NSSE is coming, are you ready?

students in a classroom
students in a classroom

Starting Feb. 6, thousands of first- and fourth-year York University students will be asked to take part in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), or “Nessie”. Through NSSE, they’ll be able to contribute their insight and have input into York University’s future direction. The NSSE survey of first- and fourth-year students happens every three years and is part of a broad North American endeavor to find out how students are engaged in their postsecondary education.

NSSE is conducted by the University of Indiana for use across North America. It is adapted for Canada and Ontario universities have included several Ontario-specific questions as well.

“On Feb. 6, all the students who are eligible to take the NSSE survey will receive an email from the President,” said Richard Smith, a director in the Office of Institutional Planning & Analysis at York University.  “An email from the president will be sent to the students’ preferred email addresses that we have on file. In the email will be a personalized link that will take them to the NSSE survey.”

Two major enhancements are also being implemented by NSSE and Smith hopes both will enhance the response numbers. In addition to the email invitation, the online survey will also be available through a personalized link in students’ Moodle and Student Portal accounts. “The link is a new development as of this year; it is an enhancement by NSSE,” said Smith. “The big advantage is that students won’t have to hunt back through their email to find the link to the survey, which was frustrating. Now their link will always be available from Moodle or the Student Portal.” The other major enhancement this year is the survey is also now mobile friendly. Students will be able to complete the survey on their smartphones or tablets.

The NSSE survey, which takes around 15 minutes to complete, is open to all undergraduate students in their first year or their graduating year of a four-year degree, except Bachelor of Education and Osgoode Hall Law students (other restrictions apply, for more details, visit yorku.ca/nsse). The results will provide insight into what York U does well and what it could improve. It will be used to determine how much time and effort students put into educationally rewarding activities and to what degree York University facilitates this involvement.

“The data from the survey is used measure engagement, measured through activities that students do that have positive learning outcomes,” said Smith. “We can collect the information on the institution as a whole and it will show us where students are less or more engaged than at other universities. The survey responses will be analyzed and the results used to inform policy decisions at York University.

“The last survey gave us a much better response rate than in previous years. With the higher response rate, we could look beyond the institution level to the Faculty or even departmental level and have confidence in the data,” said Smith. “It helps us understand how the Faculties compare, where programs have strengths and weaknesses in programs and where there are best practices. The data has led to change. In one case, students identified that a program needed more practical content and lacked a capstone course. As a result, both features were added. In another case, students spoke about needing more places to study and more were created.”

The 2014 survey yielded a 27.8 per cent response rate, which was more than double the previous survey. This year, Smith said the NSSE survey team at York University is hoping for a 35 per cent response rate.

Every student who completes the survey will receive a virtual “Thank-you” coupon on their YU-card for a free latte at Starbucks (Keele) or Tim Hortons (Glendon), donated by Aramark. They can also exchange their coupon at the York Bookstore for a $5 York Lanes gift card donated by the York University Development Corporation (YUDC), or a $5 gift card for The Underground donated by the Student Centre (both while supplies last).

“We have draws for four $500 tuition waivers, two for fourth-year students and two for first-year students,” said Smith. “The winners will receive their prizes from the President. There’s also a draw for ten $100 YU-card top ups.”

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri with the Schulich School of Business team, Keshia Gray, Dean Deszö Horváth (holding the NSSE Champion Cup) and Marcia Annisette
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri with the Schulich School of Business team, Keshia Gray, Dean Deszö Horváth (holding the NSSE Champion Cup) and Marcia Annisette

As well, the NSSE Working Group at York U has challenged the individual Faculties to compete for the highest response rate. “The Faculty with the highest participation rate will win the ‘NSSE Champion Cup’ and bragging rights until the next survey. It was won in 2014 by the Schulich School of Business,” said Smith. Faculty NSSE standings will be published on the York U NSSE website and every LCD screen on campus every Thursday at 2pm for the duration of the survey and publicized every Monday in YFile.

Through the NSSE results, Smith says York U can celebrate what it does well and learn what it needs improve, but only if students take the time to complete the survey.

The NSSE campaign is sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost, and led through a Working Group of over 20 people representing the whole community including Faculties, students, administration and student services.

For more information, see York University’s NSSE website at yorku.ca/nsse.