The art and science of engaging students

As part of the University of Victoria’s commitment to maintaining and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in undergraduate programs, first- and fourth-year students were asked to participate in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in 2006 for the first time.

The NSSE survey measures the extent to which students engage in effective educational practices related to academic learning, personal development, student satisfaction, retention and completion. Student engagement is a key predictor of student learning and success, and can be used as an overall measure of educational quality.

Approximately 60,000 students from 31 Canadian universities and 270,000 students from 526 American institutions responded to the survey. At UVic, 4,940 first-year and fourth-year students were randomly selected to participate, with 2,635 completing the online survey.

The participation rate of UVic students (53 per cent) in the survey was higher than the average for students at similar Canadian universities (43 per cent). The level of student engagement at UVic was comparable to that at other Canadian universities, and fourth-year students were typically more engaged in their studies than first-year students.

In addition to student engagement questions, the NSSE survey asked students to evaluate their overall educational experiences. Eighty-six per cent of UVic students felt their entire educational experience was “excellent or good.” Eighty-seven per cent would “definitely or probably choose UVic again if starting over.”

The NSSE data will be used to inform university and academic planning and to enhance the quality of students’ classroom experiences. Several objectives in UVic’s strategic plan, such as broadening students’ experiences through experiential learning and community engagement, are grounded in the concept of student engagement.

“The results of this and other surveys show that we do provide a challenging and engaging educational environment and that our students appreciate their experience here—but also that there is room for improvement and many opportunities to further enhance our students’ experience,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost Jamie Cassels. “A number of new initiatives to address student engagement are already underway at the university through the Learning and Teaching Centre and in the faculties. Over the next year we’ll be exploring a variety of initiatives to deliver on our strategic plan’s commitment to provide the highest quality education for our students, and we’ll continue to use the NSSE survey to measure our progress.”

To view the complete report of the 2006 NSSE survey online, visit

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