Explore SASSE

What have we learnt

How do students use their time?

Students in the national 2010 SASSE sample reported that they spent an average of 10 hours per week preparing for class and 15 hours per week attending scheduled academic activities. More than 80% of the sample reported that they attend at least 75% of their scheduled academic activities. The average student reported that he/she spent an average of 10 hours a week relaxing and socialising, and only 3 hours a week participating in co-curricular activities.

How do students prefer to learn?

In general, students prefer collaborative learning over active learning. Overall, male students reported significantly more participation in active and collaborative learning experiences than female students. A preference for active learning does increase as students move beyond the first year to the senior years.

How do students and staff interact?

Generally, students do not interact with staff on a regular basis. A similar trend in student-staff interaction was noted in 2009 and 2010, when seniors interacted more frequently with staff than did first-years. In both years students showed more frequent interactions with staff for course-related than out-of-class matters.

Are diverse interactions taking place?

Only 48% of the 2010 SASSE sample reported often having serious conversations with students from different ethnic groups, whilst 54% reported often having serious conversations with students very different from themselves in terms of religious beliefs, political opinions, and personal values. Overall, 54% of the students indicated that their institutions placed adequate emphasis on encouraging contact between students of different economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds.

How well supported do students feel?

Overall, Black African students (first-years and seniors) reported experiencing the most support from the campus environment, as well as the most support for student success. Female students experienced significantly more overall support from the campus environment and reported significantly more support for student success than male students did.

How satisfied are students with their educational experiences?

In 2010, the majority of students reported that their entire educational experiences at their institutions had been positive. Overall, 74% of the students in the 2010 SASSE sample reported that they would return to their institutions if they were given the opportunity to start their studies over. Overall, Black African students were significantly more satisfied with their overall experiences than Indian and Asian students. Female students in the 2010 SASSE sample reported significantly more satisfaction with their overall educational experiences than male students did.

How do lecturers and students see each other?

Student engagement measures can help to compare staff and student responses and facilitate conversations about how staff and students see each other. For example, both lecturers and students report that their institutions place little emphasis on helping students cope with their non-academic responsibilities (work, family, etc.). However, when comparing responses in relation to diverse interactions, lecturers tend to underestimate the extent to which students are having conversations with those different from themselves, underestimate the time students spend on class preparation, and overestimate the amount of time spent on relaxation and socialising.

What distinguishes engaging institutions?

In 2005, student engagement research in the US identified 20 higher-education institutions that were regarded as highly engaging. These institutions shared six predominant features:

  • A 'living' mission and a 'lived' educational philosophy;
  • An unshakeable focus on student learning;
  • Clearly marked pathways to student success;
  • Environments adapted for educational enrichment;
  • An improvement-oriented campus culture; and
  • Shared responsibility for educational quality and student success.
In 2010, these 20 institutions were revisited and researchers found that their retention and graduation rates were still good, several had improved even further and that the six features remained a focus of their commitment to quality undergraduate education. 

In fact, in the US context several practices had taken on even greater importance: data-informed decision-making, the ethic of 'positive restlessness', collaboration between academic and student affairs lines, and work by campus leaders to increase staff’s (academic and support) understanding of the conditions for student success.

In the South African context, student engagement data has been integrated in the strategic planning and monitoring practices of several participating institutions. The data has also informed new ways of thinking about creating conditions that support student success.

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