From education to employment

International students deserve an equitable digital experience

students working

Jisc has released a report that states the UK higher education (HE) sector needs to address how it supports the digital needs of international students. 

When international students first arrive at a UK campus, they can often experience ‘digital shock’ as they face a new range of unfamiliar systems and processes. 

Sometimes affecting wellbeing and performance, it can take months for students to overcome this shock and become familiar and comfortable with a new technological culture.

Jisc is the UK’s digital, data and technology agency for tertiary education and research, and the report builds on 18 years of research into the digital experiences of students. It finds that, while international students can have a wider range of digital skills than their UK counterparts, several challenges are apparent, including:

  • engagement with online learning
  • assessment and plagiarism
  • unsupported software and hardware
  • adapting to new digital platforms and devices
  • using technology to stay connected with friends and family back home 
  • digital inequity – the disparity in access, knowledge, and/or ability to use technology, such as struggling to afford data costs and/or devices 

The report recommends higher education providers (HEPs) should: 

  • Take a strategic view to supporting international students, with an integrated approach to digital strategy and delivery that works alongside an equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy 
  • Offer digital inductions pre-arrival and throughout the academic year 
  • Identify existing students as ‘digital champions’ to support new international students 
  • Create online communities to foster a sense of belonging   
  • Provide training that prepares students for digital learning and assessment  
  • Support- students with access to hardware and software where possible 
  • Embed internationalisation in curricula 

Jisc CEO Heidi Fraser-Krauss said:

“It is important to note that international students are not a homogenous group: we have found that students coming to the UK are increasingly diverse. They arrive with a wide breadth of personal perceptions, cultural backgrounds and prior experiences, both inside and outside formal education.

“UK HE providers are starting to better understand the expectations and differences of international students as they transition to a UK learning experience. I hope this report will prompt discussions across organisations about considering all aspects of international students’ experience through a digital lens.

“By taking a more inclusive approach, focusing on equity and outcomes for international students, we can create a digital experience that benefits all our students.” 

The report is the first of a four-phase research project aimed at understanding the challenges faced by international students, brought to the fore by teaching and learning during the pandemic, and driven by feedback from Jisc members.

Jisc has worked closely with Advance HE, AGCAS, ALT-ELESIG,BUILA, the British Council, the Department for Education,HESA, HeLF, UCAS, UKCISA, UUKi and UK HEPs to inform this body of research.

Related Articles