Lessons Learned from Years of Administering a Multi-Institution Online Alumni Survey American College Personnel Association March 2013 Amber D. Lambert, Ph.D. Angie L. Miller, Ph.D. Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University Presentation Outline Literature Review: Importance of alumni assessment and survey issues Lessons from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) Survey administration challenges How schools are implementing survey results Literature Review As funding to higher education institutions continues to be cut, colleges and universities are often required to show measures of their effectiveness (Kuh & Ewell, 2010) Surveys are used in many areas of higher education (Kuh & Ikenberry, 2009; Porter, 2004) Alumni surveys can provide valuable information on student satisfaction, acquired skills, strengths and weaknesses of the institution, and current career attainment Literature Review A major concern with all surveys, and alumni surveys in particular, is low response rates Over the last decade survey response rates have been falling (Atrostic, Bates, Burt, & Silberstein, 2001; Porter, 2004) Alumni surveys often have lower response rates than other types of surveys (Smith & Bers, 1987) due to: Bad contact information Suspicion of money solicitation Decreased loyalty after graduation Lessons Learned from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) SNAAP As an example, we will discuss some best practices for survey administration and share results from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) What is SNAAP? On-line annual survey designed to assess and improve various aspects of arts-school education Investigates the educational experiences and career paths of arts graduates nationally Findings are provided to educators, policymakers, and philanthropic organizations to improve arts training, inform cultural policy, and support artists Who does SNAAP survey? Participants drawn from: Arts high schools Independent arts colleges Arts schools, departments, or programs in comprehensive colleges/universities Over 5 years, SNAAP has been administered at nearly 300 institutions of various focuses, sizes, and other institutional characteristics Cohort Year Sampling 2008 and 2009 Field Tests: 5, 10, 15, & 20 years out 2010 Field Test: 1-5, 10, 15, & 20 years out 2011 and forward: all years to generate the most comprehensive data possible Increasing Numbers… 2010 Field Test Over 13,000 respondents 154 Institutions 2011 Administration More than 36,000 respondents 66 institutions 2012 Administration More than 33,000 respondents 70 institutions Now able to combine 2011 and 2012 respondents to create a “SNAAP Database” with over 68,000 respondents Questionnaire Topics Formal education and degrees Institutional experience and satisfaction Postgraduate resources for artists Career Arts engagement Income and debt Demographics Survey Administration Challenges Survey Administration Challenges: Locating the Lost Important that contact information is accurate and up-to-date Encourage proactive efforts Newsletters Websites, social networking Alumni tracking Contracted with Harris Connect, a direct marketing firm Survey Administration Challenges: Response Rates Response rates are directly related to the accuracy of contact information Incentives: only minimally effective “Open enrollment” features can increase number of responses Social networking sites Need to verify respondents Survey Administration Challenges: Response Rates Email invitations to participate in the survey Is it better to have HTML or plain text? For the 2011 administration, we created visually appealing email invitations in HTML format Survey Administration Challenges: Response Rates For the 2012 administration, we systematically compared the effectiveness of HTML invites to plain text invites across the 5 email contacts sent to participants Results of this experiment suggested that a combination of message types gets the highest response rates Plain text was more effective for the initial contact HTML was more effective for follow-up contacts Potential reasons: plain text may reach larger numbers, but HTML may give the project legitimacy Survey Administration Challenges: Response Rates Long-term strategies can also influence the tendency of alumni to respond Consider building recognition of the alumni survey presence while they are still students, so there is familiarity with the project once contacted to participate as alumni Sharing data on campus Involving students in campus or curricular changes made based on survey results Connecting alumni surveys with senior exit surveys (SNAAP plans to test this model with select institutions in the 2014 administration) Implementing Survey Results Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Most important skills: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Creative thinking and problem solving Listening and revising Interpersonal relations and working collaboratively Broad knowledge and education Critical thinking and analysis of arguments and information Recommend that faculty: Incorporate open-ended projects (top skill #1) and group projects (top skill #3) Require analysis of theories or reviews/critiques (top skill #5) and provide opportunities for feedback and revision (top skill #2) Ensure curricula include a firm knowledge foundation in a wide variety of areas (top skill #4) Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Can identify strengths: What skills and competencies have the highest percentages of alumni reporting the institution helped them develop “very much” or “quite a bit”? Can identify areas for improvement: What skills and competencies have the highest percentages of alumni reporting the institution helped them develop “very little” or “not at all”? Peer group information provides context: Do other institutions have similar strengths and weaknesses? Examples From 2011 Aggregate Findings 100% 90% 90% 80% 77% 81% 71% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 26% 22% 20% 10% 0% Artistic technique Financial and business management skills Entrepreneurial skills "Very" or "Somewhat Important" to profession or work life Institution contributed "Very much" or "Some" to development of skill Using SNAAP for Curricular Assessment (cont.) Alumni receive strong training in learning artistic techniques Discrepancies between those who say a skill is important for their work and those who say the institution helped them develop that skill suggest some improvements that could be made, such as: Requiring business and financial classes, or incorporating these elements into existing courses Include classes looking at the “nontraditional” career paths of arts graduates Using SNAAP for Program Assessment Using SNAAP for Program Assessment (cont.) Using SNAAP for Program Assessment (cont.) Programs and services with low satisfaction may need to be revised Career advising had 59% report either “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied” Additional resources could be devoted to developing new components of career advising such as: Alumni career panel presentations Résumé or portfolio building sessions Networking opportunities for graduating students Examples: Sharing on Campus Assessment Brief #62 October 12, 2011 Miami University Assessment Using Feedback from Miami Alumni to Improve Educational Effectiveness Surveying Alumni Miami students are frequently surveyed throughout their college experiences. However, assessing the long-term impact of students’ Miami education can also require reaching out to students after they graduate. Feedback from alumni, who are now using the skills they developed at Miami, can greatly improve educational effectiveness. The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) survey gathers information about fine arts alumni to better understand the relationship between arts education and arts-related occupations. The SNAAP participants from Miami University consisted of 220 undergraduate fine arts alumni who graduated in the following years: 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005-2009. Respondents were least satisfied with opportunities to network with alumni and others, advice about further education, career advising, and work experience. The vast majority of respondents reported developing critical and creative thinking skills while at Miami and found these skills important in their future careers. Fine arts alumni were less likely to report that Miami helped them to develop business and technological skills related to their field. Student Satisfaction The survey included questions about institutional experiences and career choices. To capture institutional experiences, the survey prompted alumni to report their overall satisfaction with their education as well as their satisfaction with specific areas (e.g., academic advising, freedom to take risks). In the career section, alumni reported their current and previous occupations, their satisfaction with these jobs, and their current level of fine arts engagement. To explore the intersection between institutional experience and careers, the survey asked alumni about the skills and competencies they developed at Miami University as well as which skills were most important in their current job. By reviewing these results, faculty and staff can better understand how students’ experiences at Miami prepare them for their career. Key Findings Fine arts alumni were satisfied with their experiences at Miami University; 94% of undergraduate arts alumni rated their overall experience as good or excellent. Arts alumni were especially satisfied with their sense of belonging at Miami and with their instructors. Recommendations The SNAAP survey highlights the importance of gathering alumni feedback. Such feedback is a valuable resource for assessing educational impact and improving educational effectiveness across the university. The SNAAP survey helps faculty and staff in fine arts by identifying the following: Common occupations and post-secondary degrees among graduates Skills and competencies that students will frequently use in their careers Levels of student satisfaction with various aspects of their Miami experience These results can help the division improve retention and graduation rates and better prepare students for their future careers. If you have comments or questions, please contact the Center for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and University Assessment at email@example.com or 513-529-9266. Previous Briefs are available online at: http://www.units.muohio.edu/celt/assessment/briefs/. Examples: Alumni & Donor Outreach Examples: Recruitment Conclusions Assessing alumni can provide important information on institutional effectiveness, but alumni surveys can pose several obstacles When administering alumni surveys, some steps can be taken to update contact information and increase response rates The results from alumni surveys can be useful in multiple areas, including curricular and program assessment, campus information sharing, alumni and donor outreach, and recruitment Questions or Comments? Contact Information: Amber D. Lambert firstname.lastname@example.org Angie L. Miller email@example.com Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) www.snaap.indiana.edu (812) 856-5824 firstname.lastname@example.org References Atrostic, B. K., Bates, N., Burt, G., & Silberstein, A. (2001). Nonresponse in U.S. government household surveys: Consistent measure, recent trends, and new insights. Journal of Official Statistics, 17(2), 209226. Kuh, G. D. & Ewell, P. T. (2010). The state of learning outcomes assessment in the United States. Higher Education Management and Policy, 22(1), 1-20. Kuh, G. D. & Ikenberry, S. O. (2009). More than you think, less than we need: Learning outcomes assessment in American higher education, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute of Learning Outcomes Assessment. Porter, S.R. (2004). Raising response rates: What works? New Directions for Institutional Research, 121, 5-21. Smith, K., & Bers, T. (1987). Improving alumni survey response rates: An experiment and cost-benefit analysis. Research in Higher Education, 27(3), 218-225.