NSSE Looks to Measure Student Engagement

Augie, the college’s goose-herding border collie, has been used to promote the NSSE.
Augie, the college’s goose-herding border collie, has been used to promote the NSSE.

With the goal of improving aspects of the undergraduate experience inside and outside the classroom, the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) began making its way to students via e-mail on Monday, Feb. 14.

According to Lisa Ostrouch, research analyst at the Office of Institutional Research and Planning and 2011 NSSE project manager, the survey is completed every three years and is geared specifically toward first and fourth-year students in order to compare how opinions change over the course of their collegiate studies.

“The NSSE is such an excellent tool at telling us what students need to get the maximum benefits from their education,” Ostrouch said. “That’s what we want – to give students the best overall experience they can possibly have.”

603 colleges and universities participated in the NSSE in 2010 and 1,451 have participated since 2000, according to the official SUNY New Paltz website.

Using questions developed by experts at Indiana University, Ostrouch said the NSSE measures student engagement through the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other educational activities, as well as how the institution deploys its resources. Results have shown that participation outside of the classroom has also been linked to student learning.

When the NSSE was administered at SUNY New Paltz in 2008, Ostrouch said there were not enough responses to represent the bulk of the student community. She said she hopes more students will take the NSSE this semester to provide a better analysis.

“If we get a lot of students to participate in the survey, we know these students represent a majority of the freshmen and seniors at New Paltz,” she said. “However, if there are not enough students who complete the survey, we will not be able to use the results.[That] would be a shame.”

Student Association (SA) President Jennifer Sanchez said she has helped advertise and promote the NSSE to encourage students to open and fill out the e-mailed survey. Augie, the college’s goose-herding border collie, has also been used to spread the word by wearing an advertisement for the survey.

The NSSE will be open until June 1, but Ostrouch said participants who complete the survey before the end of the semester will be eligible to win prizes including a Netbook, $100 towards the campus bookstore, Hawk Dollars, a VISA gift card and a variety of other promotions. Every student who completes the survey will also receive a coupon for a free coffee or soda.

Ostrouch said results will be compiled over summer break and will be posted in the fall.

“We need to hear from as many students as possible,” she said. “That’s why we came up with the tagline, ‘Make your voice count’ – because the survey allows students to do just that.”