Student experience is everything when it comes to transnational education – starting with connectivity

21 November 2017

​We were delighted to welcome Jisc as a sponsor of the Transnational education: here to stay​ conference. Esther Wilkinson, Head of International at Jisc, writes about the importance of connectivity for the student experience in transnational education (TNE) delivery.  ​

​​​Transnational education represents a significant growth area within the UK international education portfolio, forming 11% of cumulative fee revenues. and supporting more than 700,000 students across the world to be educated by UK universities.

So rightly, student experience is a major consideration for education providers at the outset of developing TNE programmes – to ensure that there is parity of teaching and learning for students based overseas. 

The modern day learning environment, whether online or otherwise, increasingly relies upon technology to engage learners and enhance course programmes. With so many of the platforms for learning, collaboration and research existing online, however, internet connections can be make or break.

Probably best known for the Janet Network, Jisc has been supporting UK higher education (HE) institutes to develop their TNE programmes for some years now. The technological infrastructure is critical, both to delivering content and to meeting expectations of students. Seamless connectivity between global sites has to be the standard.

TNE is key to Jisc’s international strategy in supporting the HE community, and we believe it’s right that those studying across international borders, like all students who are now substantially investing in their education, are given equal quality of provision and student experience.

We know that alongside providing the technological infrastructure, students need to be supported with easy access to teaching and learning materials which meet their needs as well as they’re met on campus. As part of our package of support, Jisc has recently launched a TNE licensing pilot – again drawing on our expertise and collaboration with members. The plan is to develop a service that brings efficiencies to librarians and obviates the need to address overseas negotiations with publishers on a case by case basis.

Through aggregating demand, we are aiming to negotiate on behalf of TNE providers with publishers, and take both the headache and the open-ended costs out of these agreements, ensuring students can access the materials they would expect to have on tap as part of their HE experience.

There are many facets to the whole student experience, covering intellectual, emotional, pastoral, social, and digital elements. Wherever they may be in the world and whether they choose to study for qualifications offered in their home country or abroad, students as a minimum expect uninterrupted access to technology and digital resources. So much of their experience as a student centres on the ability to connect, whether that be to the local Wi-Fi or back to the home institution.

Heriot-Watt University has campuses in Scotland, Dubai and Malaysia, supporting 30,000 students across all three, but there were issues in connectivity which were hindering the Malaysia campus’s IT communications. Through brokering contracts with commercial suppliers Jisc was able to help Herriot-Watt fulfil its vision of a global university, delivering global graduates.

Jisc was also able to solve technological problems between Hull University and its Shanghai office, so the team in China could easily access student-related systems. Securing this link helped to bump up recruitment in September 2016 to 480 from 280 the previous year. 

In China, Jisc helped Queen Mary University of London improve the speed and reliability of a connection between two campuses there and its UK virtual learning environment, where previously take up had been low.

Ultimately, within Jisc’s international portfolio, the aim is to offer everything we do for universities in the UK to any of their sites and partnerships overseas. Plans for the not-too-distant future include extending services covering learning analytics, digital capabilities and monitoring student experience to the TNE setting.

Through drawing on our expertise in IT, Jisc has been able to meet the needs of many TNE programmes as they start out or upscale their offer. If you would like to know more, or take part in the TNE licencing pilot, please contact​

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