Should You Change Your Computer Lab Hours?

February 20, 2019 |  Students
3 min

Like turning a light off when you leave the room, small acts of efficiency add up to big savings at the end of the year.

Are your computer lab hours on autopilot? Are all the labs on campus set to a default time like 8am-10pm, regardless of activity level?

By changing lab hours to reflect usage, students have a better experience and IT budgets benefit. Like turning a light off when you leave the room, small acts of efficiency add up to big savings at the end of the year.

Here’s why you should optimize your computer lab hours based on usage.

Improve the Student Experience

Keeping labs open when students need them most plays into one of the EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues for 2019.

EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues 2019

2019 Top 10 IT Issues

IT Issue #4: Student-Centered Institution: “Understanding and advancing technology’s role in optimizing the student experience (from applicants to alumni).”

There’s a huge opportunity for university IT leaders to make a difference in students’ college experiences. Providing computers and industry-leading software is a great start, but making it available and easy to access is a high priority this year.

And it’s not improving student experience for its own sake. According to EduCause, the benefits are far reaching.

“When an institution can apply technology to optimize the student experience, it is affordably creating the necessary conditions for students to be successful. Enrollment and retention will improve, and performance-based funding will be easier to maximize.”

Reduce Budget Strain

Do you know how many hours a week your labs are open and staffed but serving zero students? If knowledge is power, then data is financial power. Identifying student demand and lab usage over the course of a semester is the key to saving big over the long haul.

No early birds in the art department lab? Open it after 11am. Is the library lab deserted before a long weekend, but a zoo before finals? Close it a few days before a break and use the savings to extend hours before finals. Adjusting lab schedules to align with usage trends is a great opportunity to maximize your IT budget.

Gather Data to Learn What Changes to Make

The first step toward creating an optimal schedule for your computer labs gathering data, and there’s essentially 3 ways to do it. The first is manual tracking activity, such as keeping a tally of students as they walk in and out the door. No doubt this way is inefficient and often inaccurate. The second way to track data is by building an in house solution, but that’s labor intensive and difficult to sustain.

Our Academic Computer Center had grown to 30 different labs, it was becoming impossible to take head counts. We would take that headcount information, manually key it into a spreadsheet, and then manually generate usage graphs. The LabStats software was designed with every feature we needed: user tracker, lab usage graphing, and real time stats.

-Bryan Hoffman, Server Manager, Minnesota State University-Mankato

The third and most effective way is by using a computer lab monitoring software that automatically tracks hardware, software and user activity. With LabStats, you can easily track a wide range of activity to see when, where and how long students are using computers on campus. LabStats then aggregates the data into easy to read reports, so you can quickly spot trends and identify where you need to make changes in your lab schedules.

With student experience and budgets primed for improvement, it just makes sense to track usage and optimize your computer lab hours.

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