Student Experiences and Perceptions
UIS consistently and explicitly focuses on teaching and learning in its mission and its strategic planning processes. UIS faculty and staff value the quality of student experiences and regularly solicit student participation in a variety of national and campus surveys, focus groups, and other reflective activities to understand student perceptions of their experience.
The UIS mission statement clearly expresses the dedication of the institution to high-quality teaching and learning. A key component of the university’s mission is that “the University of Illinois at Springfield provides an intellectually rich, collaborative, and intimate learning environment.” The mission further states that:
- UIS serves its students by building a faculty whose members have a passion for teaching and by creating an environment that nurtures learning. [Its] faculty members engage students in small classes and experiential learning settings. At UIS, the undergraduate and graduate curricula and the professional programs emphasize liberal arts, interdisciplinary approaches, lifelong learning, and engaged citizenship.
- UIS provides its students with the knowledge, skills, and experience that lead to productive careers in the private and public sectors.
To measure student perceptions of the UIS experience, UIS provides a number of opportunities for students to provide feedback to faculty and administrators. This process includes a variety of surveys, some of which, such as the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE), provide comparisons with other institutions.
Survey efforts include:
- Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI)
- National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
- Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman and Senior Surveys (CIRP)
- Making Achievement Possible (MAP-Works by EBI)
- Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I)
- CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey
- Alumni surveys (one, five, and nine years after graduation)
- Survey of Plans After Graduation
- Campus Climate surveys
In 2001, UIS contracted with the Noel Levitz consulting firm for assistance in reviewing and developing action plans to strengthen its student recruitment and retention practices. One of the assessment tools used during this consultation was the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI). The SSI assesses the degree of importance students place on various academic, business, and student services as well as students’ satisfaction with these services. The difference between the degree of importance and the level of satisfaction, referred to as the gap, provides an indication of the extent to which students’ expectations are being met. The SSI also provides normative data for 12 scales and individual items. UIS first administered the SSI in 2001, and then again in 2003, 2005, and 2007 to a stratified sample (by student headcount across colleges and undergraduate/ graduate levels) that comprised approximately 30% of the UIS student body.
Housed at Indiana University, NSSE has been used by colleges and universities since 1999. The purpose of NSSE is for the institution to learn how their undergraduates spend their time and what is gained from attending college. The institution is then able to compare their results to other institutions nationally. NSSE results in data that can be used to enhance the student experience and for campus-level decision making.
NSSE measures student participation in academic and co-curricular programs and activities. It also has five benchmarks, which can be compared with other institutions and the national average. They are:
- Level of academic challenge
- Active and collaborative learning
- Student – faculty interaction
- Enriching educational experiences
- Supportive campus environment
NSSE is administered on an annual or bi-annual basis (since 2002) to both freshmen and seniors at UIS, and the data are used to inform the action plans of both student and academic affairs.
The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) is the largest and longest running national assessment study. Administered by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, the CIRP Freshman Survey is designed to provide information on incoming first-year students to colleges and universities. The CIRP freshman survey involves normative data on some 1,800 institutions and over 11 million students. This normative data provides a detailed profile of each year’s entering college students. UIS receives a profile of their entering freshman class along with a national normative profile for similar types of institutions. This profile provides data on demographics, expectations of the college experience, secondary school experiences, degree goals and school plans, college finances, attitudes, values, life goals, and reasons for attending college. Items from previous years are repeated to help institutions assess trends in the characteristics, attitudes, values, and aspirations of their entering freshmen. CIRP has been administered to all incoming freshmen at UIS (2002–08), and the data have been used to inform strategic planning in both student and academic affairs.
The College Senior Survey (CSS) is administered to all UIS students who came to UIS as a first-time, first-year student. It provides information on a broad range of student outcomes, including both academic and campus life experiences. It also offers feedback on students’ post-college plans immediately following graduation. The College Senior Survey will be administered to exiting seniors at UIS beginning in Spring 2009, and the data will be used to inform strategic planning in both student and academic affairs.
MAP-Works is an on-line survey taken by first-year students soon after they arrive at UIS. By taking the survey, students communicate their anxieties, questions, hopes, goals and plans for the college experience. Information from the survey provides a plan to support success during the first year of college. Using the survey results, UIS faculty and staff discuss strategies to best support the transition to college life, learning and the connections that encourage success.
The Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I), in partnership with EBI, provide a benchmarking assessment for university housing. These assessments measure a student’s perception of the effectiveness of an institution’s housing program. ACUHO-I provides institutions with an indication of the dimensions of their housing program that are the strongest and which areas need to be improved. It assesses a student’s perception of either apartment or residence hall programs, policies, and resident assistants. This data is used to evaluate the impact of housing policies on resident satisfaction, identify infrastructure and support needs, determine residential programming needs, and assess the effectiveness of resident assistant training. This assessment has been administered to students in the residence hall, town houses, and apartments each year from 2003 to 2006.
The CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey has been used by colleges and universities since the late 1980s to determine the extent of substance use and abuse on campuses nationwide. Originally developed by the US Department of Higher Education and higher education advisors, the survey is now administered by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.
CORE asks students a series of demographic questions along with questions regarding some of the following:
- Attitude towards alcohol or drugs at parties
- Knowledge about campus alcohol and drug policies
- Weekly alcohol consumption
- Binge drinking frequency
- Age of first use of tobacco, alcohol, and several specific kinds of drugs
- Frequency of use of tobacco, alcohol, and several specific kinds of drugs over the last year, and the last month
- Perception of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use by “the average student” on campus
- Frequency of ill effects from drinking or drug use over the past year, including hangovers, trouble at school or with the law, and trouble stopping use
- Whether the student has experienced some kind harassment or violence in the last year, and whether drugs or alcohol were involved
- Belief about the positive effects of drugs or alcohol, or the harmfulness of drugs or alcohol
- Perception of alcohol use on student’s campus compared with other schools
- Availability and desirability of substance-free campus housing
- Changes in alcohol and drug consumption over the last year
- Pattern of combining alcohol or drugs, and sexual behavior
- Perception of positive environment on campus
- Whether others’ drinking interferes with the student’s life in any of several ways
UIS administers the CORE to freshmen annually (since 2002) and to a random sample of undergraduates in even numbered years (since 2000).
The alumni survey is a locally developed instrument that is distributed and analyzed by the UIS Survey Research Office. This survey is disseminated to UIS graduates one, five, and nine years after graduation. It collects information concerning the graduate’s perception of educational practices in their major program and opinions about their UIS experience (quality of instruction, facilities and resources, program/course availability, participation opportunities). It also assesses usage and satisfaction with selected student and academic services and results of UIS educational experience. Finally, information is collected concerning employment and educational history after graduating from UIS. Alumni survey data is an integral part of the program review process. Academic programs use this data, along with that of their assessment of learning outcomes, to evaluate the effectiveness of their curriculum.
Each spring, the UIS Career Development Center surveys students who will be graduating that year to collect information regarding their future plans and the extent to which the Career Development Center helped them achieve their career goals. Students who are participating in commencement are asked to complete the survey when they purchase their cap and gown on campus. Those students not participating in commencement or who choose to purchase their cap and gown online are sent an e-mail asking for their participating in the web-based survey administration. In FY09, approximately one-third of all graduating baccalaureate-level students participated in the survey, as did slightly more than one-quarter of all graduating masters and doctoral-level students.
The UIS campus climate survey was developed locally and has been distributed twice in the last 10 years by the Diversity Task Force (2000 and 2006). The survey is distributed in two forms, one survey for faculty and staff and one for students. The student campus climate survey asks students to indicate the extent of their agreement or disagreement with eleven statements about whether specified conditions exist in academic programs on campus. Most questions include a series of sub-questions that address particular types of diversity such as race/ethnicity/culture, gender, disability status, and sexual orientations/gender identity. The student campus climate survey also addresses student life/campus experiences with questions concerning student perceptions of campus climate/atmosphere, the existence of discrimination, and experiences they have had, seen, or heard about on the UIS campus. The faculty/staff campus climate survey asks faculty and staff to rate the racial climate, the gender climate, the climate for people with disabilities, and the climate for people who are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, and Queer/Questioning) on the basis of six pairs of opposites. The survey also addresses faculty and staff perceptions concerning the existence of discrimination on campus, as well as experiences they have had, seen, or heard about on the UIS campus. The results of these surveys are used to inform strategic and annual planning processes and are integrated in the ‘Report on the Participation and Success of Underrepresented Students and Staff’ (pdf) that is submitted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education each year.