Jessica Klymchuk
The Omega

Kamloops (CUP)—The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) allows first- and fourth-year on-campus baccalaureate students to express their educational habits, from academic advising to use of technology.

They’ll be asking questions such as “how many times have you met with a faculty member?” and “how many times have you participated in a study group?” In order for the university to know what services are working, it needs to know which ones successful students use. That’s where you come in. 

NSSE is an internationally administered survey, with over 3,000 schools participating since its launch in 2,000, primarily in the US and Canada. Most Canadian universities administer the survey every three years to first- and fourth-year students. Because so many universities participate, Maclean’s and the Globe and Mail often use the results for their university guides.

But why is it important for students to participate?

“Otherwise, we’re just guessing,” said Thompson Rivers University’s (TRU) dean of students Christine Adam. “Otherwise, we’re only listening to the students who show up at things.”

NSSE asks students about their behaviours, the frequency of behaviours that are related to things that successful students do, and looks at educational practices that are related to engagement.

“NSSE is a survey that reports what students do. It’s not a satisfaction survey. It’s not an opinion survey,” Adam said. “It’s looking at actual behaviours.”

Dorys Crespin-Mueller, from TRU’s institutional planning and analysis, said the results are presented to multiple stakeholder groups on campus, including the students’ union, the student engagement sub-committee of the senate, and the senate itself.

The survey questions combine to create five benchmarks: active and collaborative learning, focusing on student participation in learning; enriching educational experiences, including study abroad and foreign languages; student-faculty interaction, focusing on one-on-one teaching; level of academic challenge, such as writing and course challenge; and supportive campus environment, including student services and relationships on campus.

“Because the results are actually tied to a student, we can correlate responses to how that student is doing, whether they show up again next year, what program they’re in,” Adam said. “We can look at programs where we see students not participating in what we call ‘high impact’ practices.”

“Although the survey doesn’t rank schools, participating institutions can look at schools that yield significantly higher benchmarks and see what they do differently,” Adam said.

There are also questions on overall satisfaction: how would you evaluate your entire educational experience at this institution? And if you could start again, would you go to the same institution you are attending?

“Those are pretty key questions for students to reflect on their choice of institution and their experience that they are currently having,” Mueller said.

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