On Tuesday, Feb. 12 Keene State College first-years and seniors received email invitations to complete the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). These students will be receiving reminders to complete the survey until mid-March. NSSE helps the University System of New Hampshire assess the quality of instruction and the kinds of academic experiences students have while enrolled in college. The survey is administered at universities nationwide every three years.
Director for Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research George Smeaton said the reason this survey is only administered to freshmen and seniors is to show the growth between this year’s seniors compared to when they were starting college three years ago. One of the many aspects of academic life that the survey measures is students’ involvement in high impact educational practices.
“These are things that research has shown really help students in terms of their retention and graduation rate,” Smeaton said. “It’s things like doing research with faculty, participating in a Living Learning Community, presenting research at a conference, things of that nature.”
The recommendation for student involvement with those activities is to do one during the first year, and one during senior year.
“By doing one of these as a freshman it gets you involved in your academic career and it might get you excited about it,” Smeaton said. “Then, hopefully by the time you’re a senior you do something a little more advanced. For example, a freshman might be in a learning community, such as in the Commons residence hall, but by the time you’re a senior you might participate in a research project with faculty.”
The survey also covers a variety of other areas pertaining to student life including the amount of effort students put into their class work, extracurricular activities, civic engagement and student involvement in the classroom. After the survey is completed, that data is then compared to that of 500 other universities who also administer NSSE.
Some areas that KSC did well in during the last survey were quantitative reasoning, high quality learning strategies, holistic campus environment, academic challenge and integrative learning. Areas where KSC fell behind competitors were student/faculty interaction and interaction with a diverse audience.
“These comparisons are really useful because if we’re just looking at this and saying ‘50 percent of our students did this thing,’ what does that mean? By getting these comparisons it helps us and tells us which areas we need to work on and do better,” Smeaton said.
Director of the Integrative Studies Program (ISP) Mark Long is involved with NSSE because of how the responses from the survey can help inform future changes and improvements to ISP courses.
“If the students have something that’s really meaningful to their learning, we want to do more of that,” Long said. “The challenge of courses, the kinds of experiences students are having with faculty and peers, it’s much more comprehensive than course evaluations.”
According to Smeaton, one issue with the survey is that it tends to be completed by students who are active in life on campus, so it is not representative of the whole student population. KSC President Melinda Treadwell urges all students who are sent it to complete the survey to help the administration better understand what needs to be worked on around campus.
“It’s a lot to ask students to take these surveys, but the responses we get from them are really important because they directly inform strategic investment, where I move money and where we make commitments to students,” Treadwell said.
The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete and the last email reminder will be sent out on Wednesday, March 20.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at