NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) is designed to measure the level of engagement students experience at RIC both inside and outside of the classroom. While the survey does not capture student performance directly, items that appear on the instrument are correlated with key outcome measures such as retention, graduation, and acquisition of core academic competencies. The survey is administered via the Office of Institutional Research & Planning (OIRP); please contact Dr. Christopher Hourigan, Director of OIRP, for details on the survey questions and results.
The NSSE results are important to faculty and staff because they provide evidence of the effects of our actions on student experiences and perceptions. Overall satisfaction with RIC has increased steadily since our first NSSE administration in 2005, thanks largely to the efforts of all faculty and staff.
NSSE has been administered to RIC first year students and seniors five times (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013). In the spring of 2013, the survey was sent via e-mail to all second semester freshmen and seniors. Response rates were as follows: first year students (N=1,016; n=180; response rate=18%); seniors (N=2,285; n=597; response rate=26%). National response rates for the survey were very comparable (first-year=21%; senior =26%).
In 2013, NSSE made substantial modifications to the questions on the instrument as well as to the presentation of the survey results. These changes make comparisons between RIC's results on the 2013 survey and earlier surveys difficult in some cases. Previously, key survey items were categorized into five 'Benchmarks'; starting in 2013, similar items are placed into 10 'Engagement Indicators'.
RIC's results on these indicators, compared to results of peer schools in New England, are summarized in the chart below. RIC;s results compare favorably with results of its peer institutions on 'Higher Order Learning', 'Reflective & Integrated Learning', and 'Learning Strategies' for seniors. We are less successful, relative to peer institutions, on 'Reflective & Integrated Learning' for first-year students, 'Collaborate Learning' for first-year students and seniors, and 'Student-Faculty Interaction' for first-year students and seniors. For all other indicators, RIC and peer institution have similar results.
In interpreting these results, we should be mindful that RIC students are more likely to work, care for dependents, and be first-generation students than their counterparts at peer institutions. Specifically, RIC freshmen work off campus for an estimated average of 9.7 hours per week, which is significantly higher than the estimated 6.4 hours that freshmen at New England peer schools work in a typical week. For seniors, the figure is 18.4 hours, compared to a significantly lower average of 13.9 hours at New England peer schools. RIC seniors also spend an estimated average of 8 hours per week caring for dependents, which is significantly higher than the 5.7 hours that students at New England public colleges spend caring for dependents. Last, 56% of RIC freshmen are first generation college students, compared to 52% of freshmen at New England public colleges. Among seniors, 65% of RIC students are first generation, while 53% of students at New England peer schools are first generation. These differences likely influence the amount of time our students have to interact with faculty and engage in non-classroom learning activities relative to students at comparable institutions.
Source: “NSSE 2013 Snapshot: Rhode Island College”
One set of questions on which we can track RIC's progress over time are those related to overall satisfaction. As the table below shows, mean scores on the two items related to satisfaction with the college have increased over time for both first-year students and seniors. Furthermore, satisfaction levels with RIC are similar to those at New England peer schools that participated in the NSSE.
Contributors to Results
Many of the initiatives RIC faculty and staff have taken over the past few years to improve campus life and quality of academic programs likely contribute to increased satisfaction levels among students.
(a) Universal Advising
The Universal Advising program, which requires students to contact a faculty advisor prior to registering for classes, has improved student satisfaction with RIC. Specifically, results of the advisement question on NSSE 2013 suggest continued improvement in satisfaction with this service.
Increased use of student learning outcomes assessment had a positive impact on students. Through conducting assessment, academic departments made changes to their courses and curricula that made courses more challenging, increased collaboration between students, and made the courses more enriching.
(c) Open books – Open Minds (OBOM)
OBOM consists of programs and activities through which students, staff, and faculty read and discuss a common book. This program has increased student engagement, retention, and participation in extracurricular activities. OBOM positively impacted all NSSE areas, either directly or indirectly.
(d) Student research
There has been a significant increase in student research and in students’ presenting the results of their research to the RIC community. Specifically, there are more departmental honors students, and the School of Management hosts annual colloquia for students to present their findings.
(e) First year experience
RIC now offers a year-long series of curricular and co-curricular activities for firs-year students to increase students’ engagement in college life.
(f) New General Education Program
In the fall 2012, RIC began offering its new General Education program. The GE program includes courses and experiences designed to increase student engagement, such as the First Year Seminars (FYS), which have exciting, rotating topics and rotating faculty.
(g) Other experiences
Across campus, there are many other initiatives that foster student engagement, including: international travel with faculty; campus-wide discussions of legislative elections; and presentations by elected officials on current events, such as personal finance.