National Survey of Student Engagement

Frequently Asked Questions

Reasons to Participate

Survey Details

Survey Administration

Data Reporting

Why should I complete the survey?

Simply put, your institution needs to know what you think of your educational experience, the kinds of activities you do, and how you are benefiting from your studies. Without this information, it may not be easy for faculty and staff at your institution to identify areas that can and should be improved. The more your institution knows about the experiences of their students, the more likely it is that faculty, academic and student life administrators and others can take appropriate action to improve undergraduate education.

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I get surveyed all the time. How is this survey different?

Have you heard the expression, "think globally, act locally?" This is an international project with immediate local implications. More than 2 million students from the U.S. and Canada will be surveyed by NSSE this year, and many different groups of people are interested in learning about about your experience directly from you, and through comparisons with students from other universities and colleges. This will give your faculty and administrators an answer to the question: "How well are we doing?"

Finally, this survey differs from most others you complete because your responses will become part of a continuing national study in the U.S. and Canada. People at your institution, as well as hundreds of other universities and colleges, will continue to use this collective feedback for the foreseeable future. Your answers will not only help your institution, but many others as well.

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What is the National Survey of Student Engagement?

The National Survey of Student Engagement, or NSSE (pronounced Nessie), is a survey designed for students like you to provide information about your undergraduate experience, including your views about the quality of your education and how you spend your time both in and out of the classroom. The survey has a very broad scope in that your institution is one of more than 700 universities and colleges from around the United States and Canada using the survey this spring. But the main reason your institution is participating is that your school wants to learn more about what students think and do to improve the undergraduate program.

This year more than 2,000,000 students will be invited to express their views and describe their experiences. We appreciate you taking a few minutes to participate.

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Who is in charge of the survey?

The project is located at Indiana University Bloomington and is directed by Alexander C. McCormick, a faculty member in the School of Education. The Center for Survey Research at IUB, directed by Ashley Bowers, administers the survey. Dr. McCormick and Dr. Bowers are supported by dozens of others who help design, analyze, and report survey results to your institution and the other participating institutions around the country.

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Why do we ask about your personal background?

College and university leaders, policy makers and researchers want to know whether different groups of students have fundamentally similar or different educational experiences. By providing this information, you will help us answer these and other important questions.

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How did you get my name?

When your university or college became involved in this project, it gave us a file with the names, mailing, and/or email addresses of all first-year and senior students. They may have also chosen to survey sophomores and juniors. At some institutions all students are selected to receive the survey, while at others a random sample is drawn.

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Why did you ask me?

Your opinions and experiences are very important, and we rely on input from students like you to help improve undergraduate experiences across the nation. Hearing directly from you and your peers will help your university or college make better decisions about undergraduate education.

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What will you do with the data?

We will present survey data to your institution in an Institutional Report that summarizes responses from all students who completed the survey at your institution. We will include the data file so your institution can further examine the information in different ways to enhance the educational experience at your school. This may include comparing undergraduate experiences between students who are full or part-time or between different academic major groups.

In addition, your institution's data will be combined with data from students in the U.S. and Canada to generate an overall profile of the undergraduate student. This data set will be used to conduct research to improve undergraduate education. Individual student responses are not identifiable in any reports.

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Will my answers be shared with the institution?

Absolutely. One of the most important reasons to do this survey is so that your institution discovers what you and other students at your institution do and think. Campus officials want to create positive change based on the real experiences of students. Better understanding how students spend time in and out of the classroom allows for better understanding of how your educational needs are met and identifies where more resources need to be allocated.

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Are you only surveying my university or college?

In spring 2014, more than 700 universities or colleges will be involved in the survey. This is an annual study, so the information you provide now will become part of the national database used for years to come as people compare 2014 responses with students in the future.

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Are my survey responses anonymous?

No. When we send the final survey data file to your institution, your responses will be linked to the unique ID number your institution provided. In some cases this number will be your institutional student ID number, while in other cases your school may assign a number specific to this study. NSSE never uses Social Security numbers for identification. We will never share your contact information or identifiable survey responses with anyone other than designated contacts at your institution.

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Are my survey responses confidential?

Yes. Confidentiality of student data is a high priority at NSSE. NSSE will only release identifiable survey responses to the institution at which that student is enrolled, and even then only to personnel designated as our official contacts at that institution.

In the United States, our use of student data is regulated by the U.S. federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA, 34CFR 99.31(a)6(i)], which allows educational institutions to share student data with outside agencies conducting research for the purpose of improving instruction. For the full text of FERPA: http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/finrule/2008-4/120908a.pdf.

In Canada, use of student information is regulated by federal and provincial guidelines. Students should contact their own institution for information about institutional policies for protecting student records.

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