Prof. Ven Tauringana, Dr. Marcellus Mbah and Dr. Phyllis Alexander report on a project supported by the CEL Fusion Fund in the academic year 2015/2016. The project centred on a case study which investigated the importance and awareness of national student survey (NSS) improvement initiatives in one university department. The project was motivated by an observation that despite many initiatives that the department put in place since 2011 following bad NSS results, the overall NSS students’ satisfaction remained below the national average for the period 2011-2015.
This situation raises three questions. First, are the initiatives put in place really important for students’ satisfaction when it comes to responding to the NSS questionnaire? Second, are the students aware of these initiatives? Third, is there a relationship between the importance and awareness of the initiatives and overall student satisfaction?
To answer these questions, 67 initiatives that the department put in place from 2011 to 2015 were documented using the minutes of various education committees. Through a questionnaire survey, the final year students in the department were asked to rate on a 5 point Likert scale the importance and their awareness of the initiatives. Descriptive, t-tests and correlation analysis and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multiple regression analysis were used to determine the importance, awareness of the initiatives and their relationship with student satisfaction. The data analysis was followed by two focus groups with some of the students to gain further insights into the findings.
The main results of the study are that many of the 67 initiatives are not considered important and that the students are not aware of a majority of the initiatives. The results also indicate that awareness has a positive influence on overall student satisfaction. The project’s findings conclude that the lack of focus on important initiatives and awareness of those initiatives by the students may partly explain why the NSS results for the department remained below national average over the five years.
Given resource constraints, it is recommended that the department should focus on those initiatives that are considered important to the students and be more proactive in making sure that the students are aware of the important initiatives.