2021/22 highlighted a number of differences between the digital experiences of international and domestic students.
Jisc said one notable difference between domestic and international students studying in the UK occurred when students were asked the question “Have any of the following made it difficult for you to learn online?”
One answer option was “mobile data costs”. Some 21% of international students identified this as a barrier to online learning compared to only 12% of domestic students.
“This suggests that mobile devices may be of more importance to international students when it comes to accessing digital learning materials; something that is identified as a potential issue in other research,” the report said.
Other differences included the higher proportion of international students who reported having received support or training for learning online (54% international versus 37% domestic), and the lower proportion of international students who reported receiving support or training relating to plagiarism (52% international versus 58% domestic).
Jisc made several recommendations in the report, saying there is a “clear need” for HEI leaders and those working in international strategic planning and delivery roles to integrate international strategies with digital (transformation) strategies, as well as with EDI, curriculum design and Technology Enhanced Learning support.
“Institutions should be prepared to invest in resources, staff training and additional support”
“For example, a strategy to increase international student diversity can provide great benefits in the classroom but is also likely to lead to a broader diversity of previous TEL experience and may increase the diversity and/or levels of support needed,” the report said.
“Institutions should be prepared to invest in resources, staff training and additional support in response.”
Jisc also said staff involved in international strategy and delivery, as well as staff designing and delivering courses, should be actively aware of the digital journey that international students are making when they travel to study in UK HE.
“They are bringing their previous experience and cultural expectations with them, which may vary greatly from those of domestic students,” the report said.
“Discussions between staff and students are likely to lead to better understanding on all sides.”
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