Instructors experience issues with ISU Testing Centers


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

The testing center in the Durham building is one of three testing centers on campus. The centers offer a place for students to take tests outside of the classroom but still in a controlled environment. 

Ella Hawkins

The ISU Testing Centers operate differently today than they did in 2019, before COVID. A new appointment system has been put in place that students are required to use when planning to take an exam. 

Students now must go online to the ISU Testing Centers website, select a location, their class and an open time slot in order to take an exam in the testing center. As with introducing any new system to a large school, there have been some concerns about these changes.

Joanna Schroeder, an assistant teaching professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, was among many professors that had to make adjustments for testing while classes were being taken online. 

“During COVID, they shut the testing centers down and… a lot of us had to come up with alternatives and how to keep people from cheating.” Schroeder said. “So our strategy was to just have everything open-note and open-book but just shorten the time so students still have to study.”

Professors were happy to have the testing centers reopen this fall and return to normal exam procedures. However, there have been some rough spots when operating the new appointment system. Some professors experienced struggles when trying to set up an exam, and it would not appear as an option for students who were trying to schedule their exam time. 

To avoid the struggles associated with this new system, Schroeder and other teachers have taken non-ideal alternative routes for giving exams.

“My fear, though, is that now that so many of us are going back to open-book and open-note [testing] even after COVID, are we slowing down that progress into analytical thinking?” Schroeder said.

Mark Woolley, program director for ISU Testing Centers, and his team are working to combat these problems and ensure everything runs smoothly going forward. 

The appointment system has been a possibility for improving testing center operations since 2014 when enrollment numbers had shot up and there were fewer locations to take exams. It was put into place this semester in order to keep students and the testing center staff safe from COVID-19. 

Before the pandemic, 100,000 exams were proctored in the testing centers each semester. While we are only seeing around 75,000 this semester, it is difficult to ensure the safety of everyone with a walk-in service operation. 

“We are looking at taking what we learned from this and trying to develop a more integrated and streamlined system,” Woolley said. “I think at the end of the day there are a lot of benefits for students taking the exam and for us to be efficient and meet students’ needs,”

The ISU Testing Center will be open for extended hours during finals week, and students will not be required to make an appointment for these times. More details about finals week were sent out to students Monday in an email.

For more information, visit the ISU Testing Center website.