Where international students are on-line: it makes a difference 


All on-line teaching and learning was hard last year – it was harder for students off-shore

Last week the OECD released two quite short reports (not the usual many hundred pages) on the shift to on-line learning in higher education and in VET in the first twelve months of COVID-19.

The reports draw on data from a variety of sources to look at how institutions and systems responded, and they are worth a read.

The top five immediate challenges higher education institutions faced in the rapid move to on-line learning in March 2020 were:

* ensuring the continuity of the academic learning of students (92 per cent said this was “very” or “somewhat” challenging)

* supporting students that lack skills for independent study/online study (90 per cent)

* ensuring support for parent caregivers to support student learning (87 per cent)

* ensuring continuity/integrity of the assessment of student learning (86 per cent)

* ensuring the well-being of students (80 per cent)

Last week we gained access to another source of data showing how well Australian higher education institutions managed the rapid shift to online delivery during COVID-19 with the release of the QILT 2020 International Student Experience Survey.

The report separates out the experiences of international students studying offshore (and hence fully on-line) with those of students here in Australia who had a mix of on-line and face-to-face delivery.

Of the five sub-components of the quality of the undergraduate educational experience measured by QILT, learner engagement was rated least positively by all international students – but offshore students were much less satisfied (just 42 per cent gave a positive rating compared with 50 per cent of on-shore international students).

International onshore students also gave more favourable ratings than offshore students for their skills development (76 per cent vs 73 per cent), teaching quality (75 per cent vs 73 per cent), student support (71 per cent vs 67 per cent) and the overall quality of their educational experience (64 per cent and 61 per cent). Both cohorts gave the same positive ratings (72 per cent) for their learning resources.

Collectively these reports are useful resources for educators as they continue to redesign their courses for more engaging online learning.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector