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Survey reveals information about MSU Denver students

Roadrunners share their experiences at the University in national study.

By Elizabeth Parmelee

November 3, 2021

Students holding hands during Dia de los Muertos event.Every two years, Metropolitan State University of Denver freshmen and seniors, together with numerous institutions across the country, participate in the National Survey of Student Engagement. The survey asks students about their engagement in a variety of academic and nonacademic activities and learning, particularly related to diversity, civics and practices that have a high impact on learning and success.

MSU Denver participated in the survey, which is administered by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University’s School of Education, amid the Covid-19 pandemic last spring. Despite the challenges of inspiring student responses during a pandemic, and perhaps because of an incentive that offered donations to the MSU Denver Food Pantry for every completed response, the University achieved an overall response rate of 11% for freshmen and 20% for seniors. Those numbers were higher than what was achieved during the last survey in 2019.

Key reports from the NSSE are available on the MSU Denver website; more detailed reports are available on a SharePoint site accessible to anyone affiliated with MSU Denver. This year, two additional modules were included: the Civic Engagement module (which had been included before 2019) and a module focused on Covid-19. The NSSE compares the University with a group of institutions referred to as “Rocky Mountain Public” (essentially, public institutions in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming that also participate in the NSSE).

Additional comparison groups were selected, and two more were created. One group was based on similar institutions that are also members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities American Democracy Project and/or the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities that have identified similar strategic goals related to civic engagement and anchor work. The second group included Peer Institutions as identified by MSU Denver’s Curriculum, Academic Effectiveness and Policy Development Office.

Here are some highlights that identify areas where we do well and those where we can enhance our current work to support student success:

  • MSU Denver freshmen responded favorably at a significantly higher rate than freshmen at other institutions regarding instructors providing prompt and detailed feedback on tests and assignments. Such responses indicated that the experience of freshmen at MSU Denver has enhanced their ability to understand people of other backgrounds.
  • Seniors also reported favorably (significantly more than those at other institutions) regarding the University’s encouragement of contact among students from different backgrounds and attending events that address important social, economic and political issues. MSU Denver seniors also appreciated the institution’s emphasis on helping students manage nonacademic responsibilities.
  • Indicating areas for renewed focus and energy, MSU Denver students reported significantly less interaction and collaboration with other students and faculty members – whether on research with faculty or studying with other students – than respondents from the other Rocky Mountain Public institutions.

It is perhaps most useful to view some of these responses in the context of what students report regarding other activities. MSU Denver students work significantly more hours at their jobs than students at comparison institutions. They also spend more hours caring for dependents. This likely explains in part why MSU Denver students on average spend fewer hours performing community service or participating in co-curricular activities. Roadrunners spent significantly less time commuting to campus – not surprising given that nearly all classes in the past academic year took place online.

How the NSSE results can inform our work

While the extent to which MSU Denver students have outside responsibilities such as family and work is largely outside the purview of the University, there may be ways to ensure that programming is accessible to those with more limited time. Likewise, strategies that support success, such as students working together to study or solve problems, can be better built into class time or offered in a feasible manner for students with busy lives. For example, Supplemental Instruction sessions where students work together to build knowledge in challenging courses are now offered online, as is tutoring.

Do students realize the value of these strategies? Are there ways that students can be further encouraged to engage? Another consideration is whether the University communicates clearly enough about the various programs that support students and how they support student success. At least one result from the NSSE sheds light on the importance of messaging. A question asked seniors whether they have completed or intend to complete a “culminating senior experience,” and 28% indicated that they do not plan to do so or have not yet decided. Yet a Senior Experience is required for all majors before graduation.

Ending on a bright note

Roadrunners overall express satisfaction with MSU Denver, the quality of their academic experience, the University’s response to Covid-19 and the degree to which faculty and staff members care for them and support them.

  • 88% of freshmen and 89% of seniors indicated that they felt “comfortable being myself at this institution.”
  • When asked, “If you could start over again, would you go to the same institution you are now attending?” 84% of freshmen and 85% of seniors responded favorably.
  • 84% of freshmen indicated that they planned to return to MSU Denver this fall, with 12% uncertain and 5% indicating they would not.

Please visit the MSU Denver NSSE website to review key takeaways and explore the SharePoint for more in-depth reports. If you have specific questions, the NSSE offers an online report-builder that can be accessed after making a request. Also, MSU Denver’s Business Intelligence team has the entire NSSE data set for the University and can help individuals and departments create customized reports.

Topics: Student Success

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