student success

Student satisfaction data: Overcoming barriers and facilitating use

Julie Bryant

Associate Vice President of Retention Solutions

April 5, 2018

Ruffalo Noel Levitz recently hosted a webinar, Student Satisfaction Data: Overcoming Barriers and Facilitating Use.  The webinar featured speakers from three institutions sharing their experiences:

  • Heather Chapman, Director of Academic Analytics at Weber State University (Utah)
  • Chris Confer, Assistant Provost and Dean of Students at Anderson University (Indiana)
  • Cammie Pollastro, Assessment Coordinator at Western Wyoming Community College.

If you missed this hour-long session, you can listen to the recording.  I also want to share a few highlights from these presentations with you:

Why assess student satisfaction? Three reasons from campuses

Student satisfaction data: listen to the recording
Click here to listen to the webinar featuring these three campus presenters.

Heather Chapman indicated that Weber State administers the RNL Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) because it is a good fit for their demographic, they have found it relatively easy to convert the data into action, it is a comprehensive survey instrument, and the results are easy for faculty and staff to digest.

Chris Confer shared that they were looking for tools to help them with improving retention at Anderson University.  They wanted data to support or refute anecdotal evidence, and also were looking for ways to understand and improve the value of the university in the face of rising tuition.  They also appreciated that the SSI offers external national benchmark for comparison purposes.

Cammie Pollastro said that the decision to use the SSI was made several years ago by her predecessors at Western Wyoming Community College, but the current team has continued to use the instrument because it gives them an important perspective on their students’ perceptions, helps them to understand which campus services are most important,  and identifies current satisfaction levels.

How do campuses share their college student satisfaction data?

Sharing the data widely on campus is an important step to be sure the campus at large is aware of the student perceptions.  The three campuses provided examples of how they have shared the results on campus, including:

  • Presentations to the Student Affairs Division and the Academic Affairs Division
  • Working sessions with the Student Government Association to partner on initiatives
  • A chapel presentation dedicated to talking about the result and the subsequent improvements
  • Incorporating the data into a Measures Table which is used by the Building Student Connections team for evaluation and to inform the areas of concern for targeted action

What are some examples of initiatives and responses?

Taking action with the data to make improvements on campus is the key to improving student satisfaction.  Typically campuses are looking for opportunities to change policies, procedures, or student perceptions in ways that may be easy to implement immediately as well as initiatives that may require additional time and resources.  The three campus presenters above shared these activities that they have been able to implement:

  • Reducing campus run-around through campuswide initiatives to reduce the number of people a student must interact with to complete a task
  • Better lighting in the parking lots and cameras as residence hall entrances to improve safety and security
  • Campaign on campus to address the value proposition of the University to shift perceptions on tuition being worthwhile
  • Establishment of a Student Persistence and Success Academy to provide additional academic support to students
  • Improved course scheduling in response to concerns on the ability to register for classes with few conflicts

What lessons have been learned for improving student satisfaction efforts?

Chris Confer offered these valuable lessons learned based on Anderson University’s experience with using the Student Satisfaction Inventory over multiple years:

  • Faculty buy-in is critical for a successful survey administration and to make any progress on instruction related priorities for improvement
  • Share the data candidly and widely on campus
  • Have a single person be the face of the results (and it shouldn’t be the president of the college)
  • Let the students help solve the problem
  • Listen to what people have to say in reaction to the identified challenges
  • Turning data into action is hard work and staying focused on the work is even harder (but definitely worth it)
  • Sharing data and following through builds trust and is critical (what students DON’T know WILL hurt you)

Interested in learning how to make the most of a student satisfaction initiative on your campus?

I invite you to join me at one of two upcoming half-day client-focused workshops to talk with me and as well as with institutional colleagues about best practices with student satisfaction survey activities and getting the most out of your student satisfaction data.

FREE Client Workshop
Student Satisfaction Assessment Workshop: Making the Most of the Data You Gather
April 23, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m, Overland Park, Kansas
Learn more and register here.  Pre-registration is required. Space is limited.

This FREE event is taking place at Johnson County Community College, just prior to the National Benchmarking Conference.  (Please note that you do NOT need to be registered for the conference in order to participate in this client workshop, but you may want to consider staying on for their event as well).  The Ruffalo Noel Levitz workshop is open to and appropriate for ALL institution types.

Pre-Conference Workshop at the AIR Forum
Student Satisfaction Inventory: How to Best Use the SSI on Your Campus
May 29, 12:30 – 4:00 pm, Orlando, Florida
Learn more and register on the AIR Forum Website.  Pre-registration is required.  Space is limited.

This workshop is a pre-conference session in advance of the AIR Forum.  It will be geared specifically to institutional researchers.  You MUST register for the AIR Forum in order to participate in this session and there is an additional charge for the pre-conference workshop ($120 for AIR members / $150 for non-members).

Both workshops will provide guidance and direction for:

  • Surveying your students with improved response rates
  • Reviewing and sharing your results on campus, so people will care about the data
  • Exploring the data through a variety of proven methods
  • Responding to the data with effective initiatives
  • Informing the campus of the actions you have taken to close the feedback loop before you survey again

I hope to see you at one of these two events.  If you have questions or comments about how to best conduct and utilize satisfaction survey assessments, feel free to contact me.


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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Student Success