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Columbia College Chicago
2012 National Survey of Student Engagement
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2012 National Survey of Student Engagement


In spring 2012, Columbia College Chicago administered the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The NSSE was developed by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and is utilized by hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide with statistical reliability and validity. It assesses the degree of undergraduate involvement in activities linked to learning and development. The intent of the survey is to help colleges measure their educational effectiveness and identify strengths and weaknesses. The NSSE also provides comparison results from national norms and selected comparison groups.

In an effort to make it easier for institutions to have productive discussions about how student engagement impacts student learning, educational quality, and institutional planning, NSSE organizes question items into five “benchmarks of effective educational practice.”

To learn more about the survey’s key findings and how Columbia compares to the national results, click on one of the five benchmark images below:



Since 2008 Columbia students indicate a significant increase in the emphasis in analyzing, synthesizing, making judgments, and applying concepts to practical problems within their coursework. Similarly the number of reading and writing assignments has increased. In areas of mental activities and assignments, Columbia exceeds both national and peer results.

However, students also spend significantly less time preparing for class, indicated that exams do not challenge them to do their best work, and have indicated that the institution as whole places less emphasis on academics that both national and peer results.


Columbia students are much more likely to contribute in classroom discussions, make class presentations, and work with other students on projects both inside and outside the classroom nationally and among our peer institutions.


Since 2008 students have indicated an increase in the frequency in which they discuss their grades, assignments and career plans with faculty members also citing an increased promptness in receiving oral or written feedback on their academic performance. In these areas Columbia exceeds national and peer results among freshmen, although the results are similar among seniors. The quality of student to faculty relationships also scores higher than peer and national results.


Columbia students indicate a much greater frequency of interactions and serious conversations with different races or ethnicities, students of other political or religious beliefs or personal values than nationally or among peer institutions. Additionally, Columbia students indicate that the institution places greater emphasis on making these contacts than other peer institutions and the national results. Students also indicate greater participation in practicum and internships as well as a higher likelihood to volunteer or be involved in community service. Students report that the institution places a much higher emphasis on attending events and special activities than both peers and the overall national results. Significantly fewer students study a foreign language, study abroad or participate in a learning community or other formal program where students take two or more classes together.


Since 2008 freshmen have indicated that there is a significant improvement in institutional support, although the 2012 scores are similar to peers and national results. Seniors, however, have noted a mixed change in this benchmark and score Columbia significantly below peers and national results. While students indicate improvement in institutional emphasis on support to help students succeed academically and cope with non-academic responsibilities, Columbia still scores lower than both peers and the national results.




Students were asked to complete the survey via the web. Confidentiality of individual responses was assured.  To preserve the anonymity of student responses, names were not collected and the identification numbers requested were used for tracking purposes only. In addition, to ensure that individual responses could not be identified, no sub-group analysis with less than five respondents would be released.

The Columbia College respondent sample included 644 first-year and 437 senior year students, a 19% and 18% response rate, respectively. Nationwide it was completed by 321,649 students at 545 four-year colleges and universities.

The results show students’ perceptions of their level of engagement during their college experience. Two separate samples were taken, one of first-year and another for senior level students. Seniors may have different levels of involvement at the institution in terms of relationships with faculty, student organizations, and experiential learning opportunities than first-year students. The results rank student participation, satisfaction, or institutional emphasis for each item of the survey. Some questions required specific responses, such as the number of hours spent on an activity.

Full results from the past five administrations as well as information regarding construction of the benchmarks are available upon request. For more information, contact Quinn Milton in the office of Research, Evaluation, and Planning at (312) 369-7074 or qmilton@colum.edu.