Are you ready for NSSE?

Have you ever wanted to have a say in making meaningful change happen at York University? Starting Feb. 10, thousands of first- and fourth-year York University undergraduate students will have the opportunity to make change happen by participating in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), or “Nessie” for short.

More than 600 universities from across North America participate annually in the survey, but every Ontario and most Canadian universities participate using a Canadian version every three years. Ontario universities also include Ontario-specific questions. The data collected from the survey will be used by the University to make changes that directly benefit future generations of students.

“On February 10, all the students who are eligible to take the NSSE survey will receive an email invitation to their preferred address from President Lenton,” said Richard Smith, director of Institutional Research, Reporting and Analysis at York University. It will contain the invitation and a unique link that will take the student directly to the survey. Friendly reminders, also with the link, will be sent to students who do not complete it.

Students can also get the link on their personal Moodle and sites.

This year, York University’s NSSE website has been redesigned to include informative short videos and a glossary of American terms used in the survey along with their Canadian equivalents. It also contains information on who is eligible to participate, how the data will be used, how incentives and prizes will be awarded and many other valuable pieces of information. Faculty and administrative staff can download additional resources they can use to help promote NSSE in their classroom or unit. The NSSE Team is also working on a way to check eligibility: more details to come soon.

The NSSE survey takes around 15 minutes to complete and is equally accessible on PCs and modern smartphones or tablets. It is open to undergraduate students in their first year or their graduating year of a four-year degree, except for Bachelor of Education and Osgoode Hall Law students. The results will provide insight into what York University does well and what it could improve.

The survey is used to measure student engagement, said Smith, so students will be asked how much time and effort they put into educationally rewarding activities and to what degree York University facilitates this involvement. The data gathered is a resource for the University that helps it make decisions about changes that will benefit students. In fact, data from the 2017 NSSE survey led to improvements in career advising, including more programming and workshops by the Career Centre in career planning, the introduction of Career Peer Educators in 2018, and the expansion of the Career Fair websites. Programming was also honed to meet the needs of targeted audiences, including new grads, graduate students, international students, Indigenous students and students with disabilities.

Another result of the 2017 data was the expansion of Mental Health & Wellness services for students, including more consultation and outreach with students to develop the University’s Mental Health and Wellness Strategy, the new Wellness Hub and the introduction of Peer Health Educators. NSSE data also informed the realignment of Student Counselling and Development, Student Accessibility Services and the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education.

The 2017 survey provided a much better response than in previous years. In 2014 27.8 per cent of students invited to take the survey responded. The 2017 participation rate was 34 per cent. For 2020, Smith said the NSSE team is targeting 40 per cent. The better the response rate, the better and more granular the data.

Every student who completes the survey will receive a “thank you” email within one business day that indicates that we have put a virtual coupon on their YU-card for a free Grande Latte at Starbucks in the Centre for Film and Theatre (Keele Campus) or a large Marley Fair Trade Coffee at the Glendon Campus cafeteria. Students can also go to the cash desk in the York Bookstore and exchange their coupon for a $5 York Lanes or a $5 Underground gift card.

“When the survey closes on March 31, we will draw four names from students who completed the survey for one of four $500 tuition waivers, two for fourth-year students and two for first-year students,” said Smith. The first-year students will be able to apply their waiver to their second year, while the fourth-year students can opt to take a cheque, or apply the waiver to another year of studies or their graduate or professional degree tuition.

As well, the NSSE Working Group at York University is repeating their challenge to 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 and 2017 by the Schulich School of Business,” said Smith, “but other Faculties gave them a good run.” Updated Faculty NSSE standings will be published on the York University’s NSSE website and on every LCD screen on the Keele and Glendon campuses every Thursday at 2 p.m. for the duration of the survey and publicized every Monday in YFile. The NSSE Cup will be awarded at a special ceremony at the end of the survey.

Through the NSSE results, Smith says York University can improve the educational experience for students, 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 with Aramark, York Lanes and the Student Centre as partners. It is led through a Working Group of more than 20 people from the University community, including Faculties, students, administration and student services.

To learn more, see York University’s NSSE website.