University Relations and Communications

Survey results show most students academically engaged and happy with academic experience at MSUB

November 17, 2011


Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Stephanie Haynie is emblematic of a student at Montana State University Billings. She takes a full-time load, works a part-time job and studies between 15 and 20 hours a week. The senior math major from Circle says her classes are appropriately challenging and she has liked her college experience.


students studying in Jacket Student Central at the COT

While Haynie has her individualized experiences to relish — she is a student senator and was on the dance team a year ago — her views mirror those of results of a national survey done this year.


Released today, the survey, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), shows that first-year students at MSU Billings believe they are actively engaged in class discussions and spend on average 15 hours a week preparing for class.


It also shows that 80 percent of first year students have a favorable image of the institution and 77 percent of seniors said they would have chosen the university again if they could start their college careers over.


And Haynie is one of the 71 percent of seniors at MSU Billings who completed some of their course discussions or assignments online. That’s something she came to appreciate.


“In the online class, the professors were really engaged, even when they didn’t need to be,” she said.


Each year NSSE asks hundreds of students at colleges and universities to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities. The topics explored range from level of academic challenge to collaborative learning experiences and student/faculty interaction to enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment.


The data paint a picture of the student experience at college. The survey was taken by 360 randomly selected MSU Billings earlier this year and outlined in the report “Fostering Student Engagement Campuswide — Annual Results 2011.” The nationwide survey solicited views from 416,000 first-time students and seniors at 673 colleges and universities.


Among the results for MSU Billings, the survey showed:

  • 82 percent of first-year students felt the institution placed substantial emphasis on academics.
  • 59 percent of first-year students said they frequently worked harder than they thought they could to meet faculty expectations.
  • 51 percent of first-year students spent more than 15 hours a week preparing for class.
  • 55 percent of first-year students reported their exams strongly challenged them to do their best work.
  • 66 percent of first-year students frequently discussed readings or ideas from coursework outside of class.
  • 80 percent of seniors at least occasionally discussed career plans with faculty.
  • 68 percent of first year students said they felt the institution had a substantial commitment to their academic success.

In areas that rated higher than peer institution, the survey showed:

  • 79 percent of seniors contributed to class discussion (the peer average is 75 percent).
  • 71 percent used an electronic medium such as online classes or support systems to discuss or complete an assignment (the peer average is 63 percent).
  • 54 percent of seniors did a practicum, internship or field experience (peer average is 44 percent).
  • 43 percent of seniors completed a culminating senior experience such as a capstone or thesis (peer average is 28 percent).
  • 73 percent of first-year students actively contributed to class discussions (peer average is 58 percent).

MSU Billings Chancellor Rolf Groseth said the report verifies what many students already know. MSU Billings offers opportunities for academic challenges and puts students in a position to succeed.


""“I am pleased to see that students feel they are working harder than they thought they could,” Groseth said. “Academic study and technical training are hard work, but most students have intellectual muscles and other sources of personal strength that they have never really tested. Our job is to present them with difficult learning challenges and then provide them with the support they need to meet those challenges.”


MSU Billings is a commuter university where about 90 percent of the more than 5,400 students drive or walk to their classes on two campuses each day. That means many students work and don’t have the opportunity to engage in extra-curricular projects, administrators said.


Still, there is opportunity. As the report indicates, Groseth and other university leaders said he would like to see more diverse experience in the classroom and on campus as well as more student participation in service-learning or community-based projects. The NSSE results will be used to do things differently that will have a lasting positive impact on the student experience at MSU Billings.


“I think this is a great opportunity to use the NSSE data to improve retention at our university,” said Dr. Stacy Klippenstein, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Taking a look at what students see and working with faculty and staff on some of those areas, we can only get better.”


Alexander McCormick, NSSE director and associate professor of education at Indiana University, said the national survey is a tool for university administrators to match student views with institutional expectations and make changes accordingly.


“The central message is that providing opportunities, activities and environments supportive of learning and student success is a concern that should permeate the campus,” he said.


PHOTOS ABOVE: Students study at the commons area at the MSU Billings College of Technology. Below is a photo of Stephanie Haynie and a fellow student.  Survey data released this week show that students at MSU Billings are actively engaged in classroom discussions, participate in capstone projects more than their peers and use electronic mediums do a good portion of their coursework.