Jisc report urges UK higher education to address digital needs of international students

The study covers student experiences in onboarding, assessment, virtual learning environments, and blended and online learning.

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A new report from Jisc highlights findings from a survey of international students in the UK, emphasizing the need for the higher education sector to address how it supports their digital needs.

The report underscored the integral role of technology in the international student journey and calls for a better understanding of international students’ digital learning experiences.

The study is titled “International students’ digital experience phase two: The experiences and expectations of international students studying in UK higher education.”

It builds on 18 years of Jisc’s research into students’ digital experiences, incorporating feedback from over 2,000 international students.

The report also includes input from 14 higher education providers (HEPs) and sector bodies such as Advance HE, BUILA, the British Council, QAA, UCAS, UKCISA, UUKi.

The first phase of the study delved into higher education policies and strategies. This second phase now focuses on the digital experiences of international students.

Jisc recommendations

The study covers a range of aspects, including student experiences in onboarding, assessment, virtual learning environments, blended and online learning, internet and data, digital skills and support, and technical challenges faced during studies.

It also addresses the “digital shocks” experienced by many international students arriving in the UK and suggests ways to address them.

HEPs are advised to implement the following recommendations:

Pre-arrival:

  • Provide international students with an accurate summary of how technology will be used in their course.
  • Offer information on accessing the internet on and off campus and explain services like Eduroam, and provide guidance on using reliable wifi versus mobile data in the UK.
  • Ensure that multifactor authentication using mobile numbers allows for a smooth transition to new devices upon arrival in the UK.

Upon arrival, HEPs are recommended to:

  • Provide students with an overview of university digital systems and how they interact.
  • Advise international students on the digital platforms, technologies, resources, and apps available to them, along with guidance on how to gain access.

During the course, HEPs are advised to:

  • Ensure all recorded lectures have clear, high-quality audio and accurate captions, especially for subject-specific terminology.
  • Reflect international students’ digital needs within institutional strategies, recognizing the diversity of digital experiences associated with different global home areas.
  • Allocate sufficient time, recognition, and rewards for teaching and support staff to effectively cater to a diverse student cohort.

Putting theory into practice

“We hope institutions will feel inspired to use our findings to inform both strategy and practice, providing more tailored support for international students to smooth their digital border crossings,” said Elizabeth Newall, senior sector specialist (digital transformation), higher education at Jisc.

Jacqui Jenkins, Global Programme Lead for International Students Mobility, Education, and Society at the British Council, emphasized the importance of the research into international student digital experience.

She noted that it will inform various stakeholders, enhance the higher education experience for international students, and contribute to positioning the UK as a world-class study destination.

Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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