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INTO University Partnerships

Preparing International Students for University

INTO University Partnerships is an education and recruitment partner that connects international students with universities in the UK, US and Australia. Its network of recruitment partners and university access centres work to enrol more than 10,000 students a year in higher education. Four UK centres use Brightspace as their virtual learning environment (VLE) to host content and deliver online or blended learning experiences. In 2023, INTO University Partnerships introduced Get Ready to Study, through Brightspace, a pre-arrival preparation programme to help set students up for success and prepare for university life.


INTO University Partnerships

  • D2L Brightspace
  • Gamification
  • Micro-assessments
  • Integration with customer relationship management software


  • Glen Blackadder, learning designer, INTO University Partnerships



  • 82% of students felt prepared for study
  • Higher percentage of completion compared to a previously run similar programme
  • 22% time reduction from automatic enrolment
  • Automated email reminders minimise manual administration

Having worked with different VLEs, the user experience, from a visual perspective, that students have using Brightspace is a key selling point.

Glen Blackadder, learning designer, INTO University Partnerships


To prepare international students for university

All students face challenges adapting to university life, and this is especially true for international students enrolling with universities abroad. Universities are keen to do all they can to minimise so-called ‘melt’, when students fail to enrol in a school after being accepted. That means understanding any concerns or issues and finding ways to address them so students feel more comfortable and confident.

“One of the challenges is the expectations students have and the expectations centres have when students come and study,” says Glen Blackadder, learning technologist at INTO University Partnerships. “Education in the UK might be different from students’ experiences in their own countries. A lot more self-directed learning takes place within a UK context, and in-class participation is expected.”

INTO University Partnerships listens to students and its university access centres, which are in-country hubs that support students, agents and education institutions. They identified that students need support with study skills, such as knowledge of how to navigate interfaces outside of smartphones, such as desktop computers. As Glen explains: “Students would have experienced technology integration in their studies, so they expect some form of digital presence.

“But those who interact with technology mainly through a phone’s touchscreen might not necessarily know how a folder system works on an operating system. So, it is about meeting students’ expectations but also setting expectations of educators that students have necessary skills.”


Feature-rich learning and automated administration

INTO University Partnerships developed and launched Get Ready to Study, a pre-arrival preparation programme for international students, delivered through Brightspace. The first cohort of students completed the three-unit course online between July and October 2023.

“The three content units cover life in the UK, study skills and employability,” says Glen. “About 80% of the content is non-centre specific. But then, depending on the centre a student is confirmed to attend, they are given access to specific content.”

Each section, Glen explains, begins with a video that sets out what students will learn. Micro-assessments throughout check understanding and help boost engagement. “We take a micro-learning approach where possible,” adds Glen, “and try to make sure the activities aren’t too onerous in terms of time cost and that students can work through them at their own pace.”

We make use of the HTML templates that D2L provides, customised to reflect the programme’s branding, so that it’s a more unified experience for students.

Glen Blackadder, learning designer, INTO University Partnerships

Glen’s team used an integration application programming interface (API) to enrol students automatically from INTO University Partnerships’ customer relationship management software. “This has been a big success in terms of time-cost saving and is a process we look to roll out in other programmes where possible,” says Glen.

This integration also enabled the team to run an automated email campaign providing students with initial information on the Get Ready to Study programme and reminding them to log in. This kept students informed, encouraging them to engage with and complete the course.

The team took a gamification approach, applying game mechanics—like the awarding of points or badges—to maximise student engagement. Another technique involved inserting an inline frame (iframe), to load a HTML page within a page, so that students could share basic information about themselves. This fulfilled the team’s intention of building a sense of community among students because they could see who they would be studying with.


A higher rate of programme completion

INTO University Partnerships successfully created an online learning programme through Brightspace to help prepare international students for university life. The percentage completion of Get Ready to Study was higher than a previously run similar programme, and 82% of students answering a survey felt it prepared them for study.

Tutors also saw the benefits. As Glen explains: “Teachers in centres have been pleased with the results. Students have a little bit more awareness, and teachers have something to refer back to.”

The achievement of the programme was reflected in the feedback, with one student commenting: “It prepares international students to know what they will face at INTO University Partnerships and to acquire new skills.” Another student shared: “I was fully ready to start my programme before my start date.”

Automation enabled through Brightspace also delivered impressive results for the programme. In total, the team saw a 22% reduction in the time it took to enrol students, an integration that should pay further dividends in future iterations.

Someone in the team would have to request data then prepare a file for bulk upload into Brightspace. Done automatically, you can just imagine how much time that would save.

Glen Blackadder, learning designer, INTO University Partnerships

The automated email reminders also supported the team’s aim to maximise programme completion whilst minimising manual administration. The boost email delivered a satisfying 41% and 51% click-to-open rate for the English and Chinese versions, respectively.

INTO University Partnerships now plans to expand the Get Ready to Study programme. The team is working with INTO University Partnerships’ centres to keep the content fresh and is refining the process to include even more automation.

INTO University Partnerships set out to prepare international students for university life through an online programme powered by Brightspace. It succeeded in providing feature-rich course content with automated functionality that supports enrolment and marketing processes. The digital approach provides easy access for learners and helps equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on their chosen course of study.

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