Beginning February 10, the University of Toronto will be participating in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The survey, being administered at all Ontario and Canadian peer universities, asks students how they engage with faculty, staff and the services across the U of T. “Surveys give the University an opportunity to hear directly from students,” explains Jill Matus, Vice-Provost, Students & First-Entry Divisions. “NSSE results are invaluable in identifying the strengths of a U of T education as well as letting us know what needs enhancing; and helping us establish priorities for change.”

Previous NSSE findings have helped shape initiatives such as the Co-Curricular Record, the Mentorship Resource Centre, the Communications Summit and the Just-in-Time slide project.

With questions about student-faculty interaction, active and collaborative learning and what makes for a supportive campus environment, NSSE also informs the work of the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation. Carol Rolheiser, Director, explains, “Data from NSSE provides an important lens for how we think about the many facets of teaching. NSSE findings help us as teachers to better understand what support means to our students and we can then translate that knowledge into practical teaching techniques.”

NSSE results have also informed the work of the Council on Student Experience in the last five years, prompting extensive focus groups to drill down further into the NSSE questions.

The web-based survey will be sent to all first- and fourth-year undergraduate students, as well as senior students from the Faculty of Nursing. These students will get an email from the President on February 10 inviting them to participate and students who respond will be entered into a draw for prizes including gift cards, an iPad and an iPad mini.

“We want to understand the extent of our students’ involvement, and any barriers to their engagement,” explains Lucy Fromowitz, Assistant Vice-President, Student Life. “Getting our students to participate in NSSE is important, and we look to the university community to encourage student participation. The more feedback we get, the richer the data set.”

This is the fifth time U of T has taken part in the survey, developed by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University. More than 1,500 higher education institutions in the United States and Canada have used the survey to measure the quality of the student experience both inside and outside the classroom. 

Results from the 2011 survey can be found by visiting the Provost & Vice-President website. In addition, Vice-Provost Matus visits divisions to present and discuss their individual results. “The data gives a clear picture of where our efforts have made a difference and where to put our focus to ensure continued student success.”

NSSE runs to March 31. For more information about the survey, please contact David Newman, Director, Office of Student Life at david.newman@utoronto.ca.