By Lauren Lavelle and Shanna O’Mara
Several emails poured in at the beginning of the spring semester, urging students to participate in a university survey. Some may have overlooked these reminders and may have even deleted the message, but many more read the notice and took part in the national assessment aimed at defining the college experience.
This spring, Rider participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), asking freshmen and seniors to evaluate how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending the university.
“By measuring these two groups, we can figure out what changes actually happened in the students’ intellectual, social and civic development,” said Ronald Walker, associate vice president for Institutional Analysis. “It gives us the ability to look at how we compare to national norms. Are we doing better than other schools?”
Rider is among over 600 colleges and universities that participated in the survey, now in its 15th year. The survey collects annual information about students’ involvement on campus as part of clubs and organizations, as well as the time and effort put into academics.
“This is asking you how many papers of two to five pages you wrote in a semester, how many five to 10, how many 10 to 20, so we can find out if students are getting assigned too heavy of a load,” said Walker. “It also asks each student to personally assess their progress and how much of an institutional emphasis there is on working hard academically.”
To encourage students to participate, those who completed the online survey were entered to win one of two iPad minis or one of 100 $5 Starbucks gift cards.
Although the number of current responses is not as high as Walker hoped, he still acknowledges the small margin of growth compared to years prior.
“Last year, we were hampered by lack of responses,” said Walker. “We only got about 26 percent, and this year we’re running at 30.1 percent. We’ll probably end up at 35 percent which is excellent.”
Overall, the goal of the NSSE is to improve college curriculum by updating teaching skills based on actual students’ wants and needs within the classroom.
“It’s one of the most worthwhile instruments out there,” Walker said. “How many chances do you get to voice your opinion on the direction of the school, the content of the school, and the content of your instruction? It’s a comprehensive effort to make sure you’re heard.”
Additional reporting by Janeen M. Edwards