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How did students in Australia rate their institution’s response to Covid-19?

From June to September this year i-graduate ran a worldwide survey of local and international students about their study experiences during COVID-19. The survey targeted students who had been expecting to be studying on-campus in face-to-face mode, but due to COVID-19 had been required to suddenly switch to study online. Over 24,000 higher education students (15,000 local; 9,000 international) enrolled at 42 institutions across 11 countries responded to the survey.

The survey asked students about their overall experience, communication from their institution, aspects of their online learning experience (lectures and tutorials; assignments and group work; learning resources; tests and exams) and whether they were concerned about completing their studies given current COVID-impacted circumstances. In this report on Australian results, high level aggregate national data are referenced to provide an overview of results.

 Student satisfaction levels with their institution’s response to COVID-19 were generally positive. Globally, the majority of students were satisfied or very satisfied with their institution’s overall response (70%), their institution’s communication in response to the virus (77%) and their online learning experience (68%). Students enrolled with an Australian institution represented 12% of global respondents and satisfaction levels with the institutional response overall and the online learning experience were in line with global results. Satisfaction with communication in response to COVID-19 was marginally higher amongst students in Australia (81%).

Data for Australia comprise 2,870 responses from students enrolled with seven higher education institutions; global data comprise 24,184 responses from 42 institutions across Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the UK.

 

Global

Australia

Institution's response to COVID-19

70%

72%

Communication in response to COVID-19

77%

81%

Online learning experience

68%

69%

Table 1: Overall satisfaction with institution response, communication and online learning experience

An international comparison of students’ satisfaction with their education institution’s response to COVID-19 can be found here. 

While these results are positive for Australia, it is worth noting a number of our regional neighbours – New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore – saw higher satisfaction levels across a number measures.

After rating their experience of various aspects of online learning, students were asked which (if any) online activities they would like to continue when on-site teaching resumes. Approximately half of all respondents (49%) said they would like to continue accessing lectures online, however, respondents were much less enthusiastic about continuing other elements of their learning experience online – only about a third of respondents were supportive of continued online access to tutorials, tests and exams or support services. The response of students in Australia broadly aligned with global results – a return to normal service delivery is clearly preferred whenever that becomes possible.

 

Global

Australia

Lectures

49%

52%

Tutorials

38%

39%

Tests and exams

34%

35%

Support services

33%

33%

Assignments and group work

31%

30%

Other

4%

4%

None of the above

22%

21%

Table 2: Online activities students would like to continue when on-site studies resume

Students were asked if they were concerned about future studies at their institution. The proportion of Australia’s students concerned about completing their course (61%) was comparable with the global response (63%). The survey then asked students what concerned them most about COVID-19. The issues causing greatest concern differed, as can be seen in Table 3 below, but students globally and in Australia identified physical and mental health risks as the number one concern (26% and 24% respectively). Completing studies on time was of equal concern to students in Australia (24%).

 

Global

Australia

#1

Physical and mental health risks (26%)

Physical and mental health risks (24%)

#2

Impact on my future career (23%)

= #1 Completing my studies on time (24%)

#3

Completing my studies on time (20%)

Funding my studies (19%)

Table 3: Students’ top three concerns about COVID-19

Australia – local vs international

 Of the 2,870 responses from students in Australia, 55% were from local students and 45% from international students. Overall satisfaction with the institutional response to COVID-19 was higher amongst local students (74%) than international students (68%). Satisfaction levels with both communication from the institution and the online learning experience showed little variance between local and international cohorts, providing no insight to the difference in overall satisfaction.

 

 The majority (69% each) of local and international students were satisfied with their online learning experience and levels of satisfaction with various aspects of the online experience were comparable. Online learning resources and library facilities along with lectures and tutorials were the two aspects students in Australia – local and international – were most satisfied with. The greatest variance in satisfaction, though still relatively marginal, was seen with tests and exams, where international students were four percent more satisfied than locals.

 

Local

International

Lectures and tutorials

71%

72%

Assignments and group work

65%

63%

Online learning resources and library facilities

73%

74%

Test and exams

64%

68%

Table 4: Satisfaction with aspects of the online learning experience, Australia

As previously mentioned, the relatively positive response to the online learning experience for students in Australia is not reflected in their support for continued online access to various aspects of learning once on-site studies resume. While more than half (55%) of the local student respondents and close to half all international students (47%) said they would like online lectures to continue once on-site studies resume, support for continuing other online activities was low, as in the following table.

 

Local

International

Lectures

55%

47%

Tests and exams

36%

34%

Tutorials

39%

39%

Support services

30%

38%

Assignments and group work

26%

35%

Other

5%

3%

None of the above

22%

20%

Table 5: Online activities students would like to continue when on-site studies resume, Australia

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the greatest variance between local and international students in Australia can be seen in what concerns them most about COVID-19 and, more specifically, levels of concern about COVID-19’s impact on completing their course. Close to three quarters (73%) of international students said they were concerned or very concerned about completing their course due to COVID-19 compared with just over half of local student respondents (52%).

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 When asked what concerned them most about COVID-19, number one for international students was funding their studies (34%). Physical and mental health risks was the number one concern for local students in Australia followed by completing studies on time.

 

Local

International

#1

Physical and mental health risks (30%)

Funding my studies (34%)

#2

Completing my studies on time (28%)

Completing my studies on time (20%)

#3

Impact on my future career (14%)

Physical and mental health risks (16%)

Table 6: Students’ top three concerns about COVID-19, Australia

 

Australia – Top Five Nationality Respondents

 Australia’s top three sources of higher education enrolments – India, China and Nepal – were also the top three responding nationalities for international students in Australia (21%, 7% and 7% of the sample respectively). Students from the USA and Bhutan rounded out the top five nationalities participating in the survey, each representing five percent of the sample.

Nationality

Number of responses

% of international responses

India

275

21%

China

93

7%

Nepal

89

7%

USA

69

5%

Bhutan

63

5%

Table 7: Top five responding nationalities, International Students, Australia

A closer look at the top five responding nationalities exposes notable differences in levels of satisfaction with the institutional response and support for ongoing online delivery.

As noted earlier, the majority (68%) of international students were satisfied with their institution’s overall response to COVID-19 and this is true also for four of the top five responding nationalities, with at least two thirds saying they were satisfied or very satisfied. However, more than half of all students from USA said that overall they were dissatisfied (or very dissatisfied) with their institution’s response. Given USA was Australia’s tenth largest source market in 2019, with close to 10,000 students in HE or Non-award programs onshore2, this is worthy of attention.

Chart 1: Overall satisfaction with institution response to COVID-19, International Students, Australia

The proportion of students satisfied with their online learning experience generally aligns with overall satisfaction with the institutional response. This is true for international students in aggregate and for Indian, Chinese and Bhutanese students. Nepalese students were ten percent more satisfied with their online learning experience than with their institution’s response to COVID-19. Significantly lower levels of satisfaction with the online learning experience amongst students from the USA provide some insight as to their dissatisfaction with the overall response of institutions.

Chart 2: Overall satisfaction with online learning experience, International Students, Australia

For the most part, the top five responding nationalities reported positively on different aspects of the online learning experience in line with Australia’s total international student response. Students from the USA reported the lowest satisfaction levels for each aspect of the online learning experience included in the survey. More USA students were dissatisfied than satisfied with assignments and group work and just over half (52%) were satisfied with their experience of online lectures and tutorials. It is likely these two aspects are driving the generally negative response of USA students to the online learning experience specifically and the overall institutional response to COVID-19.

 

All international

India

China

Nepal

USA

Bhutan

Lectures and tutorials

72%

68%

79%

78%

52%

90%

Assignments and group work

63%

63%

71%

75%

41%

81%

Online learning resources and library facilities

74%

74%

78%

75%

67%

81%

Test and exams

68%

69%

78%

74%

63%

67%

Table 8: Satisfaction with aspects of the online learning experience, International Students, Australia

As seen in global results, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for study and support activities continuing online once classes resume on site. Tests and exams, tutorials, support services and assignments and group work managed to muster support from just a third of Australia’s international respondents overall, with lectures not quite managing 50% support to continue online. There was significant variation between nationality groups, but it seems clear that the majority of respondents look forward to most activities returning to pre-COVID delivery modes.

 

All international

India

China

Nepal

USA

Bhutan

Lectures

47%

57%

66%

43%

21%

50%

Tests and exams

34%

41%

43%

31%

38%

21%

Tutorials

39%

50%

45%

31%

21%

29%

Support services

38%

43%

40%

46%

17%

32%

Assignments and group work

35%

49%

43%

33%

10%

43%

Other

3%

1%

2%

0%

0%

0%

None of the above

20%

16%

5%

17%

38%

25%

Table 9: Online activities students would like to continue when on-site studies resume, International Students, Australia

Funding studies was the number one concern for three of the top five responding nationalities in the survey, and number two for students from the USA. Somewhat surprisingly, this concern did not feature in the top three for Chinese respondents. Completing studies on time was also a primary concern, with four of the top five nationalities reporting this as a top three concern. While USA students did not report completing studies on time as a major concern, they were the only top five nationality with travel restrictions as a top concern (equal second, 22%).

 

AUS (all international)

India

China

Nepal

USA

Bhutan

#1

Funding my studies (34%)

Funding my studies (52%)

Completing my studies on time (28%)

Funding my studies (56%)

Impact on my future career (24%)

Funding my studies (47%)

#2

Completing my studies on time (20%)

Impact on my future career (18%)

Physical and mental health risks (24%)

Physical and mental health risks (17%)

Funding my studies (22%)

Physical and mental health risks (27%)

#3

Physical and mental health risks (16%)

Completing my studies on time (12%)

Impact on my future career (20%)

Completing my studies on time (16%)

= #2 Travel restrictions (22%)

Completing my studies on time (19%)

Table 10: Students’ top three concerns about COVID-19, International Students, Australia

Authors :

Stephen Connelly, Director, i-graduate Australia     

Rachel Perkin, Manager, Client Relations, i-graduate Australia 

 

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