Jisc and the Portulans Institute share how international students experience digital in their home countries

June 14, 2024

Download the briefing paper

Jisc, the UK’s body for technology in education and research​,​ has joined forces with the Portulans Institute, a not-for-profit research and educational institute in Washington DC, to explore the varying online learning experiences of international students in higher education.

‘Digital country profiles: International students’ digital experiences in relation to their home country’s civil digital infrastructure’, highlights the technological infrastructure of international students’ home countries, sharing profiles for Nigeria, India, Pakistan and China.

The briefing paper uses two data sources: the network readiness index (NRI) ​published​​ ​by the Portulans Institute and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and student feedback data collected by us.

Our wider international student research already outlines the potential for cultural and digital shocks, and the importance of better understanding international students’ prior digital experience when seeking to support them in transitioning into the UK teaching and learning environment.

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. Students might find it challenging to adjust to the expectations of using technology for learning in UK higher education, or they might not be accustomed to having reliable wifi, 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. By understanding the needs of international students, and prioritising an equitable experience for them, we have the potential to forge a world-class digital learning experience that supports the needs of all students”

Soumitra Dutta, president of Portulans Institute and dean of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, said:

​“Over the past two decades, the NRI has become a comprehensive assessment of digital readiness, supporting metrics-based, informed policymaking on technology and digital transformation.

“Providing valuable insights into the digital contexts experienced by students in their home countries, this collaboration offers guidance towards cultivating a safe, inclusive and trusted digital environment that enables all students to thrive.​​”​

‘Digital country profiles: International students’ digital experiences in relation to their home country’s civil digital infrastructure’, is the 4th in a series of briefing papers designed to inform both strategy and practice, providing more tailored support for international students to smooth their digital border crossings. Further papers will be released in the coming months.