Introducing NSSE Pulse: A Special Fall 2020 Survey Option; Findings Now Available

The coronavirus has upended all aspects of education, greatly complicating the enduring challenge to live up to our principles regarding a high-quality education for all students. The 2020–21 academic year will be unlike any other, requiring rapid adaptation to unprecedented and unpredictable circumstances. Amidst these difficult circumstances, it is especially important to understand students' experiences and support educators working to implement effective educational practices.

In response to these challenges and changes, NSSE offered a special fall 2020 survey at no charge (NSSE 2021 registration not required). The short online survey—NSSE Pulse—includes selected questions from NSSE that are critical to persistence to help colleges and universities take the pulse of the undergraduate student experience and use results to diagnose shortcomings and strengths and to inform campus action. Registration for NSSE Pulse opened September 16, and closed on October 12, 2020. The survey administration began on October 5 and closed on November 23.

Questions about Pulse survey registration and administration status can be sent to npulse@indiana.edu

NSSE Pulse Rates: Quick Facts about the Fall 2020 Experience

NSSE Pulse closed on November 23. We’re pleased that 181 US and 9 Canadian institutions participated, and that more than 137,000 students responded. Here are a few US “NSSE Pulse rates”:

  • 68% of respondents described their mix of courses taken as “mostly remote” with another 20% in “mostly hybrid or blended” with only 7% in mostly in-person courses.
  • 70% of students believed the institution helped keep them safe and healthy this school year.
  • 2 of 3 students responded that their institution provided substantial (“Very much” or “Quite a bit”) support to help them succeed academically.
  • Only 46% of students reported their courses highly (6 or 7 on a seven-point scale) challenged them to do their best work.
  • Among the conditions for online learning, students were least likely to agree that their study spaces were sufficient for their needs.
  • The vast majority of students rated their quality of interactions with students, faculty and academic advisors as "excellent" or "good".

The following institutions in the US and Canada participatied in NSSE Pulse:

Adams State University (CO)
Adelphi University (NY)
Adrian College (MI)
Albertus Magnus College (CT)
Alderson Broaddus University (WV)
Alverno College (WI)
Ambrose University 
Anderson University (IN)
Ashford University (CA)
Augsburg University (MN)
Berea College (KY)
Binghamton University (NY)
Blackburn College (IL)
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus (OH)
Caldwell University (NJ)
California State University-East Bay (CA)
Cameron University (OK)
Case Western Reserve University (OH)
Castleton University (VT)
Catawba College (NC)
Centenary College of Louisiana (LA)
Central College (IA)
Central Connecticut State University (CT)
Central Michigan University (MI)
Chaminade University of Honolulu (HI)
Citadel Military College of South Carolina (SC)
Clayton  State University (GA)
Cleveland Institute of Music (OH)
Coker University (SC)
Colorado State University-Fort Collins (CO)
Concordia University-Saint Paul (MN)
Connecticut College (CT)
Covenant College (GA)
CUNY York College (NY)
CUNY-Baruch (NY)
CUNY-Brooklyn (NY)
CUNY-City (NY)
CUNY-Hunter (NY)
CUNY-John Jay (NY)
CUNY-Lehman (NY)
CUNY-Medgar (NY)
CUNY-Queens (NY)
CUNY-Staten Island (NY)
Daemen College (NY)
Dalhousie University 
Davenport University (MI)
Davis & Elkins College (WV)
D'Youville College (NY)
Eastern Nazarene College (MA)
Emerson College (MA)
Fairfield University (CT)
Fashion Institute of Technology (NY)
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus (GA)
Georgian Court University (NJ)
God's Bible School and College (OH)
Goucher College (MD)
Grand Canyon University (AZ)
Grand View University (IA)
Grinnell College (IA)
Harding University (AR)
Hastings College (NE)
Henderson State University (AR)
Hesston College (KS)
Hiram College (OH)
Howard University (DC)
Indiana State University (IN)
Indiana University-Bloomington (IN)
Jackson State University (MS)
Jacksonville State University (AL)
Jacksonville University (FL)
Juniata College (PA)
Kennesaw State University (GA)
Keuka College (NY)
King University (TN)
King's College (PA)
Lake Forest College (IL)
Lancaster Bible College (PA)
Lander University (SC)
Lincoln Christian University (IL)
Lincoln College (IL)
Lock Haven University (PA)
Longwood University (VA)
Loyola Marymount University (CA)
Mars Hill University (NC)
Maryville College (TN)
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MA)
Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MA)
Methodist College (IL)
Midland University (NE)
Midway University (KY)
Mount Mary University (WI)
Mount Mercy University (IA)
Nebraska Wesleyan University (NE)
New England College (NH)
New Mexico Highlands University (NM)
Nipissing University 
Norfolk State University (VA)
Northern Michigan University (MI)
Northern State University (SD)
Ohio University-Chillicothe (OH)
Ohio University-Eastern (OH)
Ohio University-Lancaster (OH)
Ohio University-Main Campus (OH)
Ohio University-Southern (OH)
Ohio University-Zanesville (OH)
Our Lady of the Lake University (TX)
Pace University (NY)
Pacific Rim Christian University (HI)
Pepperdine University (CA)
Portland State University (OR)
Pratt Institute (NY)
Queens University of Charlotte (NC)
Rochester University (MI)
Rogers State University (OK)
Saint John Fisher College (NY)
Saint Peter's University (NJ)
Salem State University (MA)
Schreiner University (TX)
Shawnee State University (OH)
South Dakota State University (SD)
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (IL)
Springfield College (MA)
St Bonaventure University (NY)
St John's University-New York (NY)
St. Francis Xavier University 
St. Luke University (CA)
SUNY College at Brockport (NY)
SUNY College at Oswego (NY)
SUNY College at Potsdam (NY)
Tarleton State University (TX)
Texas A & M University-Commerce (TX)
Texas A&M University-Central Texas (TX)
Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TX)
Texas Tech University (TX)
Texas Woman's University (TX)
The College of Saint Scholastica (MN)
The New School (NY)
The University of Findlay (OH)
The University of Texas at Arlington (TX)
Thompson Rivers University 
Touro College (NY)
Trevecca Nazarene University (TN)
Troy University (AL)
United States Merchant Marine Academy (NY)
United States Naval Academy (MD)
University of Central Florida (FL)
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus (OH)
University of Delaware (DE)
University of Kansas (KS)
University of Kentucky (KY)
University of Lethbridge 
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (MA)
University of Minnesota-Crookston (MN)
University of Minnesota-Morris (MN)
University of Missouri-St Louis (MO)
University of Nevada-Las Vegas (NV)
University of Northern Iowa (IA)
University of Pittsburgh-Bradford (PA)
University of Redlands (CA)
University of Saint Mary (KS)
University of South Carolina-Upstate (SC)
University of Southern Mississippi (MS)
University of St Francis (IL)
University of St Thomas (MN)
University of Washington-Tacoma Campus (WA)
University of West Alabama (AL)
University of Windsor 
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (WI)
University of Wisconsin-Parkside (WI)
University of Wisconsin-Platteville (WI)
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (WI)
Utica College (NY)
Vancouver Island University 
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology (NY)
Virginia Wesleyan University (VA)
Wagner College (NY)
Walsh University (OH)
Washington & Jefferson College (PA)
Wayne State University (MI)
Western Connecticut State University (CT)
Western Illinois University (IL)
Western Michigan University (MI)
Westminster College (MO)
Wilfrid Laurier University 
William Peace University (NC)
Wofford College (SC)
Young Harris College (GA)
Youngstown State University (OH)

NSSE Pulse Features and Benefits

  • NSSE Pulse is short and to the point. Estimated completion time is only 3 minutes. View the survey instrument here.
  • NSSE Pulse is administered locally, affording institutions flexibility to determine survey populations and timing. Each participating institution will receive a unique Qualtrics survey link for distribution to students.
  • All undergraduate class years at bachelor's-granting institutions are eligible; an intentional focus on entering students and sophomores is recommended given retention concerns. NOTE: survey populations should not exceed 20,000.
  • Indiana University IRB approval (Approved "Protocol Exempt" #2009721954) assures informed consent, protections for recruiting and protecting study participants, and NSSE’s commitment to keeping institutional results confidential. Click here for IU IRB Approval Notice
  • Survey administration schedule is institutionally determined within the NSSE Pulse survey period of October 5 – November 23 (generally, a 3-4 week survey window).
  • Invitation and reminder templates are provided and can be customized to suit institutional context, subject to IRB protocols.
  • Data will be available for download in CSV format via a Qualtrics link (within 1 week of your survey close).
  • Aggregate results afford institutions the opportunity to compare their students' responses with those of students at other participating institutions.

NSSE Pulse differs from a standard NSSE administration in several important ways:

  • All undergraduate students at bachelor's-granting institutions are eligible;
  • No population file is required;
  • Because survey links are unique to each institution, responses are anonymous and not individually identifiable;
  • Survey invitations and reminders are distributed by the institution;
  • Basic summary reports will be produced for each institution and in the aggregate.

Registration for NSSE Pulse opened September 16, 2020 and closed on October 12 (survey administration October 5 - November 23)

Indiana University

Prior to registering for NSSE Pulse, interested institutions are encouraged to consider:

  • What student populations are most important to survey?
  • When do you want to administer NSSE Pulse between October 5 and November 23?
  • What are the best ways to recruit participants (for example, post the survey link to your LMS, email students directly, post to your institutional portal)?
  • Who will manage your promotion, invitation, and reminder messaging?
  • Are other surveys or assessments being deployed on campus and how might you integrate NSSE Pulse in this effort, for instance embedding the NSSE Pulse link within an institutional questionnaire or invitation?
  • Which departments and units (for example, university college, student affairs, residence life or student activities, COVID-19 care and concern committees, or academic departments) can assist with NSSE Pulse promotion, recruitment, and data use?
  • Who will manage NSSE Pulse data and use (downloading the datafile, data cleaning, analyses, and dissemination)?
  • How will NSSE Pulse data be used (for example, will you share results with your COVID-19 leadership team to inform responses and plans, or might results be a part of ongoing quality assurance activities)?

What NSSE does:


Manage survey operations (design and program the survey, secure IRB approval, register institutions, assign and distribute institution-specific survey links); provide templates and suggestions for survey promotion, invitations, and reminders; deliver a nonidentified respondent datafile; produce institutional and aggregate reports.



What participating institutions do:

Participating institutions complete a simple registration form, a NSSE Pulse participation agreement, choose a survey launch date, determine the survey population and method(s) of contact, deliver institution-specific survey links to the survey population, access and download datafile at survey close.

Questions about NSSE Pulse? Review Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or send us an email

Questions and suggestions can be emailed to: npulse@indiana.edu

1. What is the cost of participating in NSSE Pulse?

NSSE is offering a special fall survey at no charge (NSSE 2021 registration not required) as a response to the global pandemic and these unprecedented times.

2. What are the open and close dates for NSSE Pulse?

Registration is open and closes on October 12, so register today! The survey can be administered between October 5 and November 23.

3. The survey has launched (it’s after October 5); can we still participate?

Yes, NSSE Pulse registration is open until October 12; register here or email us at NPulse@indiana.edu

4. Our institution would like to participate in NSSE Pulse in the Spring 2021?

NSSE Pulse is intended to provide institutions an assessment during the first term of the academic year. If your institution is interested in a spring survey, please consider participating in the standard NSSE administration; visit the NSSE registration page or contact your Project Services team for more details.

NSSE may offer Pulse in the Spring 2021 on a minimal, cost recovery basis, so stay tuned to our news feed for future details of NSSE Pulse.

5. Is it possible to modify (add, remove, or change) questions on NSSE Pulse?

NSSE Pulse does not allow for item modification, so questions cannot be added, removed, or changed.

However, given that recruitment for NSSE Pulse is managed by your institution (considered a local administration) and your institution controls recruitment content, you could include an additional link in the recruitment message to other surveys. While this process may seem cumbersome at first, it would be a great way to streamline multiple invitations to your students.

6. How much time does NSSE Pulse take for students to answer?

NSSE Pulse is short and to the point; estimated completion time is only 3 minutes.

7.Can we offer our students incentives to participate in NSSE Pulse?

Incentives are not permitted due to the brevity of the survey. However, we expect students will be eager to share what they are experiencing.

8. We would like to follow up NSSE Pulse with questions in the spring term. Will NSSE Pulse be available then?

NSSE Pulse is designed to assess student learning and campus environment during the first term of the academic year. To follow up during the spring 2021 term, NSSE is adding two, optional Topical Modules as part of the standard NSSE administration. The first module “Coping with COVID-19” directly assesses the impact of the pandemic. The second module “Experiences with Online Learning” assesses various aspects of what experts consider to be the ideal structure for online and hybrid courses.  For more detail on either of these modules visit, https://nsse.indiana.edu/nsse/survey-instruments/topical-modules/.

While both Topical Modules and NSSE Pulse are stand alone, “Coping with COVID-19” is a good and expanded follow-up to NSSE Pulse. You can register today for the spring NSSE 2021 here. Additionally stay tuned to our news feed for future details of NSSE Pulse.

9. Who can take NSSE Pulse survey, can our institution include transfer students, sophomores and juniors (2nd and 3rd year), or even graduate students?

NSSE Pulse is designed to be administered to all undergraduate learners. However, if you deem the questions relevant to your graduate students you may invite these students to respond.  Ultimately, participating institutions control the population surveyed.  

10. When will data be made available and will it include benchmarking with other institutions?

Data will be delivered via a CSV file approximately one week after the survey closes.  Comparative data for benchmarking will be available in November. We plan to offer broad comparison groups based on institutional type and by instructional delivery modes.

11. How will institutional comparisons be made and will institutions be identifiable?

A list of participating institutions will be available online after the survey launches; however, individual institutions are never identified or ranked in any NSSE reports.  Institutional results are held in strict confidence and are never shared. Any comparisons made will be by broad institution types and only in aggregate (i.e. public institutions). Comparison groups will not be customizable, so specific institutional comparisons cannot not be made. NSSE Pulse is intended to help institutions broadly contextualize their student responses.

12. Is NSSE Pulse suitable for our specific mode of course delivery (in-person, online, or hybrid)?

Yes, NSSE Pulse was designed for all modes of delivery including in-person, online, and hybrid models.

13. Does our institution need research or regulatory approval before we administer the survey?

We cannot speak to the needs at your local institution as many institutions do not review or approve assessment or quality assurance projects. At NSSE, our surveys undergo regulatory review to assure the protection of all participants. The Indiana University IRB granted an exemption to this research project under protocol 2009721954.

We at NSSE are committed to maintaining protections for participants during recruitment and through the study process. For us, this commitment includes a dedication to ensuring institutional results are held in strict confidence.

14. What are the main differences between the standard NSSE administration and NSSE Pulse?

Standard NSSE


First-year and Senior only

All students are eligible including graduate students if you deem appropriate

Census population file required

No population file is required

Recruitment standardized (survey invitation and reminders) and managed by NSSE

Recruitment managed by the institution

Links to students are individual/unique, so students are identifiable

Links to institution are standard so students are anonymous as they are not individually identifiable