October 10, 2023
Oct 10, 2023
· Press Release

Instructure’s Annual Higher Education Research Defines Critical Needs for Students’ Lifelong Learning Success


Skills-based and lifelong learning options, access to technology, generative AI guidelines and training and mental health support are the top areas shaping the trends and challenges for higher education

SALT LAKE CITY — October 10, 2023 — Instructure, the leading learning platform and maker of Canvas LMS, today released the results from its annual global 2023 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education report, in partnership with Hanover Research. The study encapsulates current trends and movements within higher education and critical drivers of student success and engagement. Key findings include a preference for more certificate and apprenticeship programs, the ongoing need for mental health support for students and educators and a continued concern over education accessibility. 

“The once-traditional picture of higher education student success and career readiness is changing. Students are no longer linearly learning new skills, but independently advancing their skill set,” said Melissa Loble, Chief Academic Officer for Instructure. “As the workplace continues to evolve, students are exploring alternative learning options, such as skills-based certificate and apprenticeship programs, that provide flexibility and allow them to get into the workforce faster or upskill and explore different career paths.” 

In its fourth year, the State of Higher Education global research encapsulates survey results from over 6,100 current students, administrators and faculty from 2-year, 4-year, public and private higher education institutions. The respondents, from 17 countries, provide insights on factors impacting student success and engagement and challenges facing higher education worldwide. 

The report uncovered six global trends students, administrators and faculty in North America (NorAM), Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions identified as most important to student success and engagement in 2023. View the full report: 2023 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education

  1. Skills-based learning is becoming the most valued for its practical application in the workforce.

As the workforce shifts and more jobs move to remote or hybrid, the need for students to be able to demonstrate proof of skills to potential employers increases. Career advancement (61%) and the desire to learn new skills (61%) are the factors most likely to influence students to pursue a skills-based learning opportunity. Other primary factors include cost (52%) and program flexibility (48%). 

From the global perspective, those in NorAm (70%) and APAC (68%) are significantly more likely than those in EMEA (62%) to value program flexibility of skills-based learning.

Students increasingly desire courses and programs that undoubtedly prepare them for the workforce and expect educators to make more personalized courses, offer hands-on, practical learning opportunities and support on-the-go access. 

  1. Certificate and apprenticeship programs are becoming highly valued by both students and employers for their demonstrable proof of workplace skills. 

Longer life expectancy and changes in the workplace are driving a fundamental shift toward lifelong learning. As more students seek skills-based learning opportunities to supplement their traditional degrees, higher education institutions can adapt their offerings to meet this need. Of the skills-based learning opportunities institutions currently offer for lifelong learning, students are most likely to consider certificates (54%) and apprenticeships (42%). 

From a global perspective, EMEA students are most likely to consider apprenticeships (54%) for career advancement, whereas NorAm (58%) and APAC (51%) students are most likely to consider certificates.

  1. Generative AI guidelines and training are needed for educators and students or schools risk a growing divide in skill development. 

While technology played a vital role in getting students and educators through the pandemic, AI has introduced a growing divide in the adoption of tech tools in the classroom. Most students and educators know how to use generative AI, but have not used the tools in their coursework. 

Of the institutions surveyed, only one-quarter (27%) have strict guidelines and more than one-third (39%) only have light guidelines on generative AI use. Training results are similar with nearly one-third (31%) of institutions not offering any options. By establishing guidelines and training for generative AI, colleges, and universities have an opportunity to aid educators in driving consistency for learners.

Those in EMEA (32%) and APAC (32%) are significantly more likely to use generative AI for classes, while those in NorAm (41% ) are significantly more likely not to,  although they know how. 

  1. Access to technology has the greatest impact on student success and engagement, but we haven’t solved the accessibility gap for many learners. 

While the pandemic improved accessibility, as technology and education evolve there remain “learning deserts” — regions throughout the world where there is limited or no access to education opportunities due to geographic constraints such as proximity of education institutions, no access to technology or edtech tools, unreliable Wi-fi connections or the inability to travel from home. One-quarter (27%) of students and educators surveyed believe they live in a learning desert. While these learning deserts still exist, the increased use of technology in education has helped decrease their existence.

“Increased accessibility in education creates a more inclusive, supportive and diverse learning environment that fosters student success by addressing individual needs, promoting engagement and preparing students for meaningful careers and lifelong learning,” said one educator from the Asia-Pacific region. 

  1. Students and educators value mental health resources but really want time off. 

Psychological well-being and access to mental health resources have a great impact on student engagement and faculty support. Many institutions provide mental health resources through a learning management system (47%) and connect students to in-person and virtual counseling (41%) – the top mental health resources offered by institutions. The question remains, however, if students are easily finding and accessing those resources. 

While there are some differences from region to region, for example, NorAm institutions are significantly more likely to offer more mental health resources compared to EMEA and APAC, offering counseling (66%), wellbeing events (57%), and mental health hotlines (54%). What all respondents share in common is a desire for personal/mental health days off to recharge, as this came up in the survey as the top resource they desire that is not offered by their institutions, NorAm and APAC (41%) and EMEA (35%)

  1. Educators feel most empowered when they are given autonomy, respect and holistic support.

Today’s educators are dealing with bigger classes, more regulation and demands for more flexibility from students in how they want to learn. They would like most for their institutions to offer additional personal development (45%), acknowledge/award their achievements (43%), and provide them with opportunities to give feedback (32%). 

NorAm educators (30%) are significantly less likely than EMEA (46%) and APAC (41%) educators to say they feel empowered by their institution. According to respondents, offering more personal development opportunities (43%) and acknowledging achievements (40%) would help empower them.

“To feel empowered by my institution means being cared for in terms of my physical and mental health as well as getting chances for my personal growth and career development,” said one educator from the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. 

“As we move into 2024, the contents of this study constitute a valuable resource for institutions, faculty and administrators alike to look into future strategies and resources that can help them address the challenges that higher education is facing worldwide,” Loble said. “Likewise, Instructure is committed to taking those results into account to intentionally improve and design the products in the Instructure Learning Platform,” Loble said.

Survey Methodology

The 2023 State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education survey was developed in coordination with Hanover Research and fielded in July 2023. After fielding and data, the study consisted of 6,100 qualified, completed responses, 4,850 students and 1,250 faculty members, academic staff and administrators. The data was then cut into crosstabs by region, country and role, along with various additional subsegments, such as socio-economic status. We performed statistical significance testing across segments with a 95% confidence level using a Z-Test with p = less than 0.05 and a margin of error +/- 1% for the overall sample size. For any questions regarding the underlying methodology or data, please contact us at studentsuccess@instructure.com

SOURCES: Instructure, Canvas

About Instructure

Instructure (NYSE: INST) is an education technology company dedicated to elevating student success, amplifying the power of teaching, and inspiring everyone to learn together. Today the Instructure Learning Ecosystem, comprised of its flagship product Canvas LMS and several products serving K-12, higher education and professional education, supports tens of millions of educators and learners around the world. Learn more at www.instructure.com.


Brian Watkins
Corporate Communications


Jennifer Durrant
Director of Product Communications