Us against the world: How are higher ed’s latest trends impacting the U.S. and Canada?

Eighty-four percent of U.S. and Canadian students cited psychological well-being as impacting their class engagement, the 2023 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education report found.

With the rise of artificial intelligence and mental health awareness and a surge in prioritizing accessibility, the fabric of higher education and its perception globally has changed. Instructure, the leading learning platform and maker of Canvas LMS, ventured to discover just how significantly students and educators are feeling these changes.

The 2023 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education gathered insight from over 6,100 respondents across 17 countries to discover today’s most salient trends and challenges impacting student success and engagement worldwide. The respondents comprised 80% students and 20% administrators and faculty from 2-year, 4-year, public and private higher education institutions.

The report splits these 17 countries into three categories: North America (NORAM); Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and Asia Pacific (APAC). Thanks to its practical skills and flexibility, students everywhere are increasingly gravitating toward skills-based learning opportunities. Credentials are among the most sought-after methods of pursuing skills-based learning opportunities.

However, today’s emerging trends hardly affect regions uniformly. Below are the most significant challenges facing NORAM, made up of the U.S. and Canada.

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North America’s technology adoption: A blessing and a curse

More than half of students (54%) in NORAM said they’re aware of hybrid learning opportunities, which is over 10% more than any other continent. The proliferation of online learning opportunities in NORAM lends itself to being the most accessible continent in the country; students here are the least likely to cite living in an education desert.

However, because institutions in North America are the most technologically integrated, students who cannot afford access to these resources are more significantly affected. The report found that NORAM students are the most likely to cite cost as their chief roadblock to technology use. Consequently, nearly nine out of ten students (85%) cited access to technology as the most impactful socioeconomic factor affecting their class engagement.

Mental health concerns are most significant in the U.S. and Canada

NORAM respondents are the most afflicted with mental health issues. Specifically, 84% of students cited psychological well-being as impacting their class engagement. Fortunately, their colleges seem to have responded favorably. Students in the U.S. and Canada were the most likely to confirm that their institutions offered counseling (66%) and campus well-being events (57%).

Faculty (dis)empowerment

Less than a third of NORAM educators said they felt empowered by their institution (30%), whereas 46% felt so in EMEA.

Across all continents, educators believed institutions could do a better job at making them feel empowered by providing personal development opportunities and acknowledging their achievements.

In a CUPA-HR report that found higher rates of faculty turnover, one of their most unrequited desires was personal recognition for their work, which echoes findings from this report.

Students’ cost burdens

With students in EMEA and APAC primarily driven to pursue skills-based learning opportunities for career advancement and the desire to learn new skills, students in NORAM have one extra consideration. Sixty-one percent in the U.S. and Canada cite cost as highly influential when considering pursuing this breakout form of education.

Similarly, 79% of students agree loan forgiveness policies impact their enrollment decision.

Behind the AI race

With 32% of students and educators in EMA and APAC stating they use AI now, North America is 10 points behind in its adoption. While more NORAM respondents use the tool for test preparation than anywhere else, one of the critical drivers foreign students use it is for language learning.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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