ExpressPods for the National Student Survey (NSS)

Learning Statement: In this article we explain how to use ExpressPods to get on top of the UK National Student Survey. This article is based on ‘How to win the National Student Survey’ first published in the OMBEA Blog on 8th September 2017.
Audience: This article is aimed at all OMBEA Insights users interested in Student Experience tracking.

What is the National Student Survey?

The National Student Survey (NSS) is an annual survey of all final year undergraduate degree students at higher education institutions throughout the United Kingdom.

The survey is designed to assess undergraduate students’ opinions of the quality of their degree programs. It contains 27 questions covering eight aspects of the student experience, plus a ninth category for ‘Overall Experience’. The full list of categories is:

  1. The teaching on my course
  2. Learning opportunities
  3. Assessment and feedback
  4. Academic support
  5. Organization and management
  6. Learning resources
  7. Learning community
  8. Student voice
  9. Overall satisfaction

Each question is actually a statement attached to a five-point Likert scale, from ‘Strongly Agree’ through to ‘Strongly Disagree’. Examples include, “I have had the right opportunities to provide feedback on my course” and “I feel part of a community of staff and students”.

Why is the NSS so important?

The NSS delivers a benchmark that gives a clean basis for comparison. It should come as no surprise then that the NSS has been highly influential since it was first run in 2005; it sways the choices of prospective students after all!

In the scramble to meet student recruitment targets, the universities themselves have adopted the NSS into their overall strategies. Many have created a new kind of role rarely seen before 2005: Student Experience Manager.

What makes the NSS tricky?

For a university, the difficulty with the NSS is the timetable. It is conducted each year between January and April, with results being published in August, when students have already left and prospective students are just about to make a decision. It’s too late do anything about the results!

The NSS also suffers the same broader problems as any annual survey: It is retrospective and infrequent. Being retrospective means that it can’t fix issues for the students that reported them; it can only fix issues for the future. And being infrequent means that issues can fester for a long time before they are noticed.

In short, the NSS can deliver slow improvements, but it is a poor vehicle for agile change.

How does the ExpressPod fit with the NSS?

All you have to do is choose one or more questions from the NSS that you wish to focus on, and set up your ExpressPods to poll students on them. We would also give the following advice: - Spread ExpressPods around campus to capture feedback from a students in a variety of contexts. - Feel free to change the question to explore different parts of the NSS. - However, don’t change the question too often. If you do, you won’t be able to monitor improvements so effectively as the year ges by. - Take advantage of the fact that you can change ExpressPod buttons from smiley faces to multiple-choice mode. Now you can ask multiple-choice questions to seek further detail from time to time, whenever you like. - You could even combine this exercise with OMBEA Response, our audience response system, in student focus groups to quantify the more detailed feedback you’ll receive.