Symptom checker: A reminder to self-assess

This week started the 11th week of Iowa State's use of a COVID-19 daily symptom checker, a single question delivered each morning to all employees and students as they start their day: Do you have a fever or symptoms of COVID-19? It's designed to assist with pillar four in the Cyclones Care behaviors campaign: Stay home if you are ill.

Inside asked Diane Beckman, manager of administrative information systems for IT services who leads the Qualtrics return-to-campus system project team, for an update on the campus community's use of the daily survey.


What has the response rate been for employees and students?





Average (Aug. 17-Oct. 23)




Single day high




Single day low*




*Single day lows for both populations occurred on weekend days


Diane Beckman head shot

Diane Beckman

Have the response rates held steady or are they starting to fall off?

The student response rate initially declined more significantly than the employee response rate, but both have held relatively steady for several weeks. The weekday response rates have been higher than weekend day response rates. Overall, response rates are slightly higher for those who opted into text messages than those receiving the survey by email. Our response rates have been within the predications provided by Qualtrics for voluntary programs at similar institutions.


Could there be an option for people working 100% remotely to opt out of the symptom checker until their plans change?

ISU values the health of all our employees as well as that of the communities where we live -- not just our Iowa State community. So, it is important for all of us to be extra-conscious of any symptoms we might have while COVID-19 remains a public health risk. The daily symptom checker really is intended to serve as a reminder for all of us.


Why do we all receive the symptom checker on weekend mornings?

Iowa State University is a 24/7 operation. A significant number of our employees, including student employees, work weekend shifts, come to campus to continue research or choose to complete special projects. It is important for students and employees to always be conscious of their health during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the project team discussed frequency with university leaders, we agreed that the symptom checker should be available seven days a week to remind employees and students to complete a self-evaluation every day.


FAQ: Symptom checker

Answers to more questions

What happens to all that daily response data?

Personally identifiable data from the symptom checker is not used for research, and survey information is not available to supervisors or team leads. (If the checker tells you to stay home, you still need to notify your manager.)

Aggregated data is available to ISU public health professionals for review in identifying trends or potential hotspots on campus. The intent is to respond to trends with appropriate actions, such as attention to more cleaning and sanitizing or a different testing strategy.


What's the alternative daily "monitor" for individuals who need to quarantine?

For those who have been identified for quarantine, we created a daily symptom monitor called symptom tracker they'll receive during their quarantine period. The symptom tracker contains multiple questions and records specific symptoms rather than a single question about symptoms in general. Those in quarantine can turn off the symptom checker by including their university ID when they complete their contact tracing questionnaire. This ensures they receive just one survey during their quarantine period. Once their quarantine period is over and they aren't receiving the symptom tracker, they return to receiving the symptom checker.