Utilizing Monitoring Software to Maximize Student Retention at Community Colleges

April 13, 2023 |  Students
3 min

By monitoring computer usage, community colleges can stay in tune with the unique needs of low-income students and pave the way for their success.

In our partnerships with community colleges across the country, we’ve noticed that access to IT assets is especially significant for first generation students and Pell Grant recipients, and can make significant impacts on retention. 

Here’s the challenge: community colleges often have higher drop-out rates compared to other institutions. The students who would benefit from guidance and resources the most, tend to engage the least. 

They may be hesitant to draw attention to themselves, or simply don’t have the time or energy to sort through the various channels. In addition, low-income students may be balancing work and school with unreliable transportation or unpredictable family responsibilities, making it harder for them to utilize all that your institution has to offer. 

IT leaders have the unique opportunity to point students to the tools they need to succeed on their own–regardless of whether students have asked for help or not. Monitoring computer usage alongside demographics is an effective way to offer a helping hand at the right time, tackling potential issues before they lead to drop outs.

One way IT teams can support first generation and Pell Grant students is to ensure all students (not just those who are at risk or who voiced a need) have access to the technology required to complete their assignments.

Here’s how you can optimize IT assets at community colleges:

Improve Computer Lab Access for All Students

Understanding when low-income, Pell Grant and first generation students are currently using computer labs allows you to better meet their needs in the future. You can use LabStats hardware usage data via our Power BI Dashboard template (follow this guide) to optimize your lab hours based on usage. Additionally, you can combine LabStats data with your student management system to focus data on specific student groups.

Related: Setting Up Demand-Based Computer Labs

Alternatively, you can run the following reports in the LabStats portal to get an overview of usage: Peak Usage History Report, Average Usage History by Day Report, Average Usage History by Week Report. You can then add demographic data to the LabStats database via user tags.

Related: Optimizing IT Resources to Support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Monitor Usage of Loaner Laptops

Many community colleges have loaner laptops specifically designated for Pell Grant recipients. If you have the ability to remotely manage devices, you can install LabStats clients on your loaned laptops. Then, the next time a student logs in, it will update and begin transmitting usage data. You can use tags or groups to identify loaner laptops. This information can be combined with user tags listed above to create a complete picture of usage. Once you understand how loaner laptops are being used, you can optimize them to prevent students from falling behind due to a lack of tech resources.

Simplify Access to High CPU Computing

Low income students may be more likely to use Chromebooks, shared family computers or minimally-equipped laptops. In order to ensure those students have the same opportunities as all other students, you can provide access to high-CPU computing resources remotely. By implementing the LabStats Remote Access Dashboard, you can provide a central access interface that displays live computer availability and allows students to connect to campus resources remotely. In this way, if students have limited tech, they can simply remote into the powerful computers on campus to complete their coursework. 

“Milwaukee Area Technical College is using LabStats Remote Access Dashboard, enabling students with any browser-capable device to remotely connect to a campus-based workstation. GPU intensive applications, as reported to me, work well as the intensive work remains on the high-end workstations in our computer labs.”

Thomas Hausmann, Associate Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Milwaukee Area Technical College

Instead of investing in more powerful loaner laptops or relying on virtualization, you can provide access to students of diverse groups immediately with the Remote Access Dashboard.

Related: Can You Run Adobe on a Chromebook?

Students should not need to reach out for resources or request help, but rather be empowered to find critical resources on their own, in real time. Access to technology doesn’t have to be a barrier to student success or retention. With LabStats, your community college can be more supportive to the diverse needs of low-income students.

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