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International students’ digital experience:
understanding and mitigating the ‘digital shock’
DEI webinar
5 March 2024
Elizabeth Newall, Senior sector specialist (digital transformation), Jisc
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Use chat for comments,
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2 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
Why look at the digital experiences of international
students?
• UK higher education (HE) embeds digital into teaching
and learning like never before
• Numbers of international students coming to the UK to
study are higher than ever
• Important for UK HE to consider the expectations and
experiences of international students to support their
transition
• This isn’t just about access; this is about considering
cultural and digital expectations and differences
• Understanding the experiences of international
students ultimately helps all students to better access
and learn
3 International students’ digital experience
International students in the UK:
facts and figures
International student
population
• 2021/22: 680,000 international
students from 200+
countries/territories (HESA data)
• 17% full-time UG and 67% full-time
PGT are international students
• In last five years, significant increase
in students coming from Southern
and Eastern Asia and a decrease in
EU students
5 International students’ digital experience
Phases of Jisc research:
International students’ digital experience
• Phase one reviewed issues and perspectives from
UK HE policy makers, academic and grey literature,
and advocates working in this space
• Phase one report published in April 2023, available:
ji.sc/international-students-digital-experience
• Phase two consulted directly with international
students at 14 HE providers to better understand their
experiences
• Phase two report published November 2023, with a
set of briefing papers in March 2024
• Phase three is being scoped with sector input
6 International students’ digital experience
From culture shock to digital shock
Culture shock definition:
‘the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are
suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes’
UKCISA (2016) 5 top tips for dealing with culture shock
Available at:
www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information--Advice/Preparation-and-Arrival/Facing-culture-shock
7 International students’ digital experience
Diversity of digital experiences in and between countries
https://networkreadinessindex.org/countries/
8 International students’ digital experience
Phase two: consultation with international
students
Research methods
• Anonymous online survey across 14
HEIs (N=2,064 responses)
• Focus groups in 10 sites across 9 HEIs
(N=150 students)
• All focus groups carried out offline, with
students using nicknames
• International students reimbursed for
their time
10 International students’ digital experiences
Whose voices are represented?
Who we asked
• 80% PGT students
• 67% English was a second language
• Most participants from Asia or Africa
• Most common home countries: India (26% survey),
Nigeria (20% survey)
• Fewer Chinese students than national cohort
• Significant differences in digital use between sub-
areas of Asia, notably Indian Subcontinent versus
East Asia
• Age: 33% focus group and 38% survey
respondents 30+
• Gender: 60% female, 40% male
12 International students’ digital experiences
More about who we asked
• Most were mature students
• Many previously held careers
relevant to their current PGT
• We met people who in their home
country were architects, GPs,
accountants etc
• Almost equal number of participants
attended private school (fee paying)
versus state/government funded
school
13 International students’ digital experiences
Use of digital in home country
Home country infrastructure and learning differences
• 46% of East Asian students felt their access to reliable
Wi-Fi in their home country was better than in the UK
• 57% of African international students were used to daily
power cuts, 18% in Indian Subcontinent and 2% in
Europe
• Students across all groups used digital daily to support
their learning but more students from African countries
did so amid frequent power cuts and less access to
reliable Wi-Fi
• African students told us they often relied on mobile data
(4G or 5G) and secondary power sources
15 International students’ digital experience
Deficit
Difference
The on course digital experience
On course digital experience
• Most students were positive about
exposure to technology-enabled
learning (TEL)
• Most international students are using
AI to support their learning
• Struggles included: authentication,
access to university systems outside
UK, lecturers with unfamiliar accents,
lack of subtitled recorded lectures
• Some international students do not
expect access to reliable, high-speed
Wi-Fi
17 International students’ digital experience
Digital shocks
• Expectations around how technology-
enabled learning is used in UK HE
• Navigation and understanding of how,
when and why to use digital
• Understanding what digital is: university-
provided, licensed from other suppliers,
accessible post-graduation
• Additional support to develop digital skills
to enable equitable access to learning
• Additional language needs driving digital
inequality
18 International students’ digital experience
A focus on online behaviours
Online behaviour comfort levels
• American students more likely to feel
comfortable turning on their webcam
• Students from African and Indian
Subcontinent countries were more
likely to feel comfortable raising a
hand to speak
• East Asian students had a
preference to not engage in any
forms of online interaction other than
posting comments in the chat
35%
40%
49%
57%
72%
Turning my webcam on
Using live polls
Joining in with small group
discussions
Raising my hand to request to speak
Posting comments in the chat
Comfort levels for five online behaviours
20 International students’ digital experience
Digital shocks in the wider learning experience
‘Good digital’ isn’t enough for a good learning experience
• Happy with the digital resources provided
on course but…
• Many hadn’t appreciated amount of self-
directed and independent learning
• Expected more:
• face-to-face teaching
• access to lecturers for one-to-ones
• opportunities of group discussion and
debate with course peers
22 International students’ digital experience
Two-way dialogue, grade boundaries and parental pressure
• Current digital practice was predominantly
experienced as one-way
• UK HE grade boundaries are often very different
leading to shock and anxiety for students used to
getting high marks (80%+)
• Parents can place significant pressure and,
without managing expectations, current UK
marking schemes do not make students look
good back home
• Clear guidance sought on how to improve grades
in future assessments
23 International students’ digital experience
Summary and recommendations
Top five recommendations
Pre-arrival
Arrival
On course
Strategic thinking
1. Manage expectations. Provide clear information about:
(a) how technology will be used on course
(b) what additional support is provided for broader digital skills
(c) the importance of self-directed study in UK HE,
(d) typical grade boundaries
(e) how to expect to use technology in day-to-day life both on and off-campus
2. Provide international students with an overview of university digital systems and how
they interact, and facilitate access from abroad
3. Ensure all recorded lectures have clear, high-quality audio and captions that are
checked to ensure critical subject-related terminology is captioned as intended
4. Design teaching and learning activities to cater for a diversity of digital experience and
comfort levels, and support international students to learn new digital skills
5. Ensure that the digital experience support requirements of international students on
transition to UK HE are reflected in institutional strategies on-course, including those
relating to business planning, digital transformation, teaching and learning, and EDI
25 International students’ digital experience
International students’ digital experience
phase two: experiences and expectations
• Phase two report published November 2023,
available from ji.sc/isdx-phase-two
• Phase two consulted directly with over 2,000
international students at 14 UK HE providers to
better understand their digital experiences and
expectations
• Report describes digital shocks that impact the
learning experience of international students
studying in UK higher education
• Report summarises our findings and makes
recommendations to the sector
26 International students’ digital experiences
What ONE thing?
Your feedback
Please add a post to this Padlet to say what ONE thing this
research has made you think about in relation to international
students at your own institution?
https://padlet.com/elizabeth_newall/onething
27 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
Sharing good practice
Case studies sought
Are you responding to any of the recommendations? If so,
please spare a couple of minutes to share your feedback, and
participate in promoting good practice across the sector
app.onlinesurveys.jisc.ac.uk/s/isdx2/isdxp3-feedback
28 International students’ digital experience
Briefing papers launch at Digifest
Three new briefing papers linked to phase two:
1. Supporting international students’ digital experience: a
checklist for providing an equitable and inclusive
experience
2. Facilitating holistic conversations about the student
experience with international students
3. Comparing international and UK-domiciled student
responses in the digital experience insights (DEI) survey
They will be available from:
ji.sc/isdx-phase-two
29 International students’ digital experience
Comparing international and UK-domiciled student
responses in DEI 2023
Undergraduates PGTs
Off-campus access
to various
resources
UK-
domiciled
students
International
students
Statistically significant
difference
UK-domiciled
students
International
students
Statistically significant difference
No suitable
computer / device
14% 21% Yes
ChiSq=107.27, df=1, p<0.001
13% 24% Yes
ChiSq=139.66, df=1, p<0.001
No safe area to
work
9% 17% Yes
ChiSq=181.18, df=1, p<0.001
8% 22% Yes
ChiSq=256.09, df=1, p<0.001
No private area to
work
14% 18% Yes
ChiSq=23.11, df=1, p<0.001
15% 20% Yes
ChiSq=23.43, df=1, p<0.001
Cannot access
online systems
needed
24% 27% Yes
ChiSq=11.31, df=1, p<0.001
22% 27% Yes
ChiSq=17.78, df=1, p<0.001
Poor wifi
connection
33% 34% No
ChiSq=1.42, df=1, p=0.23
28% 33% Yes
ChiSq=17.01, df=1, p<0.001
Mobile data costs 22% 32% Yes
ChiSq=128.12, df=1, p<0.001
17% 40% Yes
ChiSq=431.63, df=1, p<0.001
30 Table 1. A comparison of UK-domiciled versus international undergraduate and PGT students when asked whether any
of the issues listed make it more difficult for them to access digital resources needed for their learning when off-campus
Phase three
Transnational education (TNE) students’ digital experience
We are scoping a potential phase three around the digital
experiences of TNE students.
If this research would be of interest to your institution,
please let us know via this short form:
app.onlinesurveys.jisc.ac.uk/s/isdx2/tne-scope
31 International students’ digital experience
Follow the
ISDX project
If you are interested in following the
outcomes of this project, please register
your interest
ji.sc/stay-informed-isdx
Find out more
32 International students’ digital experience
help@jisc.ac.uk
jisc.ac.uk
Get in touch …
Elizabeth Newall
elizabeth.newall@jisc.ac.uk
Senior sector specialist (digital
transformation)
HE and research directorate
Except where otherwise noted,
this work is licensed under CC-BY
Any questions?
Poll
Your feedback:
• How do you feel about today’s
event?
• What would you like to see more of
in future webinars?
Photo by Jason
Rosewell on Unsplash
35 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
Get in touch …
Digital experience insights
digitalinsights.jisc.ac.uk
help@jisc.ac.uk
Clare Killen
clare.killen@jisc.ac.uk
Dominic Walker
dominic.walker@jisc.ac.uk
Andrew McFadyen
andrew.mcfadyen@jisc.ac.uk
Except where otherwise noted,
this work is licensed under CC-BY

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International students’ digital experience: understanding and mitigating the ‘digital shock’

  • 1. International students’ digital experience: understanding and mitigating the ‘digital shock’ DEI webinar 5 March 2024 Elizabeth Newall, Senior sector specialist (digital transformation), Jisc
  • 2. Tips for an enjoyable session We will be recording this session You are welcome to keep your video on, but … Turn off/blur video if other people are in background Please mute your mic when not speaking Raise your hand to request the mic (reactions) Use chat for comments, questions and links 2 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
  • 3. Why look at the digital experiences of international students? • UK higher education (HE) embeds digital into teaching and learning like never before • Numbers of international students coming to the UK to study are higher than ever • Important for UK HE to consider the expectations and experiences of international students to support their transition • This isn’t just about access; this is about considering cultural and digital expectations and differences • Understanding the experiences of international students ultimately helps all students to better access and learn 3 International students’ digital experience
  • 4. International students in the UK: facts and figures
  • 5. International student population • 2021/22: 680,000 international students from 200+ countries/territories (HESA data) • 17% full-time UG and 67% full-time PGT are international students • In last five years, significant increase in students coming from Southern and Eastern Asia and a decrease in EU students 5 International students’ digital experience
  • 6. Phases of Jisc research: International students’ digital experience • Phase one reviewed issues and perspectives from UK HE policy makers, academic and grey literature, and advocates working in this space • Phase one report published in April 2023, available: ji.sc/international-students-digital-experience • Phase two consulted directly with international students at 14 HE providers to better understand their experiences • Phase two report published November 2023, with a set of briefing papers in March 2024 • Phase three is being scoped with sector input 6 International students’ digital experience
  • 7. From culture shock to digital shock Culture shock definition: ‘the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes’ UKCISA (2016) 5 top tips for dealing with culture shock Available at: www.ukcisa.org.uk/Information--Advice/Preparation-and-Arrival/Facing-culture-shock 7 International students’ digital experience
  • 8. Diversity of digital experiences in and between countries https://networkreadinessindex.org/countries/ 8 International students’ digital experience
  • 9. Phase two: consultation with international students
  • 10. Research methods • Anonymous online survey across 14 HEIs (N=2,064 responses) • Focus groups in 10 sites across 9 HEIs (N=150 students) • All focus groups carried out offline, with students using nicknames • International students reimbursed for their time 10 International students’ digital experiences
  • 11. Whose voices are represented?
  • 12. Who we asked • 80% PGT students • 67% English was a second language • Most participants from Asia or Africa • Most common home countries: India (26% survey), Nigeria (20% survey) • Fewer Chinese students than national cohort • Significant differences in digital use between sub- areas of Asia, notably Indian Subcontinent versus East Asia • Age: 33% focus group and 38% survey respondents 30+ • Gender: 60% female, 40% male 12 International students’ digital experiences
  • 13. More about who we asked • Most were mature students • Many previously held careers relevant to their current PGT • We met people who in their home country were architects, GPs, accountants etc • Almost equal number of participants attended private school (fee paying) versus state/government funded school 13 International students’ digital experiences
  • 14. Use of digital in home country
  • 15. Home country infrastructure and learning differences • 46% of East Asian students felt their access to reliable Wi-Fi in their home country was better than in the UK • 57% of African international students were used to daily power cuts, 18% in Indian Subcontinent and 2% in Europe • Students across all groups used digital daily to support their learning but more students from African countries did so amid frequent power cuts and less access to reliable Wi-Fi • African students told us they often relied on mobile data (4G or 5G) and secondary power sources 15 International students’ digital experience Deficit Difference
  • 16. The on course digital experience
  • 17. On course digital experience • Most students were positive about exposure to technology-enabled learning (TEL) • Most international students are using AI to support their learning • Struggles included: authentication, access to university systems outside UK, lecturers with unfamiliar accents, lack of subtitled recorded lectures • Some international students do not expect access to reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi 17 International students’ digital experience
  • 18. Digital shocks • Expectations around how technology- enabled learning is used in UK HE • Navigation and understanding of how, when and why to use digital • Understanding what digital is: university- provided, licensed from other suppliers, accessible post-graduation • Additional support to develop digital skills to enable equitable access to learning • Additional language needs driving digital inequality 18 International students’ digital experience
  • 19. A focus on online behaviours
  • 20. Online behaviour comfort levels • American students more likely to feel comfortable turning on their webcam • Students from African and Indian Subcontinent countries were more likely to feel comfortable raising a hand to speak • East Asian students had a preference to not engage in any forms of online interaction other than posting comments in the chat 35% 40% 49% 57% 72% Turning my webcam on Using live polls Joining in with small group discussions Raising my hand to request to speak Posting comments in the chat Comfort levels for five online behaviours 20 International students’ digital experience
  • 21. Digital shocks in the wider learning experience
  • 22. ‘Good digital’ isn’t enough for a good learning experience • Happy with the digital resources provided on course but… • Many hadn’t appreciated amount of self- directed and independent learning • Expected more: • face-to-face teaching • access to lecturers for one-to-ones • opportunities of group discussion and debate with course peers 22 International students’ digital experience
  • 23. Two-way dialogue, grade boundaries and parental pressure • Current digital practice was predominantly experienced as one-way • UK HE grade boundaries are often very different leading to shock and anxiety for students used to getting high marks (80%+) • Parents can place significant pressure and, without managing expectations, current UK marking schemes do not make students look good back home • Clear guidance sought on how to improve grades in future assessments 23 International students’ digital experience
  • 25. Top five recommendations Pre-arrival Arrival On course Strategic thinking 1. Manage expectations. Provide clear information about: (a) how technology will be used on course (b) what additional support is provided for broader digital skills (c) the importance of self-directed study in UK HE, (d) typical grade boundaries (e) how to expect to use technology in day-to-day life both on and off-campus 2. Provide international students with an overview of university digital systems and how they interact, and facilitate access from abroad 3. Ensure all recorded lectures have clear, high-quality audio and captions that are checked to ensure critical subject-related terminology is captioned as intended 4. Design teaching and learning activities to cater for a diversity of digital experience and comfort levels, and support international students to learn new digital skills 5. Ensure that the digital experience support requirements of international students on transition to UK HE are reflected in institutional strategies on-course, including those relating to business planning, digital transformation, teaching and learning, and EDI 25 International students’ digital experience
  • 26. International students’ digital experience phase two: experiences and expectations • Phase two report published November 2023, available from ji.sc/isdx-phase-two • Phase two consulted directly with over 2,000 international students at 14 UK HE providers to better understand their digital experiences and expectations • Report describes digital shocks that impact the learning experience of international students studying in UK higher education • Report summarises our findings and makes recommendations to the sector 26 International students’ digital experiences
  • 27. What ONE thing? Your feedback Please add a post to this Padlet to say what ONE thing this research has made you think about in relation to international students at your own institution? https://padlet.com/elizabeth_newall/onething 27 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
  • 28. Sharing good practice Case studies sought Are you responding to any of the recommendations? If so, please spare a couple of minutes to share your feedback, and participate in promoting good practice across the sector app.onlinesurveys.jisc.ac.uk/s/isdx2/isdxp3-feedback 28 International students’ digital experience
  • 29. Briefing papers launch at Digifest Three new briefing papers linked to phase two: 1. Supporting international students’ digital experience: a checklist for providing an equitable and inclusive experience 2. Facilitating holistic conversations about the student experience with international students 3. Comparing international and UK-domiciled student responses in the digital experience insights (DEI) survey They will be available from: ji.sc/isdx-phase-two 29 International students’ digital experience
  • 30. Comparing international and UK-domiciled student responses in DEI 2023 Undergraduates PGTs Off-campus access to various resources UK- domiciled students International students Statistically significant difference UK-domiciled students International students Statistically significant difference No suitable computer / device 14% 21% Yes ChiSq=107.27, df=1, p<0.001 13% 24% Yes ChiSq=139.66, df=1, p<0.001 No safe area to work 9% 17% Yes ChiSq=181.18, df=1, p<0.001 8% 22% Yes ChiSq=256.09, df=1, p<0.001 No private area to work 14% 18% Yes ChiSq=23.11, df=1, p<0.001 15% 20% Yes ChiSq=23.43, df=1, p<0.001 Cannot access online systems needed 24% 27% Yes ChiSq=11.31, df=1, p<0.001 22% 27% Yes ChiSq=17.78, df=1, p<0.001 Poor wifi connection 33% 34% No ChiSq=1.42, df=1, p=0.23 28% 33% Yes ChiSq=17.01, df=1, p<0.001 Mobile data costs 22% 32% Yes ChiSq=128.12, df=1, p<0.001 17% 40% Yes ChiSq=431.63, df=1, p<0.001 30 Table 1. A comparison of UK-domiciled versus international undergraduate and PGT students when asked whether any of the issues listed make it more difficult for them to access digital resources needed for their learning when off-campus
  • 31. Phase three Transnational education (TNE) students’ digital experience We are scoping a potential phase three around the digital experiences of TNE students. If this research would be of interest to your institution, please let us know via this short form: app.onlinesurveys.jisc.ac.uk/s/isdx2/tne-scope 31 International students’ digital experience
  • 32. Follow the ISDX project If you are interested in following the outcomes of this project, please register your interest ji.sc/stay-informed-isdx Find out more 32 International students’ digital experience
  • 33. help@jisc.ac.uk jisc.ac.uk Get in touch … Elizabeth Newall elizabeth.newall@jisc.ac.uk Senior sector specialist (digital transformation) HE and research directorate Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under CC-BY
  • 35. Poll Your feedback: • How do you feel about today’s event? • What would you like to see more of in future webinars? Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash 35 Understanding international students’ digital experiences
  • 36. Get in touch … Digital experience insights digitalinsights.jisc.ac.uk help@jisc.ac.uk Clare Killen clare.killen@jisc.ac.uk Dominic Walker dominic.walker@jisc.ac.uk Andrew McFadyen andrew.mcfadyen@jisc.ac.uk Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under CC-BY