The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) just released their 2006 Annual Report. This survey of 260,000 randomly selected students from 523 colleges and universities had some interesting findings, not the least of which was that online learning students report the same-or-higher overall engagement scores when compared to in-class students. The data actually make sense if you think about the high numbers of students in large-lecture classrooms in the US who at best feign engagement throughout the semester en route to taking two multiple-choice tests (mid-term and final exams) that measure their “learning.” However, online students did report lower active and collaborative learning scores than their in-class counterparts.
Given that most students will experience a blend of teaching and learning methods—online and in class—we need to explore these data carefully to see what works best in which context to achieve specific learning objectives. However, something NSSE is being criticized for is the private nature of much of their data. Unlike its sister survey CCSSE, which demands public reporting from all participating institutions, many NSSE institutions are able to keep their data from students. I guess some institutions don’t want to engage their students or us in conversations about engagement!