NECC’s ISE Survey and How We Measure Student Sense of Belonging
Have you seen any little square print-outs with QR codes strewn around the tables on campus this week? Those codes are to help us improve our response rate for our semesterly student experience survey (also known as the ISE Survey), which the IE office launched this week on April 5.
Background on the ISE Survey:
The ISE Survey was initially developed by our office several years ago to help the school measure the impact of the Integrated Student Experience (ISE). Here’s an example dashboard from the ISE Survey in Fall 2018.
Through this survey, we ask a variety of questions about topics that have been top of mind to the college that semester. For example, we have recently asked more questions around student wellbeing, sense of belonging in online courses, and participation in select services that were developed during the pandemic to support student success (e.g., Laptop Scholarships, Student Ambassadors, and SOAR).
Sense of Belonging:
When NECC outlined the top three focuses for the ISE in 2015, increasing student sense of belonging and participation in the campus community came out on top. Research shows that students’ sense of belonging has significant impacts on student motivation, mental health, and persistence (Tinto, 2015). So, while some of our questions change each semester, we always ask a series of the same questions to gauge student sense of belonging so we can benchmark our results against prior semesters.
Sense of Belonging and Online Courses:
At the beginning of the pandemic, faculty and staff feared that student sense of belonging would decrease because of the conversion to online classes and services.
By incorporating one simple question in our ISE survey about if the student had taken any online (specifically asynchronous) courses, we found that there does seem to be a negative impact on sense of belonging for asynchronous course-takers. In our most recent survey in Fall 2021, students that said they had participated in an online course reported lower sense of belonging scores across the board.
These negative effects were particularly pronounced for the two questions that address connections with other students (I have at least one other student at NECC that I consider a friend. I have other students in my classes that I can ask for help and support when I need it).
Let’s look on the bright side:
One of the benefits of how we set up the ISE Survey over the last three semesters is that we are able to directly connect students’ sense of belonging responses to our new services like receiving support from an ambassador or participating in the SOAR program. The Student Ambassador program, in particular, was originally designed to target student sense of belonging in a remote environment.
In this case, we finally have some positive news to share. Our analysis of the most recent survey has shown that the design of the ambassador program is working the way it was intended. When we look at the students that had taken an asynchronous class AND worked with a student ambassador, the negative effect of the asynchronous modality was almost completely erased. In fact, the scores for these students were sometimes higher than the scores for students who did not take asynchronous courses!
Want to learn more about the Student Ambassador program?
We’ve done a lot of analysis on students that have worked with a Student Ambassador through the ISE survey. Here’s another great example of the positive impact of the Ambassadors on sense of belonging below:
To learn more about what the Student Ambassador Program at NECC is all about, check out a recent article in the Boston Globe, here. If you are interested in hearing directly from a student ambassador or asking them more about their work, please reach out to our email to get connected: Studentambassadors@necc.mass.edu.
What’s next and how can you help?
The ISE Survey launched on Tuesday and is live until Friday April 15! If you interact regularly with students, we would love your help in getting them to complete our survey. Please feel free to share this link with them:
Tinto, V. (2015). Through the eyes of students. Journal of college student retention: Research, theory & practice, 0(0), 1-16.