Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter-
To evaluate college experiences, the National Survey of Student Engagement can be taken by second semester freshmen and seniors. NSSE consists of questions focused on student progress, satisfaction and participation.
According to Marianne Kennedy, associate vice president for Assessment, Planning and Academic Programs, the survey, which is part of a national initiative, is based on research that says students who are more engaged on campus do better academically.
“It’s basically to get kind of a baseline,” said Kennedy, “to see what your experience was like.”
The “critical features” that represent student engagement, according to the NSSE website, are the amount of time and effort put in by students, and how the university “deploys” its resources and organizes the curriculum to encourage student participation related to student learning.
NSSE results show that 35 percent of Southern freshmen and seniors take the survey.
“By the time the students are seniors, we’ve already lost a lot,” said Kennedy.
NSSE measures five broad dimensions of effective educational practice: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment.
Kennedy said the survey allows the university to compare itself to other institutions and tracks students’ academic progress. It shows trends over time and whether students are likely to transfer.
She said the results are shared with presidents, deans and the director of student affairs to see where more changes can be made, and whether the results had an impact. She said they also see if the NSSE results relate to students’ GPAs.
The NSSE website says more than 1,400 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada have participated in NSSE since it was first administered in 2000.
Southern has been participating since 2005.
“The more people we have responding,” said Kennedy, “the more valid our results are. [More students would] represent more of the Southern community.”
Jessica Luyckx, a freshman, said she thinks the survey is beneficial to the university for evaluating students’ levels of engagement.
“I think what I expected is what I’m getting,” she said.
She also said she thinks the “tech questions” seem like they would be helpful, but the statistics gathered about parents seem irrelevant.
NSSE results from 2009 showed an increase in student satisfaction since 2005.
Freshmen evaluated their educational experience at 70 percent satisfaction, and seniors, 65 percent.
When rating the overall experience at Southern, 80 percent of seniors rated “good” or “excellent.”
The results say lower-satisfaction seniors were less engaged on campus with faculty and students.
“We do find that seniors will tend to do better than freshmen,” said Kennedy, “but not in all cases.”
She said literature tells them that students who participate are more successful, and 60 percent of students don’t participate at all when it comes to involvement in extra curriculars.
There is a place where the university can add up to 20 questions to the survey, according to Kennedy, who says it has been “tweaked” a little over the years.
She said the First-Year Experience program, launched in 2007, made an “incredible amount” of difference, and students have higher engagement scores with faculty. The levels of academic challenge and satisfaction with advisement have also increased.
Kennedy said the university has contributed more to academic development, writing effectively and thinking critically.
“I’ve been doing a lot better since freshman year,” said Southern junior Joseph D’Ambrosca, “and [have] been taking it more seriously.”
He said he expected college to be a lot harder than high school, but when it wasn’t, he took advantage of it and expected to do a lot better than he did.
Kennedy said she found it interesting the NSSE results showed students rated their average study hours as less than what they said they would be coming into college, when taking the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement.
Nick Huskes, a student in the six-year educational leadership program, said his progress was similar to his expectations and that he exceeded them.
Qualified students can participate in the survey online or through a printed version by March 20. The Southern website says 20 first-year students will receive priority registration for Fall 2011, and six seniors will receive priority parking for one month