enrollment

Going for the gold on college student satisfaction assessment

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

March 5, 2014

When is a satisfaction assessment complete?

That’s actually a trick question. I would suggest that the process for assessing student satisfaction is ongoing and includes not only administering a survey instrument to your students, but the time involved with reviewing and sharing the results as well. It also includes exploring what the data really tell you about the student experience and then taking action to make improvements and communicating back to students what you have done and why.

By then, of course, it is time to survey your students again to see if you have been able to improve student satisfaction year to year (either annually or every other year, depending on the cycle that works best for you). This is a topic that I have covered in past blogs. (See “How can you turn college student satisfaction data into action planning,” “Taking college satisfaction data beyond the institutional research office,” and “Six critical steps to conducting regular assessment of college student satisfaction.”)

While I was thinking about this question, the recent Winter Olympics also got me thinking about gold, silver, and bronze levels of performance. Even though bronze and silver medals signify high achievement, there is still incentive to go for the gold to be truly on top of the game.

The same goes for campuses and satisfaction assessment. Based on my work with thousands of colleges, universities, community colleges, and career schools over the past two decades, I have identified the following activities that illustrate the levels of activity a campus undertakes once it receives its satisfaction survey results. Again, just conducting a satisfaction assessment is a step in the right direction, but to be at the very top, you may want to consider these types of activities for the future.

Gold Medal—Exceptional use of satisfaction data

  • Going for the gold on student satisfaction assessmentShared the satisfaction results with the top leadership, faculty, and students on campus when the data were received.
  • Referred to the satisfaction data for decision-making purposes on a monthly basis throughout the year.
  • Conducted several focus groups with students and campus personnel to clarify the top challenges and to learn more about the perceptions on campus.
  • Responded with changes in policies or procedures on more than five challenge items.
  • Communicated on campus through multiple methods (posters, website, emails, announcements) throughout the year to change perceptions and/or to inform the campus about changes that have been made.
  • Celebrated the campus strengths to reinforce the positive perceptions of students.
  • Tracked and documented the satisfaction level trends (positive or negative shifts in satisfaction) over multiple years.
  • Utilized the data for documentation purposes for accreditation requirements.

Silver Medal—Good use of satisfaction data

  • Shared the satisfaction results with the top leadership and faculty on campus when the data were received.
  • Referred to the satisfaction data for decision-making on a quarterly basis throughout the year.
  • Conducted a couple of focus groups with students to clarify the top challenges and to learn more about the perceptions on campus.
  • Responded with changes in policies or procedures on three to five challenge items.
  • Communicated on campus through two or more methods (posters, websites, emails, announcements) at least twice during the year to change perceptions or to inform the campus about changes that had been made.
  • Celebrated the campus strengths to reinforce the positive perceptions of students.

Bronze Medal—Some use of satisfaction data

  • Shared the satisfaction results with the top campus leadership when the data were received.
  • Referred to the satisfaction data for decision-making at least once during the year.
  • Responded with changes in policies or procedures with at least one challenge item.

Not on the medal stand—Little to no activity

  • Individual on campus reviewed the results but didn’t share the reports with others (leadership, faculty, or students).
  • Data not taken into consideration for decision-making.
  • No focus groups conducted.
  • No changes in policies or procedures as a result of the data.
  • No communication with the general campus community regarding the data.
  • No celebration on campus strengths.
  • No attention paid to trends over multiple years (may be documented, but not acknowledged by campus leadership).
  • Data included in accreditation documentation, but in a “this is the way it is” approach rather than as a way to show improvements over time.

Gold and Silver levels are more likely to see satisfaction increases year over year

In reality, you may be performing well on some aspects but not all of them in any one category, but I hope this list gives you some inspiration on how you can get more benefit out of your satisfaction assessment data. You have made an investment in assessing student satisfaction, so I want you to make the most of that investment by using the data to its full potential. What I hear and observe from the campuses that are performing at the Gold and Silver categories is they are more likely to see satisfaction levels increase year over year than those in the Bronze or No Activity categories. In those last two categories, satisfaction levels may actually be more likely to decrease going forward.

Are you looking to learn more about ways to use satisfaction assessment data on your campus and to hear case studies of how institutions are fully utilizing their satisfaction data to impact planning, accreditation, and student success? I invite you to join us on Thursday, April 3 for the free webinar, How to Assess Student Satisfaction and Priorities. Presenters from Bethel University and Florida State College at Jacksonville will provide insights about their satisfaction assessment process and you may pick up a few more ideas to get you a step higher on the medal stand next time around. And if you have any strategies for sharing data that I haven’t mentioned, please share them with us in the comments or email me—I love to hear what campuses are doing to inform colleagues about their satisfaction results.


About the Author

Julie Bryant of RNL

Julie L. Bryant, associate vice president of retention solutions at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, works directly with colleges and universities throughout North America in the area of satisfaction assessment. Ms Bryant is responsible for client service...

Read more about Julie's experience and expertise

Reach Julie by e-mail at Julie.Bryant@RuffaloNL.com.


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