Faculty remind students to take engagement survey

By Beverly Makhani, Undergraduate Education

PULLMAN, Wash. – Freshmen and seniors at Washington State University will receive an email Tuesday from Provost Daniel J. Bernardo asking them to respond to the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE). Results will be used to help shape WSU programming.

The email kicks off a three-month campaign. Two new efforts are intended to boost student participation: Pullman faculty have been asked to remind their classes that taking the survey is important at the college and department levels; and, in addition to a link in the emails, students can access the survey from the myWSU portal and Blackboard.

Also new, WSU mascot “Butch” is featured in advertising.

NSSE’s importance to WSU

“Students’ answers to NSSE questions in the past have led the university to create support for undergraduate research, more support for internships and more study abroad opportunities, for example,” said Mary F. Wack, WSU vice provost for undergraduate education.

“With this 2017 NSSE survey, we are hoping that more students than ever will click on the link to the online questions,” she said. “Colleges and departments, as well as university administrators, are eager for student feedback on how well we are engaging them in their education and our academic community.

“Their responses will be evaluated to show what students feel is needed to make WSU the best university possible in terms of offering a transformative student experience in and outside of classrooms,” she said.

Email dates, posted results

Like WSU, hundreds of universities employ NSSE surveys to poll freshmen and seniors. WSU participates every two years. Students can receive up to five emails seeking their participation; in addition to the one sent and introduced by the provost, others scheduled for Feb. 15 and March 7, 21 and 27 will be sent by Wack.

Once students have completed the survey, they will not receive further notification, said Fran Hermanson, executive director of WSU Institutional Research (IR).

“Students aren’t limited to taking the survey on email reminder days,” she said. “They can link to the survey on any day starting Tuesday through around mid-May.”

IR works with the NSSE organization and university administrators to decide what modules will be sent to students and when, she said. Results come back in late summer and are posted on the IR website to share. Data from NSSE surveys as far back as 2008 are online at https://ir.wsu.edu/nsse-survey/.

Comm students’ suggestions

The idea to ask Butch help spread the word on NSSE, as well as other means, sprang in great part from student teams in a Edward R. Murrow College of Communication capstone class in Pullman. They worked with Kimberly Green, director of the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning (ATL), who connects with administrators and faculty across the university on many assessment initiatives.

She sees NSSE results as having value at the college and departmental levels as well as universitywide.

“When I was approached in early fall to work with student teams, I asked the NSSE committee and then agreed to be a client,” Green said. Teams conducted one-to-one interviews, focus groups and online surveys to investigate such things as whether Pullman students have survey fatigue, what incentives would get them to take surveys and whether social media would inspire them.

Faculty assistance

“College deans and associate deans have been given specially prepared flyers to post in their facilities, and they have new PowerPoint slides on NSSE for their faculty to show to classes,” said Green.

“We feel that by having colleges and departments tell students how important NSSE feedback is to them, that we have a good chance to improve response rates and get more valuable information on the student experience,” she said.

Participation goals

WSU would like to see students participate at high levels to ensure representative results, said Hermanson. WSU Pullman freshmen who participated in NSSE in 2014 numbered 16 percent, and seniors 17 percent.

For the same year, participation on other campuses was: Global, 17 percent freshmen, 22 percent seniors; Spokane, 29 percent seniors; Tri-Cities, 27 percent freshmen, 25 percent seniors; and Vancouver, 22 percent freshmen, 28 percent seniors. This year, North Puget Sound at Everett will also have the NSSE.

For more information on past results, visit https://ir.wsu.edu/nsse-survey/.