During the COVID-19 crisis, digital informal learning is important for students' academic engagement. Although scholars have highlighted the importance of students' digital competence in improving digital informal learning (DIL), the mediating role of DIL between digital competence and academic engagement has remained ambiguous. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between students' digital competence and their academic engagement with the mediating role of DIL in the higher education context. This study used a descriptive correlational design, and the data were analyzed using structural equation modelling (SEM). The study sample included 308 students from Shiraz University, Iran. The results showed that digital competence positively and significantly correlated with students' DIL and their academic engagement. Furthermore, DIL, as the mediator variable, was found to mediate the relationship between students' digital competence and their academic engagement. Since higher education institutions have a key role in improving students' academic engagement, particularly in the COVID-19 pandemic, academic administrators should pay more attention to students' digital competencies and provide them with efficient and user-friendly DIL platforms that can increase their academic engagement.
- academic engagement
- digital competence
- digital informal learning
- higher education
- structural equation modelling