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Iowa Universities Plugging Holes in Massive Internet Transition

Iowa's public universities made the monumental shift last spring toward predominantly virtual and hybrid learning impressively, but auditors at the Board of Regents have identified a few holes, including one that raised the possibility of cheating on exams had it not been addressed.

Many instructors at the University of Iowa use test proctoring software called Proctorio to administer the tests. However, a recently published board audit found that some, however, had not been constantly reviewing the grading system alerts, "increasing the risk that academic misconduct may go undetected".

Proctorio, which validates student identities and records full test sessions through student webcams, uses artificial intelligence to flag potential academic misconduct, alerting instructors if students look away from their computer; talk to someone else in the room; or present a photo ID that does not look like the person registered to take the exam.

Although UI's Online and Distance Education department had offered to review Proctorio's alerts for teachers, internal auditors who evaluated fall 2019 online courses found that 73 percent of instructors had rejected the help. Of the courses for which instructors declined attendance, only 14 percent of alerts were reviewed, according to the regents' audit. For the other 27 percent who assigned the online and distance education task with alert review, more than 90 percent were.

"A process should be in place that holds instructors accountable when these alerts are not adequately reviewed," according to the audit.

UI administrators moved to address that span, now making departmental review of test alerts the default mode for instructors using Proctorio.

The audit also addressed concerns about the quality of online courses available through the user interface, noting that some, but not all, were developed or reviewed using departmental best practices.


The auditors suggested that distance and online education go through the university's virtual courses to mark those who meet its standards.

The UI administration recognizes that it is preferable, but affirms the immediate concerns presented by the ongoing pandemic that has pushed a large number of undergraduate classes online, it is the top priority.

The department highlighted a number of ongoing measures aimed at reviewing and revitalizing virtual courses, including more teacher training, licensing requirements for professional schools, and ongoing discussions.

"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, (Online and Distance Education) expected to start this work in the summer of 2020," according to the audit. "Due to the global pandemic, the DOE now anticipates starting this conversation in the spring of 2021."

ISU Online Support

A separate audit of Iowa State University technology backing academics online found the ISU website does not include the online and hybrid program information "in a manner that is easy to find for prospective students and the general public. "

"Prospective students cannot enroll in programs if they cannot easily find relevant information on the university's website," the board's audit reported.

For example, a review of 85 ISU online and hybrid academic programs referenced in “at least one web page on the ISU web site” found that 15 did not have functional links to the program web pages. and the relevant department. The board's audit found dozens of other examples of missing or incomplete listings for online offers.

ISU managers reported that they would remind distance education coordinators to ensure that all hybrid and online program information is complete and easy to locate online.


Looking at the health care side of virtual migration, the regents conducted an internal audit of the operation of UI telemedicine, a mode of delivery that involves virtual or telephone visits rather than calls. traditional in-person equipment.

To begin with, auditors noted that the service has "skyrocketed" amid concerns about COVID-19 and the precautions imposed by UI Health Care.


From August 2019 to February, UIHC made fewer than 1,000 telemedicine appointments, according to the audit. Then, in March alone, he made more than 13,400, followed by an April that saw more than 41,500.

Those totals dropped slightly after restrictions eased in the summer, with a total of 26,290 telehealth visits in May and 17,572 in June. Visits hovered around that mark for months, rising to nearly 20,000 in July and dropping to about 17,000 in August.

To date, the university has conducted a total of 65,661 telephone and video screenings for the UIHC "flu-like illness" clinic for potential COVID-19 patients, or those wondering if they have the virus.

Because the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, early in the pandemic, began to compensate for video visits at the same rate as in-person visits, they also reimbursed for clinic visits made over the phone and telemedicine became more viable and financially sustainable.

Still, the hasty escalation meant the mixed use of video platforms, "increasing the risk of an inconsistent patient experience," the audit found. It also left providers and patients with limited technical support, "resulting in video visits being switched to the telephone when the technology is not working properly."

"The tremendous growth in telemedicine services, delivered at locations throughout the company, has outpaced the resources available to provide immediate support," according to the response from the UIHC administration, which committed to implementing improvements by January.

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