Many international students find digital learning in UK incomparable to previous experiences

New resources share challenges faced by international students studying in higher education

Jisc has released three briefing papers to help higher education in the UK better support international students, giving them equitable access to teaching and learning.

The papers are based on reports from Jisc’s international students' digital experience (ISDX) work, which underscore the integral role technology plays in the international student journey, and the need for a better understanding of international students' digital learning experiences.

Reports so far include student feedback about their digital experience and technical problems faced during studies. They describe the ‘digital shocks’ experienced by many international students coming to the UK, and how to address them.

The new briefing papers provide advice on three key themes:

  • how to engage international students in sharing their experiences
  • how to improve the international student digital experience
  • how to better understand international students through the lens of Jisc's digital experience insights (DEI) survey data

One paper finds that, depending on their home global area, up to 34% of international students report that their previous use of digital technologies to support learning was ‘very different and impossible to compare to that in the UK’.

This indicates that students from certain areas might find it particularly challenging to adjust to the expectations of using technology for learning in UK higher education.

Another shows that international students from certain global areas are not accustomed to having access to reliable wifi in their home countries, leading them to pay for mobile data to access online learning resources in the UK.

Furthermore, some UK institutions assume reliable and free wifi access is a global standard and fail to explain what eduroam is and that wifi can usually be accessed for free in civic spaces as well as on campus.

A final briefing paper shares that international students can often feel reluctant to share feedback for fear of it negatively impacting them. This paper can be used as a blueprint to facilitate open and honest conversations and gather holistic feedback on the use of digital and AI, for example.

Elizabeth Newall, senior sector specialist (digital transformation), higher education at Jisc said:

“Given the pervasive use of digital throughout the student journey, we can’t understand international students’ learning experience without evaluating their experiences of digital.  “We hope institutions will feel inspired to use these short briefing papers to inform both strategy and practice, providing more tailored support for international students to smooth their digital border crossings.

“The resources include a guide to facilitate conversations among staff and students to gather honest student feedback, a checklist for organisations to assess how they can provide better support, and a briefing paper comparing the experiences of UK and international students.”

“With a commitment to inclusivity and a primary focus on equitable results for international students, we have the potential to forge a digital learning experience that caters to all students.”

Find out more

Read the briefing papers:

Jisc’s international student experience research is split into four phases. Find out more about the project and join our mailing list to keep up to date with progress, reports and sector briefings.

Read our latest report: International students’ digital experience Phase two: the experiences and expectations of international students studying in UK higher education

Read our first report, International students’ digital experience phase one: a review of policy, academic literature and views from UK higher education - Jisc