What works for international students online

The COVID-inspired rush to online teaching and learning had “profound impacts” on international students, Thinh Huynha and Ly Thi Tran (Deakin U) have found.

The researchers reviewed published research to identify what happened.

Positives included

  • digitised study is a “key driver” for internationals to “become more active and independent”
  • on-line real-time, classes “facilitate the acquisition of real-world authentic information”
  • asynchronous digital classes lets students repeat content to “better navigate any language barriers”


  • less informal interaction and failed peer discussion
  • “digital illiteracy” including, “the unfamiliar experiences of using searching databases, on-line journals, and learning-help services”
  • fatigue and anxiety from too-much time on-line


  • students from multi-countries cooperating on experiments
  • choosing when to take asynchronous classes
  • choosing preferred modes of expression, good for students from cultures that prefer writing to speaking

Key challenges

  • “on-line learning is not culturally neutral because of the central paradox between the diversity of international students and the homogeneousness of epistemologies, teaching philosophies, and learning objectives”
  • slow, unstable, insecure, expensive Internet connections
  • time-zones

The take-out: “invest in human resources, especially digital literacy, to ensure that international students are placed at the centre of the digitalisation.”



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