Improving NESB Students’ Learning in Communication Through Simulating Social Media: An Australian Case Study

Robert Joseph Gill


Australian universities are mindful of graduating students who are prepared for the workforce.  A growing trend in organisational communication is the use of digital/electronic media to communicate with stakeholders, and many universities are now adopting pedagogy that simulates professional use of social media.

International students who come from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) and are new to Australian university study can often struggle with understanding information that is delivered verbally, particularly when delivered under the traditional lecture/tutorial or didactic approach. The use of online communication in the curriculum can improve employability skills and heighten comprehension for NESB students.

This paper examines results by NESB students mainly from Chinese universities studying through a collaborative articulated pathway program who have completed the core communication unit between 2010 and 2012. The majority of these students have come from limited English-speaking environments. The paper analyses their results and uses contemporary literature to form conclusions on cognitive capabilities for the NESB cohort when studying this introductory unit on-campus.

The student results and the literature analysed demonstrates that NESB students perform better when comprehending and consolidating knowledge delivered through interactivity involving digital communication, primarily e-text-based content that simulates social media. It concludes that electronic communication based on social media model can heighten NESB student engagement and improve employability.

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