At this point in the NSSE participation process, you’ve likely registered for the 2023 administration. That is a significant step toward hearing from your students regarding engagement on your institution’s campus, but it doesn’t end there!
While there is a core NSSE survey for each survey administration, NSSE also offers several ways to customize the survey to your institution’s specific needs, such as Topical Modules and Consortia. The following are a handful of tips on how to get the customization and promotion process started at your institution.
Recruitment Schedule: NSSE sends five emails to all eligible students at your institution inviting their participation in the survey. These messages contain a unique link for each student, embedded with their login information, so that students can easily access the survey with one click. Choosing your recruitment schedule is an important customization detail of your NSSE administration. The first message is sent out no sooner than the third week of instruction, ensuring students are settled into their academic coursework when responding to NSSE survey questions. During customization, you have the option to select the week you wish recruitment to begin and our system will automatically display the dates the following four emails will be sent. If the subsequent recruitment period falls over spring break, you will have the option to skip the week of spring break. As you’re choosing when to begin your recruitment schedule, here are some great questions to help you think about when to start:
- Are there other campus surveys in the spring that you’ll need to work around?
- What are the student engagement rhythms on your campus and when are students most engaged?
- Do you have an incentive connected to your recruitment? Is there a deadline associated with the incentive?
- How else will you be promoting the NSSE survey and how will that align with sending recruitment emails? (Will you send a pre-survey email? When are hanging posters? What’s the schedule for social media posts?)
Each of your recruitment messages has the option for customization to help ensure that the email fits the “voice” of your campus. Make sure you keep in mind the Do’s and Don’ts of Recruitment Message Customization to stay within IRB guidelines for NSSE promotion!
Student Comments Prompt: NSSE provides the option to collect qualitative data through the last survey question, where students can write in responses to an open-ended text question. Four prompts are available to choose from or – new in NSSE 2021 – institutions may also write their own individual prompt for this item. As you’re reviewing these options, think carefully about your what qualitative information might best compliment your other NSSE engagement results. This is a great opportunity to include colleagues in the customization process to integrate multiple perspectives into deciding upon this customization option.
If writing your own prompt, please consult the guideline document on the Institutional Interface.
Topical Modules: NSSE’s Topical Modules are an excellent way to collect information from your students that doesn’t fall neatly within the engagement measures on the core survey. Topical Modules are short sets of items on targeted topics of particular interest to educators and administrators. Topics include academic advising, experiences with writing, involvement in High Impact Practices and more. NSSE is pleased to add a new module on Mental Health and Well Being in the 2023 administration. All module questions are available to view on NSSE’s website. Institutions participating in NSSE can add one Topical module for no fee, while a second module can be added for only $250. We recommend talking with a variety of stakeholders on campus to best utilize this opportunity to collect targeted information on specific topics.
Incentives: Promoting student participation in NSSE is an important consideration and, though not required, providing incentives can be a great way to increase response rates. You can click here to read NSSE's research on how incentives can boost response rates and which incentives tend to have a great impact (spoiler alert: it’s electronics). When thinking about incentives on your campus, you’ll want to meet with other stakeholders to determine your budget for incentives, and whether your institution or state has any restrictions or guidelines on providing student participation incentives.
- What is your budget for incentives?
- What is the culture on your campus? Do students value electronics? Do they value campus swag? What will matter to them?
- Do you want to provide one large incentive or many smaller incentives?
- Will your incentive(s) be raffled off at the end of the administration or on a rolling basis?
As a reminder, while incentives can be used to increase participation, they should not be overly advertised in your promotional materials (see here for guidelines around promoting incentives).
- Student Portal & LMS Recruitment: The biggest piece of advice for utilizing student portals and learning management systems (SP/LMS) is to start conversations with IT staff early to determine feasibility of posting unique survey links in individual student portal pages. Because there are so many applications used, often with significant customization features, NSSE staff do not have the capacity to offer institutions technical guidelines or instructions. Nonetheless, utilizing SP/LMS can be quite useful in boosting student participation. Read more information about posting survey links in your LMS/student portal here.