Iowa Board of Regents

Distance Education Task Force Report

At its June meeting, the Board of Regents will consider approval of the Distance Education Task Force Report and the recommendations within. If approved, the task force’s recommendations will help streamline and expand distance education offerings at Iowa’s public universities.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent move to online-only instruction in 2020 tested the Regent Universities’ distance education capabilities. The existing infrastructure, buoyed by years of growth in both courses and enrollment prior to the pandemic, performed admirably. Looking forward, and in keeping with the Board’s mission to provide quality, accessible education, the Regents and Iowa’s public universities are determined to build on this strong foundation. 

The Distance Education Task Force held six meetings between November 2021 and March 2022. Enrollment trends, student demographics and competing distance education offerings were discussed, with the task force landing on three recommendations to serve as the base for the Regents’ strategic direction on distance education:

Recommendation 1: Update the charge, structure, authority and alignment of the Statewide Extension, Continuing and Distance Education Council (SECDEC) to meet current and future needs for cross-institutional leadership of distance education. 

Recommendation 2: Identify share resources/policies that would enable the expansion of new online offerings and further promote currently available online offerings for all institutions, with an initial focus on graduate and professional offerings and the regional market of students and workforce needs. 

Recommendation 3: Design a pilot general education course sharing opportunity for students at one institution to take online courses from the other two universities, evaluate the results, and evaluate adding additional opportunities. 

If approved, the task force’s three recommendations would promote greater collaboration among the distance education programs at the Regents institutions, notably with infrastructure and policy making. In addition, SECDEC and the Council of Provosts would oversee these programs. Finally, the recommendations pave the way for shared professional development opportunities among the three universities, allowing working Iowans greater access to these classes. 

The Board of Regents and Iowa’s public universities are dedicated to providing quality, accessible and affordable education. A robust distance education platform is one way the Board demonstrates its commitment to Iowans, wherever they live.  

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