International Students in Online Courses

International Students in Online Courses

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7365-4.ch049
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Postsecondary institutions of education are recruiting higher numbers of international students. At the same time, they are increasing opportunities for students to participate in online courses. Despite these two current trends in postsecondary education, little research has been conducted specifically on international students learning in online courses. The chapter focuses on the few studies that have been conducted so far on this topic, with a focus on their findings.
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Postsecondary institutions are focusing their efforts on recruiting higher numbers of international students. At the same time, they are increasing opportunities for students in general to complete courses online. We find ourselves, therefore, “at the intersection of two trends in postsecondary education” (Rodríguez Manzanares, 2012, p. 1), that is, a growth in online learning (including online courses) and an increase in numbers of postsecondary international students. However, to date, few studies have been conducted specifically on international students learning in online courses (Murphy & Rodríguez Manzanares, 2014; Rodríguez Manzanares, 2012).

The present article focuses on the little research that has so far been conducted on international students in online courses. In order to allow for a focus on recent research, only reports of studies of international students in online courses published after 2000 were included. Some of them (e.g., Rodríguez Manzanares, 2012; Sadykova, 2014; Zhang & Kenny, 2010) related to research that has been reported on elsewhere (see Murphy & Rodríguez Manzanares, 2014; Sadykova, 2013; Zhang, 2007). In terms of the studies' research paradigms, Sadykova's study relied on mixed methods and Liu's (2008) and Sheu's (2005) survey research fit within a quantitative research paradigm, while the other studies included in this article fit within a qualitative research paradigm.

In the studies that were selected for inclusion, the international students which were the focus of research were taking or had completed online courses or programs. Not all of the studies' participants were completing their programs entirely online, as there were participants in the studies who were enrolled in on-campus courses at least for part of their studies (whether taking them concurrently with online courses or not).

Researchers have different perceptions of the meaning of some terms used to describe different learning environments, such as is the case with “online learning,” “distance learning,” and “e-Learning” (see Moore, Dickson-Deane, & Galyen, 2010). For the purpose of this article, the focus was on online courses and an online course was defined as one being fully delivered using online technologies, without any face-to-face components being part of its design. For this reason, only studies in which international students completed courses designed to be completed entirely online were considered. Excluded were studies (e.g., Chen, Bennett, & Maton, 2008; Wang, 2006) that referred to most of the instruction (such as a percentage of it) being online.

The term “international student” is used interchangeably with “foreign student” (Abdullah, Aziz, & Ibrahim, 2014) in some contexts, but, in other contexts, it is used to refer to a subset of international students, in the sense that foreign students would comprise those “who are not citizens of the countr[y in which they are learning], but may be long-term residents or were born in that country” (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014, p. 352). To avoid terminological confusion, for the purpose of this article only the term “international students” is used. They are defined as those “enrolled in a university in a foreign country, where they do not have permanent residence” (Mehtap-Smadi & Hashemipour, 2011, p. 418). In order to ensure that the focus of the studies included in the present article was on students who would in fact have been considered “international students” in their institutions, only studies indicating in their title that research was conducted in relation to “international students,” using that specific term, were selected for inclusion.

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