Students Opinions Sought With NSSE
For the fourth year in a row, freshmen and seniors at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma have the opportunity to participate in a national survey in which they can rate the university on academic challenge, active learning and student-faculty interaction.
Students have until April 12 to complete the online survey. The assessment is part of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE – commonly called 'nessie'). It is an assessment that focuses on how effectively universities engage their students in academic endeavors by going to the source -- the students.
The 85-question survey asks first-year students and seniors how involved they are with their studies, professors, and the campus community, all of which have proven effective in bolstering student learning. The survey is administered by USAO's Assessment Center. USAO is one of nine colleges and universities in Oklahoma taking part in the program in 2009.
The survey measures an institution in five benchmark areas, which schools can compare against national averages for institutions of their type. The benchmarks include level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment. Survey results are important for institutional growth and student recruitment, said Anna Marie Pratt, institutional research assistant at USAO.
"The statement that 'you cannot fix what you do not know is broken' comes to mind. The student perception of what is working and what is not is invaluable to the university as it highlights what students are concerned about," Pratt said.
The survey at USAO began in late January and ends during graduation week in April. The 2009 survey results are scheduled to be complete in August with a final report issued in November. A total of 147 students participated in the 2008 survey, but greater participation is needed from students, Pratt said.
"USAO students are missing their invitation to take this survey. The surveys are sent to their USAO e-mail addresses and many students do not regularly check these accounts. We need students to check their e-mail and complete the survey."
The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and is on-line. Participation in the survey at USAO averages between 22-28 percent. Incentives have been added to increase student participation.
"We incorporated a $100 incentive in 2007 and repeated it in 2008. Additional incentives are in place for the 2009 survey. The incentives will be awarded as a result of a drawing of names of students who have completed the survey. We don't know how the student responded in the survey, we only know that the student completed the form and is eligible for the drawing."
USAO was a part of a NSSE pilot test in 2002 and has participated in the survey since 2004.
"USAO was asked by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to take part in NSSE in 2004 because USAO was becoming a part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). NSSE was also tied to the Mission Enhancement Plan and has been helpful in providing some feedback of how the MEP is working," Pratt said.
"The faculty, staff and administration have been furnished copies of the reports each year but met several times in the fall trimester to review the 2006 and 2007 reports in conjunction with reaccreditation meetings. Academic rigor appears to be an area of concern. This is based, however, on the number of written projects assigned and reported by the students. The liberal arts and interdisciplinary course content lend itself to in-class oral discussions that may be taking place of the outside written assignments. But several departments have incorporated more writing assignments over the past academic year.
"With several years of data, indications from reports will be of more significance and may be clearer in regard to changes that may be indicated," Pratt said.
In addition to institutional change, the NSSE results can provide prospective students with insights into how they might learn and develop at a given college.
"The NSSE survey results are beginning to be used by universities as a means to help prospective students get a different picture of the university. Some universities are placing the results on their websites. The criteria are evolving and it is anticipated that the NSSE surveys may very well be an important factor in future standings in national rankings," Pratt said.
Results of the 2008 NSSE survey are available on the USAO website at www.usao.edu/infoservices/institutionalresearch.php and from USA Today at www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-11-04-nsse-how-to_N.htm.