February 2, 2021 | Remote Access, Students

How to Reconfigure Labs for Social Distancing

Social distancing requirements could reduce lab offerings significantly, but they don’t have to. Read on to find out how to increase physical distance without sacrificing computer availability.

3 min

As with many spaces on campus, computer labs have been adjusted to meet social distancing requirements. Deep cleaning schedules and increased space between workstations affect computer availability. 

To meet requirements, 50-75% of computers in a lab may have been shut down,relocated, or transitioned to remote-only machines.

Shut Down Computers 

Some colleges and universities opted  to shut down or signal that computers were unavailable for use to comply with social distancing requirements. Lab management staff removed chairs, monitors, or added signage to ensure that students only use computers that are 6 feet (1.5 meters) apart. This drastically reduced availability and wasted space and resources. Now, almost a year later, are those machines still sitting idle? 

Relocate Computers

Other higher ed orgs moved a percentage of computers from labs to classrooms to ensure every computer was available at a safe distance. Moving machines created a ton of additional work and costs. Power, network access, and informing users all needed to be accounted for. Then, when guidelines changed, machines needed to be moved again. Relocating computers to meet changed needs has proven to be an unsustainable option.

Transition to Remote Access Computers

The most sustainable and cost-effective way to socially distance labs is to make a percentage of available computers remote-only. These dedicated remote machines can be accessed safely from anywhere, 24/7, solving availability and sanitation issues. The LabStats Remote Access Dashboard is an affordable and sustainable way to make lab computers available to students remotely.

Whether there’s a student sitting at each station or accessing machines remotely, LabStats monitors usage the same way. If a lab has dual purposes, and you’d like to compare usage between remote and in-person computers, you’ll need to adjust your groups in LabStats to account for the differences.

Reconfigure Groups in LabStats

For each dual purpose lab, create two new groups, one for remote stations and one for in-person stations. These new groups should be created under a parent group that holds all the machines in one location, whether remote or not, so you have the ability to compare overall usage over time.

Steps

  1. Navigate to Stations, then click Groups.
  2. Find the group that represents a dual purpose lab, for example, “Glacier.”
  3. Go up one level and create a new Group, named “Glacier – All.”
  4. Select Content as Groups and click Save.
  5. In “Glacier-All,” click Create Group.
    1. Use the same lab name, but add an indicator like “Remote” to the end.
  6. Click Add Stations.
    1. Select the “Glacier” group.
    2. Then select the stations to move to “Glacier Remote” and click submit.
  7. Return to the main screen and rename “Glacier” to indicate that it is now only showing in-person machines, for example, “Glacier In-Person.” 
  8. Select Move Group and Select the parent group “Glacier-All” from the drop-down list.

Separate groups for your dual purpose labs allow you to run reports and understand how remote machines are being used differently from in-person machines. You can also use separate groups to enable the Remote Access Dashboard for only the computers that are designated for remote access. 

If the groups are contained under a single parent group, you’ll have the ability to view data on all the machines in a single location. You’ll also be able to compare historical data, for instance pre-lockdown usage (in-person only), lockdown usage (remote-only), and reopening usage (remote and in-person).

Discoverability

Whether computers are turned off, moved, or transitioned to remote access, it’s important to communicate any changes to students. LabStats offers 3 solutions to help students find the resources they need:

  • LabMaps – Add a list of priority software to a computer lab map displayed on digital signage or your school website.
  • LabFind – Direct students to labs with specialty software via a mobile app.
  • LabStats API – Create a custom solution to show students available in-person and remote computers

To learn more about transitioning to dual purpose or remote labs with LabStats, schedule a tutorial chat.