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Who are the International Students in Online Higher Education?

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Publication date1/08/2019
Host publicationE-Proceedings of International Conference on Distance Learning: Research and Innovation for a Digital Society
Place of PublicationNonthaburi, Thailand
PublisherSukhothai Thammathirat Open University
Number of pages8
ISBN (electronic)9786161619534
ISBN (print)9786161619534, 9786161619534
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the current higher education context, where there is a growing economic imperative for universities to diversify and globalise their income streams, offering online programmes is increasingly positioned as an effective strategy for recruiting international students. However, supporting online international students studying at a distance is not a simple task for either universities or tutors. The problem, in part, stems from a lack of scholarly understanding of how online international students experience—and engage with—online learning. This presentation addresses that gap in understanding by systematically, yet critically, reviewing relevant narratives from published scholarship about who online international students are (or are perceived to be). A total number of 39 articles, which have i) a focus on higher education; ii) a focus on pedagogical practice (rather than administrative matters, including recruitment); and iii) a focus on international students resident in a country different from the institution offering their online course, were reviewed in this project. We took a grounded theory approach to analysing the selected papers, which were treated as an empirical data set for our project, following the three steps of coding: open coding, axial coding, and selective coding. The presentation will discuss four types of narrative in the published academic literature, which describes online international students primarily as: i) unspecified others of rapidly increasing numbers; ii) specific others, with particular deficits; iii) specific others, to be drawn on as pedagogical resources; and iv) active participants in international learning communities. Specific examples of each type of narrative will be provided during our presentation and then, we shall discuss both the merits and the drawbacks of each type of narrative for online educators seeking pedagogical suggestions about supporting online international students in their real-life teaching contexts.