The National Survey of Student Engagement collects information from first-year and senior students about the characteristics and quality of their undergraduate experience. Since the inception of the survey, nearly 1,700 bachelor’s-degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have used the NSSE to measure the extent to which students engage in effective educational practices that are empirically linked with learning, personal development, and other desired outcomes such as persistence, satisfaction, and graduation. 

Institutions use their data to identify aspects of the undergraduate experience that can be improved through changes in policy and practice. The metrics used in this survey are Engagement Indicators (described below) and participation in High-Impact Practices (HIPs) as described by NSSE Founding Director George Kuh. 

Engagement Indicators  

Engagement Indicators provide information about distinct aspects of student engagement. Ten indicators based on three to eight survey questions are each arranged in four themes. 

  1. Academic Challenge 
    1. Indicators include: 
      1. Higher-Order Learning 
      2. Reflective and Integrative Learning 
      3. Learning Strategies 
      4. Quantitative Reasoning 
  2. Learning With Peers 
    1. Indicators include: 
      1. Collaborative Learning 
      2. Discussions With Diverse Others 
  3. Experiences with Faculty 
    1. Indicators include: 
      1. Student-Faculty Interaction 
      2. Effective Teaching Practices 
  4. Campus Environment 
    1. Indicators include: 
      1. Quality of Interactions 
      2. Supportive Environment 

MSU Denver Results in Relation to Comparison Groups – Engagement Indicators

First-year students are statistically similar or higher in all areas except one when considered against comparison groups Rocky Mountain public schools, Carnegie Class and Hanover Peers. For the Collaborative Learning indicator, MSU Denver scored significantly lower than all three comparison groups. 

Seniors scored statistically higher in most areas compared with all three comparison groups. MSU Denver seniors scored statistically lower in Collaborative Learning compared with Rocky Mountain public schools and Carnegie Class but were similar when compared with Hanover Peers. 

High-Impact Practices

Due to their positive associations with student learning and retention, certain undergraduate opportunities are designatedhigh-impact.” High-Impact Practices share several traits: They demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty members and students, encourage collaboration with diverse others and provide frequent and substantive feedback. Kuh recommends that institutions should aspire for all students to participate during the first year and one in the context of their major (NSSE, 2007). 

High-Impact Practices in NSSE

  • Service Learning: Courses that include a community-based project. 
  • Learning Community: Formal program where groups of students take two or more classes together. 
  • Research With Faculty: Work with a faculty member on a research project. 
  • Internship or Field Experience: Internship, co-op, field experience, student teaching or clinical placement. 
  • Study Abroad: Live and study in another country while earning college credit. 
  • Culminating Senior Experience: Capstone course, senior project or thesis, portfolio, recital, comprehensive exam, etc. 

MSU Denver Results in Relation to Comparison Groups – Participation in HIPs

First-year student participation in one or more HIPs lags next to comparison groups. However, seniors participating in one or more HIPs are the same as MSU Denver’s Rocky Mountain Public peers and higher than Carnegie Class and Hanover Peers, which are used as reference.  

Specifically, first-year and senior students participate in Service Learning and Learning Community HIPs at a significantly lower level than our comparison groups. MSU Denver senior students participate in Research With Faculty and Internship or Field Experience at a higher level than Carnegie Class and Hanover Peers but significantly less than Rocky Mountain Public. 

Civic Engagement 

To determine student civic engagement, students were asked questions to assess their conflict-resolution skills and examine how often students have engaged with local or campus and state/national/global issues. Results indicate that first-year students and seniors had the same or higher level of civic engagement compared with peers. In fact, on 30% of the metrics and 58% of the metrics for first-year and seniors, respectively, MSU Denver scored significantly higher than its peers. 

Multi-Year Report 

The NSSE 2023 Multi-Year Report (2013-23) for MSU Denver indicates that the quality of interactions with faculty and staff members for first-year students and seniors has recovered, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels. The same occurs for how supportive the environment is for first-year and senior students. On the other hand, the collaborative learning factor for both categories still lags the numbers before the pandemic.  

Highlights – what MSU Denver is doing well 

  • Quality of Faculty-Student and Student Services-Student relations 
  • Civic Engagement 
  • Exposure to High-Impact Practices by senior year 


Areas for Improvement 

  • Increase engagement in High-Impact Practices in the first year; review current practices and opportunities for introducing High-Impact Practices. 
  • Increase opportunities for Collaborative Learning in classes for all students. 
  • Increase participation in Community-Based Projects. 
  • Increase attendance and encouragement to attend academic and student-life campus events. 
  • Increase participation in Service Learning and Learning Communities. 

Delve Deeper  

Learn more about MSU Denver’s 2023 NSSE results. Meet with your department to learn how you can use NSSE data to learn about your students’ experiences and develop strategies to implement high-impact practices in your programs.