Leveraging Data to Improve Mental Health in Higher Ed

Leveraging Data to Improve Mental Health in Higher Education

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a new way of learning remotely. With this came a time of stress and anxiety as no one knew what the future had in store. And certainly, no one expected the pandemic to go on for as long as it has. During this time, colleges and universities have allocated more resources than ever to aid student mental health and have started providing more options in their wrap-around services for students struggling with mental health.  


The pandemic forced students to quarantine in their own homes and pods and be mostly isolated from professors, peers, and friends. 

They were unable to participate in normal activities like chatting about homework after class or even directly asking professors questions they had regarding a lecture during the day. 

Not only were college students stressed about classes, social media, and how to succeed in the world, but now a pandemic that no one was prepared for was sweeping the world and changing everything they knew.

In fact, a report published by the World Economic Forum shows that, in April 2020, more than 1.2 billion students across 186 countries were affected by school closures due to the pandemic. 

Data from a survey of United States students administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that “40.9% of 5,470 respondents who completed the surveys during June following the pandemic reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition.”

These adverse mental or behavioral health symptoms could include feelings of fear, anxiety, stress, problems with concentrating and decision-making, or even changes in appetite, energy, and interests. 

In the same survey, “at least one [of these] adverse mental or behavioral health symptoms was reported by more than one-half of respondents who were aged 18–24 years.”

Over half of the population of a college or university was experiencing heightened levels of stress or anxiety and needed areas where they could go and talk to someone about what they were feeling. 

This is where an institution’s wrap-around services provide an array of support services for students including counselors to talk about how students are feeling. 

Many colleges and universities turned to their data to help find students who might benefit best from the wrap-around services they provide. 

Wrap-Around Services in Higher Education

With a majority of college students experiencing adverse mental health symptoms due to the pandemic, colleges and universities ramped up their efforts to make sure students knew about these wrap-around services that were available to them. 

Some wrap-around services might include:

  • Individual meetings with a career counselor
  • Class meetings with career counselors 
  • Transportation assistance 
  • Food pantries
  • Emergency assistance for rent or other expenses 
  • Providing materials or books to students who can’t afford them
  • …and so much more

Wrap-around services can do more than make a difference between a student being successful or failing.  Including life-saving services such as suicide prevention hotlines to call in case, a student is ever in need of someone to talk to at any given moment. 

Shockingly, the same CDC survey found that nearly 20% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 9% of students had attempted suicide during the height of the pandemic.

It can be difficult to know which students need help and when. Some students may be hesitant on coming to the university for help and miss the opportunity to speak with a counselor or, even worse, not be aware that those services exist to support them. 

With data, colleges and universities have new opportunities to support their student population when it is at its most stressed and remind students about the resources offered to them. Using data to track overall student stress levels or using data to help discover when individual students might need help and when could be key to creating a safe and engaging environment for everyone.  

How Can Invoke Learning Help?

With the use of data and artificial intelligence, higher education institutions can identify students who are at risk and more quickly provide these students with the help and support they need.

At Invoke Learning, our ​​​​​​​InvokeEngagement™ solution comes with an AI-enhanced dashboard that looks at hundreds of student, organizational, and behavioral characteristics every day to identify students' engagement with eye-opening clarity.

We do this by looking at word usage analysis from discussion boards within college learning management systems (LMS) like Canvas and Blackboard to understand what students are talking about at any given time. 

For example, if we’re looking at the COVID-19 pandemic, as student stress levels were rising so too was the frequency of discussions revolving around the pandemic and quarantine as no one knew how long they would be isolated from friends, peers, and professors. 

With ​​​​​​​InvokeEngagement™ you can analyze thousands of data elements to help you understand student behavior to easily identify student stress and anxiety without requiring the use of any personally identifiable information.

With the help of ​​​​​​​InvokeEngagement™, you can see when student stress levels are spiking - allowing you to act faster and get help to support your students quicker.

InvokeEngagement™ also utilizes a technology that allows you to infer what students are feeling on campus through word patterning. This technology looks at the way students are writing on public discussion boards and assesses their stress levels by analyzing specific word patterns and what words students use.

This data allows us to understand the overall scope of students discussing these topics and act quickly to address what could be causing students stress, including time-based features that can differentiate between conversations of Corona (the beer) and Corona (the virus)!

Now, as institutions continue the shift between online spaces and on-campus instruction following the pandemic, it can still be easy to miss the subtle behavioral indications that students may be in trouble.

Find out how you can improve student mental health for all of your students with ​​​​​​​InvokeEngagement™.