Assessment with Alumni Surveys: Administration Tips and Data Sharing Suggestions Assessment Institute October 2013 Amber D. Lambert, Ph.D. Angie L. Miller, Ph.D. Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University Abstract Alumni surveys can be important sources of information for institutions, yet many obstacles are involved in their execution. The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) is a multi-institution online survey of arts graduates from secondary and postsecondary institutions. This presentation shares lessons learned during the first five years of SNAAP, including issues related to accurate alumni contact information, response rates, design factors, and implementation of results. Actual examples from previous SNAAP-participating institutions are shared to promote idea generation among participants for the use of alumni surveys at their own institutions. Literature Review and Introduction to SNAAP 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 SNAAP As an example, we present some best practices for survey administration and share results from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) What is SNAAP? Online 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 SNAAP Basics: Who is surveyed? Participants drawn from.. Arts high schools Independent arts colleges Arts schools or departments in comprehensive colleges & universities Broad definition of “arts” All arts alumni, all years (since 2011) 2008-2010: surveyed selected cohorts 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 2013 Administration Currently underway Combined 2011 and 2012 respondents to create a “SNAAP Database” with over 68,000 respondents – plan to add 2013 data after this year! Questionnaire Topics 1. Formal education and degrees 2. Institutional experience and satisfaction 3. Postgraduate resources for artists 4. Career 5. Arts engagement 6. Income and debt 7. Demographics Participating institutions receive... Institutional Reports: Customized, Confidential Separate reports for undergraduate and graduate alumni Both quantitative and qualitative data Special report on “Recent Grads” Comparative data with other schools Complete data file of responses Workshops/webinars on how to use data 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 Examples: Sharing on Campus Miami University of Ohio: “Assessment Brief” published by Institutional Research office after receiving their 2012 SNAAP Institutional Report Purdue University: Office of Institutional Research published a 4-page report summarizing data from 2011 Institutional Report, integrating both quantitative and qualitative data 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 protected] or 513-529-9266. Previous Briefs are available online at: http://www.units.muohio.edu/celt/assessment/briefs/. Examples: Alumni and Donor Outreach The University of Texas at Austin: College of Fine Arts promoted SNAAP results in 2011 with the Dean’s letter in its quarterly print publication, thanking alumni for participating and sharing selected findings In 2012, UT Austin also used their SNAAP data, integrated with other information sources such as IPEDS, to develop a web page that illustrates some of its findings with info-graphics Examples: Alumni and Donor Outreach Herron School of Art + Design (IUPUI): created a website to share selected findings, and integrated SNAAP data with “alumni profiles” on the website Virginia Commonwealth University: mentions SNAAP participation in their VCU Alumni publication, and incorporated an option for alumni to update their contact info for future surveys Examples: Recruitment Kent State University: created flier for those considering majoring in visual arts using aggregate SNAAP findings Herron School of Art + Design (IUPUI): created a recruitment brochure based on its alumni achievements, potential careers, and comments from the SNAAP survey Examples: Program & Curricular Change Virginia Commonwealth University: found discrepancies when comparing the business skills alumni needed for their work to the business skills learned at VCU Introduced a new “Creative Entrepreneurship” minor to address this University of Utah: found that many alumni were dissatisfied with career advising their school offered College of Fine Arts developed an Emerging Leaders Program that offers “high-stakes internships,” mini-grants, and peer-mentoring opportunities designed to prepare students for their transition into the world of work New VCU Course Catalog Listings… 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), 209-226. 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. *Special thanks to Miami, Purdue, IUPUI, UT Austin, VCU, Kent State, and U of Utah for sharing their examples with SNAAP!