International Students’ Satisfaction with Online Learning and Faculty Engagement during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Northwestern Chinese Universities


  • Shixue Zhang Baoji University of Arts and Sciences
  • Florence Kuek Universiti Malaya
  • Yuntao Wu Henan Polytechnic University


International Students in China, Pandemic, Online Learning, Faculty-student Engagement, Studentsʼ Satisfaction


International students in China had not anticipated the unprecedented disruption to their educational experiences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In China, COVID-19 movement control on campus was managed solely by university authorities. Online teaching and learning following multilevel procedures were implemented for centralized emergency response, decision-making, and information dissemination. This study examined international studentsʼ academic and non-academic experiences in northwestern Chinese universities during the pandemic. Kuh’s engagement theory of learning and the Keaveney and Young’s Satisfaction Model were adapted and employed for insights into student satisfaction. The study was informed by Creswell’s “exploratory sequential” mixed methods research design. The in-depth interviews with selected students from three universities with the highest international student intakes in northwest China yielded four factors affecting students’ satisfaction, namely, online learning experience, in class-interaction, out-of-class faculty-students engagement, and out-ofclass student initiative. A validated questionnaire was distributed following the interviews at three universities. 410 international students completed the questionnaire. The analysis revealed a moderate level of satisfaction with both online learning and the faculty-students engagement during the pandemic. However, international students’ expectations differed according to their respective backgrounds and disciplines. Undergraduates yearned
for more interpersonal communication, while postgraduate students desired academic engagement during online learning and fulfilment of graduation criteria. These findings should help the universities in Northwest China with strategic planning and the formulation of management policies pertaining to international student satisfaction.


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Author Biographies

Shixue Zhang, Baoji University of Arts and Sciences

Shixue Zhang leads the International Education Division at the International Office, Baoji University of Arts and Sciences. Her research areas include cross-cultural studies, and global education.

Florence Kuek, Universiti Malaya

Florence Kuek is a Senior Lecturer at Chinese Studies Department, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Universiti Malaya. Her research foci include contemporary Chinese literature, literary criticism, and educational research.

Yuntao Wu, Henan Polytechnic University

Yuntao Wu is a lecturer at the School of Foreign Studies, Henan Polytechnic University. His research areas include second language acquisition, psychology, English teaching and learning.