Combining Data Sources to Better Understand Lab Usage
June 29, 2021 | Data
Learn how to combine your LabStats data with other university data sources to better understand how students use tech resources on campus.
IT departments at colleges and universities have access to tons of data sources. Although there’s a range to each team members’ data literacy and level of access, a lot of people are surprised to learn how much data exists in their organization already. A lot of those resources can be combined with LabStats data to better understand how students are using tech resources on campus.
In a recent podcast, John Felushko (LabStats Product Manager) shared this:
Data is a tool that helps us make better decisions. Learning how to access more data and combine it strategically can impact a wide range of decisions in IT, including how to manage your computer labs.
Ways to Observe Lab Usage
When Angela Neria, CIO of Pittsburg State University, started looking into reducing computer labs to combat ongoing budget issues, her team contacted other universities to see how they did it. They received two answers: either observe computer labs in person, or use LabStats computer monitoring software.
Observe computer labs in person
Other schools hired outside groups or asked university staff to observe how computer labs were being used. For a designated period of time, a person would sit in the lab and note the time of day, number of students, what software they could see students using, how long students were sitting at a computer, etc. It was a time-intensive process, all based on observation. The results were limited to the number of people observing and time they could devote to collecting data manually.
Monitor usage with LabStats
The universities who used LabStats were able to see how labs were used during all open hours–not limited by the time someone was recording activity. It revealed which college’s students were using the labs, what software they were using, how long they were using that software, and more. The data could be as granular or as big-picture as needed.
Overcoming the ‘False Full’
There are a few scenarios where you could run into a false sense of labs being full. Whether you receive a request to expand labs, or are hesitant to reduce labs because they always seem busy, it’s important to differentiate between people in a lab and actual machine usage.
When a computer lab is set up in rows of desks with one machine next to another, all the seats could easily be in use. But that doesn’t mean that all the machines are really being used.
Students who are working in groups may take up 4-5 spaces but only use one computer. Or other students may be working in the computer lab but logging onto their laptops for some of the time. It’s easy to get a false impression that the lab is always full from only observing the number of people in the room.
Combining Data Sources
LabStats surfaces hardware usage and can be even more powerful when combined with other sources of data. When looking at a specific computer lab, start with a Login Summary by Group report to get a sense of machine usage. With this report you can see: login count, station count, unique user count, total usage (by days, hours, or minutes), average usage (by days, hours, or minutes), first login time, and last login time.
Related Podcast: S1:E12 John Felushko - Using existing data to answer new questions
Then, check to see how many devices are connected to your wireless network in the same space. Keep in mind that the average student has more than two wireless devices, so consider interpreting the data accordingly.
Student Management Systems
You can also cross reference computer usage and wireless usage data with your student management system to learn more about who is using the computer lab. It’s possible that students only use labs when necessitated by a ‘Freshman experience’ course, or as part of general education classes.
Connecting your student management systems to hardware usage data and wireless network accounts can also help you learn how disadvantaged students may be using resources while keeping data anonymous, which allows you to better serve their needs.
Business Intelligence Tools
It’s easy to bring all these separate data sources together with a business intelligence tool like Power BI or Tableau. Use the LabStats API to link your usage data to these tools.
Moving Forward with Data
You can take the opportunity to utilize and combine even more data, likely without any new tools– just a new analysis of the data that you already have. To learn more about combining LabStats data with other sources, reach out to our Support Team.