The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is widely regarded as one of our most important research instruments. The data that is collected from 584 colleges and universities is used to improve and enhance the experience of undergraduate students. Almost every Student Affairs practitioner has heard of the NSSE. Student engagement is a core concern for higher education. And the NSSE, well, it's an institution in and of itself.
More than 3 million students having taken the NSSE since 2000 and now, in 2012, the instrument is changing with the times. At last year's EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, Kevin Guidry indicated that changes were on their way. A few days ago, I read on Guidry's blog that questions about technology were making their way into the survey. According to Guidry, the NSSE team "spent a lot of time working on this over the past 3-4 years, including focus groups, interviews, two pilot administrations, tons of literature review and data analysis, (seemingly) thousands of meetings, and many other events and undertakings." The technology module is optional and was included as a way of finding out "about the role and impact of technology in U.S. and Canadian higher education."
Included in the "Learning with Technology" module are 5 questions. As indicated by the title, the questions (developed in partnership with EDUCAUSE) "examine the role of technology in student learning, focusing on student use of technology, perceptions of institutional support, and communication." Technology is defined as being hardware, software, online tools (including social networks), and web sites.
Since this is the first time that technology has been included in this way in the NSSE, it will be interesting to see how things evolve over time. For example, question #4 asks about how often students have used technology to communicate with various people on campus. The question is fairly vague in that it could be referring to any/all of the technology definitions at the beginning of the module. I wonder if specificity matters? It would be interesting to know if students are contacting various groups using the same methods or if communication patterns diverge.
When data from "NSSE 2.0" becomes available, I know that many of us will (virtually) get in line to receive a copy. The inclusion of technology is a brilliant move. It was the prudent thing to do. Kudos to the folks at NSSE for being bold!
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