Optimizing IT Resources to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

May 13, 2023 |  Students
5 min

To better understand who is using the computers in your environment and what they need, you can combine LabStats data with your organization’s demographics data.

At LabStats, we track hardware and software usage so IT teams can better understand the environments they manage. That usage data can be very powerful, but it doesn’t matter in and of itself. Data is only important as a proxy for human need.

To better understand who is using the computers in your environment and what they need, you can combine LabStats data with your organization’s demographics data. These two data sources can paint a picture of who your computer labs are serving well, and whose needs may be going unmet.

Different Humans, Different Needs

Consider how these different groups may be using computer labs to meet different needs:

  • International Students: may want to work with their friends and computer labs have the space on campus to meet up. These labs may be helping students build friendships and deal with being far from home.
  • Grad Students or Contract Instructors: may use computer labs because they don’t have a dedicated office on campus.
  • First Year, First Generation or Part Time Students: may use first-floor labs or crowded computers in the library because they haven’t found any other place to work yet. 
  • Pell Grant or Dream Act Students: may use lab computers because they don’t own powerful enough machines or don’t have quiet space at home. The labs may provide an oasis from cramped living conditions or enable them to spend more time working between their jobs and care responsibilities.

University IT staff have the opportunity to influence decisions about what technology should be purchased and where it should go. 

For example, you may be better able to serve the international students by opening up bookable study rooms or better serve grad students with hotdesks. You may find that you don’t need more computers in the library, but rather LabMaps to show first year students where they can find an available computer. For part-time, Pell Grant and Dream Act students, you may consider the proximity of your labs to the parking lot–does the amount of time it takes to walk from the car or bus stop to the lab eat away at study time? 

Knowing who’s using resources can be a critical first step in optimizing hardware, service and space. 

Forecasting with Demographic Data

Understanding complex demographics and combining that information with LabStats usage data makes demand forecasting quicker and more accurate. 

Multiple categories of data could be used together to optimize future technology offerings, including:

  • Demographic data: age, gender, race, immigration status, disability status, veteran status, etc.
  • Economic data: FAFSA completion, expected family contribution, grants, loans, scholarships, etc.
  • Academic data: major, year, GPA, individual courses grades, graduation status, etc.
  • Hardware usage data: Average Login History
  • Software usage data: Application Launch History

For instance, if you know that the average Industrial Design student is logged into the MakerSpace Lab 200 hours a year, you can scale resources when there’s a boost in program enrollment, or extend hardware refresh cycles when enrollment is down.

Reducing Risk

IT leaders can also use this data to reduce the risk of inadvertent harm. If you make decisions without knowing the demographics of users you can disproportionately impact people in one demographic. 

For example, consider a Mac lab with Adobe Creative Cloud installed on every machine. Over the summer, you notice that a LabStats report shows that average usage is very low, peaking at 5%. Typically this would trigger a reduction in resources. 

However, what if you combined the LabStats report with demographic data and discovered that almost all of the users at this time are Pell Grant recipients? Instead of reducing resources across the board, you may consider keeping the lab open or providing loaner Macbook Pros to the students in need.

How to Use Demographic Data with LabStats

There are two ways to combine demographic information and LabStats data: 

1- Add demographic data to the LabStats database via User Tags.

You can add tags individually or bulk import tags. LabStats provides the option to anonymize user identity, so that user tags can be applied without compromising privacy.

If student accounts have usernames that are personally identifiable, you can obfuscate that information in the LabStats product to further protect that data. For instance, Jane Doe’s username: “jane.doe” can be obfuscated to “user0001.”

In this way, you can explore how students in different classes, colleges, or demographics interact with your hardware and software on campus while maintaining student privacy.

Related: How to Run Reports with User Tags

2- Connect LabStats data and demographic data in your own tools. 

LabStats offers access to robust historical data through expanded API endpoints that allow you to join usage data with demographic data in a variety of applications. 

LabStats data can be combined with:

  • Power BI 
  • Tableau
  • Excel 
  • Qlick
  • R
  • Python
  • SQL tools

The easiest way to integrate your LabStats data with the tools listed above would be to take advantage of our new historical API endpoints. These endpoints are available to both cloud and on-prem customers (requires an up to date on-prem server). Alternatively, you can pull the data directly from your SQL database by either requesting a BACPAC file from us (cloud customers) or running the queries on your local LabStats database (on-prem).

These endpoints are updated daily and completed sessions will be available in this dataset within 17-41 hours of completion (active sessions can be retrieved from other endpoints). Rate limit: 5 full copies of your historical data per day.

Using LabStats New Power BI Dashboard Templates 

Thoughtfully designed Power BI Dashboard Templates are now available for download in the LabStats portal. These templates include the API calls, data models and visualizations you’ll need to get started. They work well for years worth of data on their own and can pull in any tags you’ve created or imported into LabStats. 

The templates are easy to modify and can harness additional data sources. Grab a file from anywhere, as long as it has a key column. For demographic data “username” is probably your best key column, as you can add it to the model in one click. 

If you’ve connected to live data you can refresh at any time. You can then create slicers based on any column in your table to sort, filter and label the existing visual or create your own custom charts, table and dashboards. 

Then you can publish the result on the power BI cloud service to automate refresh, create alerts, auto share, embed in websites and Powerpoint presentations–however you want to disseminate the data. 

Take the Next Step

If you don’t have LabStats yet, gathering usage data is the first step to better understanding who your computer labs are serving well, and whose needs may be going unmet.

Get started with a free trial. If you are already using LabStats, reach out to our support team for help getting started.

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