Friendly Preparation Tips for NSSE Administration

Friendly Preparation Tips for NSSE Administration

Yihan Zhu – We’d like to highlight two important administration topics for you: incentive messages and disposition files!

Incentive messages

Sometimes institutions wonder about how specific and detailed the information included in incentive texts should be. Here is an incentive template NSSE provides when schools decide to offer gift card drawings, which includes all the specifications required for the incentive to adhere to IRB guidelines:

“In appreciation for participating, we will enter all students who complete the survey into a drawing for 1 of [2] [Visa Gift Cards] (worth [$50]). Your chances of winning depend on how many complete the survey; [90] students were invited to participate.”

Based on the template, an incentive message includes the following:

  1. specific description of the incentive (i.e., cannot say only “gift card” instead say, for example, “Starbucks gift card”)
  2. specific quantities (i.e., cannot say “some gift cards” but must say “win 1 of 2 gift cards”)
  3. odds statement (this informs the respondent of their chances of winning)

For institutions that are concerned about how to explain the chances of winning, let’s look at an example. For instance, “a random drawing to win three Amazon gift cards” is vague. Here is a better way to revise this sentence by identifying whether it means a person wins three Amazon gift cards or one person wins one of the three Amazon gift cards: “a random drawing to win one of three Amazon gift cards.”

For more information on incentive text, see our Survey Incentive FAQ.

Disposition File

The disposition file is a useful tool to monitor the progress of your students’ responses. The disposition file includes student ID, first and last name, class level, disposition, and the means by which a respondent accessed and/or completed the survey (i.e., from a recruitment email, from a link on the student portal, etc.) Disposition codes describe what (if any) action the student has taken in relation to the survey, for example, “Complete,” “Partial,” “Nothing returned,” etc. Because the file is updated daily, you can track your response rates and monitor the status of respondents. In tracking dispositions for individual students, campus contacts can use the disposition file to award incentives.  Moreover, the disposition file can be used to identify non-respondents and prepare the mailing list for schools who choose to send additional messages to students from their own campus. More information about sending additional messages is available on the Institution Interface when customization for the administration opens.

There are two areas that schools commonly have questions about concerning their disposition files: 1) interpretation of terminology, and 2) frequency of disposition updates.

Q: I think I should count anyone with a “dispo_label” of “Complete” as having completed NSSE.  But what is “submit source”? How often does NSSE update the disposition file?

A: The “submit_source” data indicates from which access point the student submitted their data. This enables you to track whether students are more often completing the survey from links sent to their primary email, secondary email, a link on the student portal, or from accessing the general survey site ( This is a useful way to evaluate the efficacy of your chosen recruitment method. The disposition file updates three times at 8 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m. EST daily to increase the accuracy of the response rate for each institution.

Variable Meaning
dispo_label Survey completion status: complete/partial complete/nothing returned
submit_source Primary email address/secondary email address
dispo_Date This reflects the last action taken by students