Data Collection Best Practices for Higher Ed

March 29, 2022 |  BI Reports, Data, Product
3 min

Usage data collection can empower IT teams to make proactive decisions and meet the needs of users and stakeholders across their organization.

How do you sort through endless faculty requests for software and competing budget priorities when managing IT for your university? And then once you make a decision–like expanding a computer lab, reducing software licenses, or upgrading hardware, how do you justify it to the administration?

Usage data collection can empower IT teams to make proactive decisions and meet the needs of users and stakeholders across their organization.

Position for Accuracy

Accuracy isn’t just about collecting usage statistics, it’s about filtering and segmenting the data to ensure your results are a true reflection of your environment.

  • Filter out holidays
  • Separate remote use from in-person uses
  • Account for schedules
  • Consider dual-use spaces
  • Reallocate hardware that’s moved to a new location
Related: Understanding Schedules in LabStats

Monitor Everything by Default

When monitoring hardware, think beyond computer labs and the library. Consider a whole-campus deployment, including classroom machines, public computer labs, kiosks, staff desktops and laptops, podium computers and more. Don’t limit insights to a single department or college.

Software should also be monitored at scale. LabStats automatically monitors 200 software applications, and also covers version changes for the most common applications.  In addition to the automatically tracked applications, be sure to turn on tracking for any other software that’s widely deployed, high cost or that you simply want to understand.

You’d be surprised at how many professors request SPSS licenses for their students, while the students end up using R instead. Consider tracking both Photoshop and GIMP for the same reason. Tracking similar applications (whether paid or free) can reveal a lot about student tendencies and where your budget and teaching should be focused.

Prepare for Compliance

Student and university data is subject to significant regulations. These regulations apply whether you use an outside service or a home-grown solution, and dictate everything from security and encryption to data residency, accessibility and repackaging. 

Becoming compliant with all these regulations is hard work and very time consuming. Partnering with a company that works exclusively with higher education, and is familiar with regulations, can be an advantage.

LabStats is compliant with many industry leading best practices and governmental regulations, and has been vetted and accepted by hundreds of IT and security departments at universities around the world. We use a leading cloud provider, Microsoft Azure, for delivering services with the highest compliance and attestation offering. LabStats also actively seeks to maintain GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance and is willing to help institutions understand their roles and regulations in processing data.

Related: Why Compliance Matters and What it Means for You

Prioritize Efficiency

Data can be collected in a variety of ways, but efficiency matters. If it takes you longer to collect and analyze the data than it’s worth, try an automated solution instead. 

Mount Royal University used to rely on manual processes to track lab activity. They would typically lose a full-time staff member for 1-2 weeks for number crunching and creating graphs to make data useful. The perception from the manual process was that all the labs were fully utilized. 

After rolling out LabStats, they were able to find four labs, of around 25 computers each, that were underutilized. Cutting these labs saved the university $25,000 in hardware costs alone and freed up the rooms to be used for instruction.

Democratize Data

Keeping usage data insights siloed in IT limits its effectiveness. Rather than compiling reports, and having decision makers wait until they have the data, you can give them direct access to LabStats so they can access the data themselves at any time.

Watch the video to see the process in action: LabStats 101: How to Invite Users.

You can also use LabStats’ API to export usage data to business intelligence tools such as Power BI, and quickly create dashboards for relevant stakeholders.

Start Early

Start collecting data as early as possible, and before you think you’ll need it. You can pull insights from usage data within a few weeks, but long-term trends can only be identified if you have long-term data. 

LabStats provides the data to help university IT teams identify new ways to support faculty, staff and students with the tech they need to thrive, and get ahead of impending challenges.  

To start collecting usage data with LabStats, contact us for a free trial.

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