Mengjie Jiang - Presenter Profile

Development of Digital Literacy Skills Among Chinese International Postgraduate Students

In this article, Mengjie Jiang describes her research into how Chinese nationals undertaking postgraduate study in the UK develop essential skills in digital literacy.

About My Research

Digital literacy is gaining recognition as an important area of research in technology-enhanced learning. However, most of the literature and research in this domain were done in Western contexts. Currently, a significant proportion of learners in UK higher education come from non-western countries like China, which brings about both opportunities and challenges to the UK higher education sectors. Therefore UK universities need to become sensitive to the various degrees of digital literacy skills among these foreign students.

The research aims at investigating Chinese international postgraduate students’ digital literacy in terms of how they experience new technologies for coursework during master programme in UK universities and how they can develop their digital literacy for postgraduate study, with questions such as:

  • What digital literacy skills do Chinese international postgraduate students have when they start their Master’s programme in a UK university?
  • What are the transitions in digital literacy skills among Chinese international postgraduate students in a UK university?
  • What are the challenges in developing digital literacy among Chinese international postgraduate students in a UK university?
  • How can Chinese international higher education students be better prepared and better supported to develop their digital literacy?

This research adopts mix methods as useful means to investigate these research questions. To answer the research questions, I use questionnaire (both online version and printed questionnaire) to collect quantitative factual information such as ownership of devices, access and usage. Individual interviews and focus group interviews have been used to investigate participants’ digital practices, attitudes and difficulties in depth by letting them refer to their past and current experience with technologies for learning. As most of the digital literacy skills are developed by their own in the informal settings, therefore I include two activities: journaling activities with the element of day experience method (whenever participants are doing academic-related activities, they take photos of their different learning scenarios and the use of digital technologies); and the mind maps that depicts their personal learning environments with uses of learning technologies. Additionally, direct observations with access to physical artifacts (e.g., assignments; digital devices) has been used, which provides a comparatively realistic view of their digital literacy skills and validate data collected through other methods.

Initial Findings and Future Work

The main objective of this research is to investigate digital literacy skills of Chinese international postgraduate students at the University of Leicester. The study’s findings may help UK tutors to understand these students’ digital literacy. The findings will include recommendations about how to support these students as they develop digital literacy, and how these students could better prepare themselves to develop their digital literacy before they start their master programme. Some preliminary findings could be summarised as followings:

  • The Internet environment (political censorship) in China; course assignments and assessments have impacts on participants’ development of digital literacy skills.
  • Most of the participants are equipped with the basic understandings of the Internet and digital devices and skills to use basic software (e.g., Microsoft Office). Additionally, students also mentioned about the importance of practicing and experimenting in developing digital literacy skills. Generally, participants are confident about their digital literacy skills.
  • Issues of ethical aspects (acknowledge the sources/ coping the content from the internet) were found to be challenges in developing digital literacy skills, and students generally reported they have difficulty in being critical, referencing and paraphrasing. Many of them feel that master programme has helped them to develop these skills.
  • Chinese international students tend to use educational technologies more frequently for postgraduate study than they have done for their undergraduate studies. And tutors’ teaching strategies influence students’ digital literacy development.
  • Digital literacy skills see variations among students from different disciplines and are associated with personal interests. Sometimes students use technologies and information according to their own needs, interests.
  • Chinese international postgraduate students tend to cross check the Chinese explanations about concepts if they do not understand them in English. Students tend to use pragmatic way to search for information but sometimes their reading tend to be superficial.
  • Students’ development of digital literacy not only associate with their UK master studying experience, but also has something to do with the development of their education and the technological trend.
  • In terms of implications to help Chinese International students, data collected from open questions and interviews provide some recommendation: (1) peer support is significant; (3) attending workshops; (3) University ought to enrich database like including SAGE; (4) self-learning through practicing and watching online videos or tutorial are useful to solve problems.

About Mengjie Jiang

Mengjie Jiang is a PhD Student at the University of Leicester (2015)Mengjie Jiang is a research student working towards completion of her doctoral degree in the School of Education. Mengjie is supervised by Dr Palitha Edirisingha and Dr Phil Wood.

Mengjie will present her work at the Festival of Postgraduate Research 6 July 2015 - see Mengjie's Festival poster.

The Festival is open to all members of the University community and the public - book your place here.

Contact Mengjie

School of Education

University of Leicester

University Road



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