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Editor Interview: Digital Experiences of International Students

Posted on: November 17, 2020

What do we need to know about Digital Experiences?


Digital Experiences of International Students considers the digital experiences of students as a result of their engagement with international education providers and stakeholders from a transnational and trans-disciplinary perspective.

The editors of this new Routledge book, Shanton Chang and Catherine Gomes, were kind enough to spend some time answering some of the most pressing questions about the experiences of International Students today and what people can expect from their book.



1. Given that many students are now engaging with digital learning, why did you decide to focus on international students in this book?

It is true that all students are now engaging in digital learning. However, there are many assumptions made about all students having a similar experience in the online space . Instead of having a focus on all students as the same, there is a need to differentiate the experiences and learning expectations of the diversity of students - both international and domestic.

More importantly, this book is not focused solely on digital learning but includes broader digital experiences to do with everyday life, aspirations, and post-study. This book reflects on the diversity of international experiences that includes different ways in which international students engage in different social networks, platforms and websites. This book challenges education institutions to think about these diverse experiences and in doing so, be able to provide more appropriate and relevant support for students.


"Never before has there been a more appropriate time for a book on the digital experiences of international students. As the crisis surrounding Coronavirus demands institutions of higher education around the world to re-imagine the purposes of international education and develop new pedagogic models, this book is not only theoretically important, but it will also contribute greatly to the policy thinking of the struggling universities.It will enable them to learn how international students use the mobile technologies in a whole range of different ways, and give them a better sense of what might be possible."

—Professor Fazal Rizvi, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Australia


2. It’s been a long year – apart from the impact of COVID, did you expect digital learning to boom in the way it did during 2020?

This book is more than about digital learning. it is about the immersive experience students have with the digital. Long before COVID-19 entered our world, education institutions were already relying heavily on the digital to connect, communicate, recruit, and of course teach. At the same time, institutions also strongly encouraged - or made mandatory - the use of the digital between students themselves. Institutions, in other words, made assumptions that students immediately and organically knew how to unilaterally make use of the digital tools they commonly used. What the pandemic has done is highlight the importance of understanding diverse student digital experiences.


"Youths in many parts of the world seem inseparable from their ubiquitous digital devices. The social interactions such devices enable open up new worlds and new experiences. For an international student, navigating digital space can at once be liberating and challenging. The volume avoids an uncritical celebration of the possibilities while recognising the positive power of digital experiences. A timely addition to the literature."

—Lily Kong, President, Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University


3. What is the most common mistake that higher education institutions make when dealing with the digital experiences of international students?

The most common mistake here is assuming that international students inhabit the same digital environments,  or use the same platforms and social networking sites as domestic students or the wider local community.


"Digital Experiences of International Students edited by Shanton Chang and Catherine Gomes breaks new ground at a time in history when students and staff are increasingly immersed in international and intercultural digital worlds. Through wide-ranging discussions of examples and frameworks, a diverse group of authors explore issues of critical importance to every university. The most salient lesson of this book is the critical importance of employing strategic intercultural thinking in the way we use digital tools in universities to teach and support students. Practical examples and frameworks are provided to guide faculty, teachers and student affairs professionals seeking to use a range of digital tools to support their students’ academic, professional and personal growth through the formal and informal curriculum."

—Betty Leask, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University


4. What change we can expect in the digital higher education environment next year?

As more education institutions continue to try and reach out to their students to build a supportive and thriving digitally connected community, they will realise that it is important to have the right digital engagement strategies and approaches. As institutions start to work more closely together to provide support for students, they might start to learn from each other about the different ways in which students (and institutions all over the world) engage in the digital space. The institutions that would succeed in building thriving digital communities will be the ones who recognise, acknowledge and respect the diversity of international student digital experiences.


Digital Experiences of International Students is available on November 19th from routledge.com.