Taking Action with Academic Engagement Data

At NC State, we work to enrich students’ academic experiences. In 2020, units in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs put data into action to further strengthen our students’ engagement in their academic lives.

Background

The Retention Foundations Assessment (RFA) initiative in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) brings faculty, staff, and students together to produce actionable data on the factors that influence NC State students’ success and retention. In 2019, DASA brought together an Implementation Team of division faculty and staff to review data collected about NC State students’ academic engagement. The review of data from instruments including the First Term Survey (2018), National Survey of Student Engagement (2017), Sophomore Survey (2016), Senior Survey (2015-2016), and focus groups (2019) found that NC State students are engaged in their academic experiences. The Implementation Team also identified data points suggesting opportunities for improvement in connecting students with academic support and academically enriching experiences.

Findings

Seeking Academic Support

  • 83% of first year respondents reported seeking academic assistance in their first semester (First Term Survey, 2018)
  • The majority of surveyed first year (97%) and senior (93%) students reported asking other students for help understanding course material at least “sometimes.” (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2017)
  • 35% of first-year students surveyed at NC State report having made little or no connection with their academic advisor halfway through their first semester (First Term Survey, 2018)
  • Students in focus groups who reported infrequently seeking out their advisor expressed that they were worried about bothering their advisor, they felt scheduling difficulties were a barrier to meeting with their advisor, or they did not feel it was necessary to meet with their advisor (DASA Assessment Focus Groups, 2019)


Applying Learning Beyond Class

  • 85% of surveyed sophomores report feeling that their experiences at NC State have stimulated interest in an intended field of study. (Sophomore Survey, 2016)
  • 68% of senior and 47% of first-year survey respondents report combining ideas from different courses when completing assignments “often” or “very often.” (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2017)
  • The majority of first-year (80%) and senior (93%) survey respondents report connecting their learning to societal problems or issues. (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2017)
  • 82% of first-year students who responded to the survey report planning to participate in an internship, co-op, or other field experience while at NC State, but only 66% of seniors who responded to the survey report that they had those experiences. (National Survey of Student Engagement, 2017)
  • Students in focus groups reported valuing opportunities to apply what they are learning in class to settings outside of class, both to enhance learning and build professional experience. (DASA Assessment focus groups, 2019)

Developing Faculty Connections

  • 55% of first-year students surveyed at NC State developed little or no relationship with a faculty member during their first semester. (First Term Survey, 2018)
  • Students in focus groups who were hesitant to reach out to their instructors described feeling intimidated to approach instructors or feared bothering them, especially in large classes. (DASA Assessment focus groups, 2019)
  • 25% of surveyed seniors worked on a research, scholarly, or creative project with a faculty member outside of course or program requirements. Of these students, 93% reported that the experience contributed to their personal/professional growth “some” or “a great deal.” (Graduating Senior Survey, 2015-2016)


Sharing Findings

In 2019, DASA Assessment created an infographic of the most actionable findings for DASA that were identified by DASA faculty and staff in the Implementation Team. The infographic was shared within DASA digitally and through unit-level workshops. 12 DASA units participated in customized workshops facilitated by Implementation Team members from across the division. Units used the data that was presented to brainstorm opportunities for improvement in fostering students’ academic engagement. 6 units who received a workshop reported making changes to their programs and practices based on these findings.

Data-informed Decisions

Expanding Access to Support Resources

  • The Academic Success Center began sharing campus academic success resources through more channels, including in USC 210, tutor and peer mentor meetings with students, and the unit website which has links for study skills and other academic resources.
  • Leadership and Civic Engagement began periodic course grade checks for its student leaders to inform conversations with students about academic success and support resources.  
  • Wellness and Recreation partnered with the College of Engineering and the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism to pilot the Wolfpack Success program. The program provides students with the individual and group support needed for academic success through physical fitness and health coaching.
  • The University Scholars Program revised some Scholars Forum opportunities to more deliberately connect first-year students to campus resources.
  • Military and Veteran Services hosted an open house in spring 2020 to introduce military affiliated and veterans students to academic and career resources.


Pathways to Independent Learning Experiences

  • TRIO Collegiate Programs held events to help connect students with independent learning experiences:
    • Their Career Bootcamp brought together TRIO alumni and current TRIO students in internships to host a panel and provide an opportunity for current students to receive advice and network.
    • The “Traveling While First in the Pack” event was a collaboration with the Office of Study Abroad providing an opportunity for first-generation NC State students to share their experience studying abroad with other students, through a first-generation student lens.
  • Leadership and Civic Engagement began seeking out and including independent learning opportunities, such as internships, in their weekly newsletter to students.
  • Wellness and Recreation’s Student Professional Development Scholarship program awarded $4,934 to 14 students to attend conferences and workshops, and earn certifications to support students’ independent learning opportunities.
  • The Academic Success Center began training Academic Mentors to help students explore how their in-class learning connects with their career goals and help them brainstorm opportunities outside the classroom to gain experience and hone the skills they will need when they graduate.
  • The University Honors Program and Office of Undergraduate Research jointly began creating a new honors seminar designed to develop the skills needed for undergraduate research.

Fostering Student-Faculty Connections

  • Military and Veteran Services began hosting mix and mingle events for students to meet with faculty and staff veterans.
  • The Academic Success Center tutors began providing students more guidance about how to construct emails to faculty and advisors, utilizing the Effective Email Communication writing handout which provides examples for students.

Sources

  • First Term Survey Fall 2018, n=1889 (38% response rate)
  • Graduating Senior Survey 2015-2016, n=2579 (54% response rate)
  • Sophomore Survey 2016, n=1102 (40% response rate)
  • National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) 2017, first-year n=625 (16% response rate), senior n=675 (17% response rate)
  • DASA Assessment spring 2019 focus groups (n=25) including undergraduates of various class standings speaking on the topics of academic engagement including: using instructors as a resource, seeking out advising and finding connections between coursework and co-curricular activities.