How LabStats and LabFind Work Together

LabFind is a game-changer. For the first time, university IT teams can publish changes they make to a lab environment and put directions to tech resources right in students’ hands. LabFind is powered by LabStats and is an important step in the evolution of data-driven decisions.

Ever-tightening budgets and limited campus space have many universities asking if computer labs are even needed. Software costs are rising, leading schools to make tough cuts and change how, when and where students can get to the resources they need. 

To solve these complex problems, universities need to turn to data. The need to make data-driven decisions isn’t just important, it’s urgent. Three leaders in higher education technology: Educause, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), and the National Association of College and University Business Offices (NACUBO) released a joint statement advocating for change:

“For every year we fail to use data effectively to improve operations or to make better financial and business decisions, we threaten the financial sustainability of our institutions. The stakes are too high.” 

So what does it look like to use data to drive decisions like software purchasing and deployment?

The Evolution of Data-Driven Decisions

Without data, software licensing often needs to exceed actual student demand to ensure a good student experience. 

Stage 1 – Without Data

Nothing is known. Without data, IT teams don’t know what students need or where they need it. They purchase and deploy software per faculty requests and their best assumptions. This is where the site-wide software license model thrives. It’s inefficient and expensive.

With data, software license purchasing can be right-sized and assets deployed strategically according to student use. Some tools, such as LabMaps, help with discoverability.

Stage 2 – With LabStats

A little data can go a long way. Just knowing how many times an application was launched in the past month can help you make better decisions about licensing needs. So what can a lot of data provide?

LabStats computer lab monitoring software gives universities extensive insight into software usage. You can see when an application was launched, how long it was actively used, where it was accessed and much more. With campus-wide data over the course of a semester or year, you can start to deploy strategically. You can answer questions like, “Do we really need Adobe on every computer in the Library?”

With LabFind, availability and student perception of availability can perfectly align, allowing drastic reduction of software licenses while improving the student experience.

Stage 3 – With LabFind

Improve the student experience. Actual availability is very different from student perception of availability. If students know exactly where to go to find what they need, you can drastically reduce licenses to fit only what’s needed. LabFind is a mobile app that lets students search for computers, software and other tech resources, and then puts directions to those resources right on their phones.

LabFind makes the tech on your campus more discoverable, so even if you have fewer licenses, students can easily find what they need. To learn how LabStats and LabFind work together to help your school make data-driven decisions, schedule a walkthrough.

Which do you need: Management Software or Monitoring Software?

Why is computer lab monitoring software essential for higher ed campuses today?

Colleges and universities are facing more pressure than ever before. With tightening budgets, cramped campuses and students’ increasing demand for technology, knowing how hardware and software are being used is essential for current decision-making and future planning. 

Computer lab monitoring software is very different from management software. 

What is computer lab management software?

Computer management software automates tasks and provides remote access to a group of computers. Management software is an essential tool to ensure computers on your university or college campus are running properly.

Use computer lab management software for:

  • Remote control of computers
  • Restrict access to certain users
  • Shut down, restart or log off remotely
  • Update and configure the operating system
  • Execute virus and vulnerability scans
  • Install and manage software applications
  • Remote admin access to a computer
college student in a lecture hall

What is computer lab monitoring software?

Computer monitoring software gathers usage data to help you make informed decisions. Monitor when, where and how long hardware and software are used on campus. 

Use computer lab monitoring software to:

  • Identify empty lab days/times to convert to a classroom
  • See most and least used computers on campus
  • Locations with the most logins
  • Identify unused software applications
  • Days/hours with the highest use of computers
  • Accessibility resources are being used
  • Provide data that proves compliance (ADA, Accessibility, 504, Title IX)
  • Justify budget requests with usage data
  • Identify outdated or vulnerable software that’s bogging down image size
  • Spot check for unauthorized software downloads
  • Target where to deploy software
  • Update refresh schedule to match usage
  • Compare usage of similar software
  • Quickly find current IT inventory
  • Identify computers that are not responding before students/staff
  • Track individual student usage to fulfill lab requirements
  • Verify faculty/staff are using requested resources
  • Track ROI of special funding projects

In broad terms, IT staff are usually the only department that needs access to computer lab management software. However, when it comes to usage data, many more stakeholders on campus can get in on the fun. 

reports on a desk

Who should use computer monitoring software?

  • Leadership / Admins
    • Examine ROI of technology
    • Justify budget decisions with usage data
    • Identify areas of desperate need or overlooked excess
    • Require data to accompany budget requests without depleting staff resources
  • IT Staff
  • Compliance teams
    • Back up budget requests with usage data
    • Provide proof of compliance (ADA, Accessibility, 504, Title IX)
    • Improve chances of grant approval with hard data
  • Faculty / Staff
    • Ensure students are fulfilling lab hour requirements
    • Justify funding requests for specialized technology
    • Schedule classes in dual-purpose rooms without impacting open lab use
    • Understand and set expectations for software use

User permissions ensure that specialized departments and individuals only have access to the information that matters to them. In addition to getting into the software itself, LabStats reports are easy to export and share

Computer lab management and monitoring systems should be used in tandem on college and university campuses. Ensuring the success of students and optimization of tech on campus relies on both the data to inform decisions, and the power to make those decisions come to life.

How to Develop a Dynamic IT Environment

IT departments on college and university campuses are anything but static. Teams are constantly working behind the scenes to optimize hardware, better manage resources, and improve student and staff experiences with tech on campus.

LabStats was designed specifically for university IT teams to surface usage data through easy to read reports. With LabStats computer lab monitoring software you can collect hardware, software and user usage data, and analyze it through easy-to-read reports. Reports make it simple to spot underutilized computers, right-size software packages and more.

Now, with the student-facing LabFind mobile app, university IT teams can publish tech availability directly to students. The LabFind app puts directions to computers, software and printers right where students expect it: on their phones. This empowers students to find the resources they need on campus by removing the burden of discovery from students.

Dynamic IT Environment

Optimizing your IT environment is a constant cycle that can continue over the course of a month, semester or year. To better meet student demand, use LabStats and LabFind together to constantly fine-tune tech offerings on campus.

1. Collect Data

The first step to optimizing IT is to understand how computers and software are being used on campus. LabStats computer lab monitoring software tracks hardware, software and user usage data so you can see when, where and how long resources are being used.

Peak Usage History

For example: LabStats is installed on all student-facing computers on a university campus. According to the data, Macs in the Big Bend lab are only reaching 10% concurrent usage, while Macs in the Library are at 95% concurrent usage.

2. Analyze

LabStats reports allow you to spot trends and then dive into the data with companion reports.

For example: If you dive into the data a little more, you’ll notice that both the Big Bend lab and the Library are open the same hours. Big Bend is on the far end of North Campus, while the Library is located centrally. An additional report shows that PCs in the Library have significantly less usage, so you can determine that there is a clear demand for more Macs in central campus.

3. Make Changes

This is where your IT team comes in to make changes like downsizing or moving unused computers, extending lab hours or adjusting software license packages according to insights gathered from the data.

For example: If your team decides to move 10 Macs from the Big Bend lab to the Library, and create a new space called “Mac Lab.”

4. Publish

Publish the changes by enabling the new lab through the LabFind mobile app so students can see where to find computers and software, and see any new lab hours. You can also publish live computer availability through LabMaps, and display them on your school website or student-facing kiosks throughout campus.

Enable Labs for LabFind

For example:Enable the new lab in LabFind to publish it. With the LabFind app, students can now search for available Macs, discover the new Mac Lab, and get directions to the lab.

5. Empower Students

Encourage students to find the resources they need with LabFind’s live availability of computers on campus and navigation to a wide range of tech resources.

LabFind
LabFind

For example: With LabFind, students can find available Macs on campus in real time, and navigate to the new Mac lab, or any Mac on campus.

Then collect data again.

After students have a chance to use LabFind and adjust to the changes you’ve made on campus, collect data again to see how the changes you made affect student usage and demand, and continue working through the cycle.

LabStats and LabFind can help you dynamically optimize your IT environments. To learn more about LabStats, schedule a walkthrough. To learn more about LabFind, schedule a tutorial.





When to be Skeptical of Data: Summaries and Averages

Data is awesome, but it can also be tricky. Regardless of your skill level, we’re all prone to common mistakes when it comes to gathering, visualizing and interpreting data. Knowing when to be skeptical of your results, and how to dig deeper will help you make the best decisions with the data you get from LabStats.

Summaries and Averages

Summary reports are a great way to get started with data. They give you a high level view so you can get a feel for what’s happening in your computer labs. However, if you make decisions simply based on summary results, you may be misled. There’s two ways to ensure you’re getting balanced and accurate data with summary reports.

Cross Reference Reports

The Average Login History report shows a historical timeline of the average number of logins. Think of it as the “velocity” of student use, or how many individual sessions are being started within a time frame. For example, a kiosk area where students typically log in for 2 minute sessions, but many hundreds of students login a day, would have high student usage velocity.

Average Login History Report

This example shows the average number of logins. It looks like students use the Library much more than the Rocky Mountain lab. 

However, the number of logins only shows part of the picture. If you dive deeper into the login sessions, you can see that although fewer students are logging in to the Rocky Mountain lab each day, they’re using the computers for an average of 4 hours. Students in the Library, on the other hand are using the computers for an average of 2 minutes, which allows for higher login rates.

Rocky Mountain Stations (4 hour sessions)
Library Stations (2 minute sessions)

Most schools have a lab where students simply check email or print assignments. Those “quick hit” labs will show a disproportionately large number of logins when compared to another lab where students settle in to work on a project for several hours. 

Without checking the session times, you might be tempted to write off the Rocky Mountain lab as less of a priority and delay refreshes or technical support. This would be a mistake as the students are clearly relying on the Rocky Mountain lab to work on major assignments.

Although the data in the Average Login History report was accurate, it needed to be balanced with additional context from the Login Session reports. Using companion reports build a more complete picture so you can make better decisions.

Schedules and Holidays

When you just want to get a high level snapshot of usage, it’s easy to forget to set the parameters of reports. One criteria that can greatly affect the accuracy of your data (at any level) is setting schedules and holidays.

Labs that are open twenty-four hours a day can and should have a different definition of 100% utilization than labs that are only open for 3 hours a day. Class schedules, weekends, and regular maintenance hours should be considered when comparing usage of different labs.

Setting a schedule is especially important for the Usage History report, which shows the percentage of computer utilization based on open lab hours. 

In the same way, it’s easy to overlook holidays when analyzing reports that span a whole semester or year. Setting up holidays (and updating annually) before you start pulling reports can improve the accuracy of your summary and average reports.

Although there are some inherent dangers with relying on summaries and averages, they are still powerful tools to understanding computer usage better. Being aware of blind spots, proactively setting criteria and utilizing companion reports are the best ways to get the most accurate and reliable data.

How to Even Out Computer Lab Usage Across Campus

Uneven computer lab usage leads to student complaints and high-turnover hardware. So how do you combat this problem?

Cartoon of students in line for a computer lab

Help Students Find Open Computers

Oftentimes a lab is underutilized because students don’t know it exists. They flock to common areas like the library or student center, walking past smaller labs in department buildings or multi-use classroom labs.

Showing students where to find available computers is easy with LabMaps. These simple computer lab maps use dynamic icons to show computer availability in real time. Post LabMaps on TV displays, kiosks, the school’s website or mobile app.

Custom labmaps
LabMap

“We noticed that certain labs on campus formed lines as students waited for available computers while other labs elsewhere on campus had open seats. LabStats makes it easy to publish real-time computer lab availability information online so students can easily see which labs have open computers.”

Brendan O’Looney, Principal Technical Specialist, National University of Ireland – Galway Ireland

Identify and Rotate the Most Used Hardware

Even if you’re able to direct students to underutilized labs, you may still run into a problem of uneven usage between machines. 

Missy Borter and her team at Indiana University Northwest came up with a creative solution to even out computer usage within each lab.

Identify the most used computer in a lab

“We created what we refer to as a “Hot Seat” layout, indicating the most used computers in our Student Technology Centers and kiosks. After gathering all the data, we realized that the most used computers were workhorses, so we decided to replace them periodically with an underutilized computer in the same area. This resulted in computers requiring less maintenance, having improved performance and a longer life.”

Missy Borter, Indiana University Northwest

To see the most used computer in your lab, run a Login Summary by Group report.

Dig Deeper to Find Creative Solutions

Aside from communicating resources and rotating machines, there may be other reasons why students flock to one lab or one computer. You can use LabStats reports to start answering some of the following questions as you dig deeper:

Question:

How to find the answer in LabStats:


How do I know which computer labs are being used the most/least?

Run a Usage History Report to compare large and small labs based on the percentage of use.


Does the age of a computer affect usage?

Tag the install date and run a Login Summary by Group Report and a Usage History Report to compare computer usage by age. Running both reports will show you the number of logins and the length of sessions.


Are some computers used more because of the software installed?

Run an Application Summary Report to see which applications are used most and least.


Do lab hours affect usage?

Run a Peak Usage History Report across a semester to identify the busiest lab times, and compare the results with your lab schedules.


Does the location of a computer make it more popular (ie: close to the door)?

Run a Login Summary by Station Report and a Usage History Report and cross-reference the highest used stations (by number of logins and session length) with a floorplan or LabMap of the space.


How do I identify underutilized computers?

Run a Login Summary by Station Report to identify the least used computers. See if you can find a commonality like hardware type, age, location, etc.

Timing is everything. Before a semester begins, you might take the opportunity to move computers around in anticipation of student demand. However, in the middle of a semester, it’s easier to “move the students” by directing them to less used labs.

It’s worth it to take the time to investigate and experiment. Evening out lab usage can improve the student experience and lengthen the life of resources.



Finding Lab Space in a Tight Real Estate Market

Real estate on college campuses is tight. Between shrinking budgets and competition over space, adding a new computer lab may seem like a pipe dream. So if building a new lab isn’t an option, how do you move forward?

Both Macalester College and Mount Royal University used LabStats to facilitate creative solutions and get more out of their existing spaces.

Add a Class to a Computer Lab

Macalester College is a private liberal arts college in Minnesota. With just over 2,000 students, they have limited space and limited resources. So when the Psychology department wanted to add a class and host it in an existing computer lab in the Psychology building, IT was skeptical.

Macalester College

The IT team turned to data to see if it was possible to add a class to their already busy computer lab. They ran a Login History report with two different sets of criteria– by hour and by 15 minute intervals.

Login History Reports

After running the reports, they discovered that students didn’t use the computer lab between 9:40am-11:10am on weekdays. With data in hand, they approved the additional Psychology class for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:40am. 

IT adjusted the computer lab hours around the new class, confident that students wouldn’t miss having access to the lab during that time. The new schedule provided students with the best experience by keeping similar classes in close proximity and allowed the Psychology department to feel ownership of the space.

Combine a Classroom and Computer Lab

In another area on Macalester’s campus, there were ongoing space challenges with an active learning classroom. So in 2018, IT relocated a computer lab into the space.

Before
After

With the investment in hiding furniture, IT needed a way to track usage to ensure the computers weren’t just overlooked. They used the LabStats API to create a simple map to communicate computer availability and monitor activity.

Convert a Lab into a Classroom

Mount Royal University is a public university in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. With 12,000 students, 70 IT staff and approximately 150 labs on campus, maximizing space to meet a wide range of needs is key.

The perception was that computer labs on campus were being used to their full extent. However, when IT staff started tracking usage, they discovered that many labs weren’t used to their maximum capacity.

Mount Royal computer lab

Since running the reports, IT has been able to eliminate four labs without sacrificing service levels. The labs were able to be opened up for classroom use, creating significant savings for the IT department while also establishing additional revenue opportunities for the school.

Find the Balance

For both Macalester and Mount Royal, usage reports revealed opportunities to improve their spaces to better meet the needs of students and growing departments.

Think about the space you already have on campus. Are there rooms designated for classes, while others are exclusively used as computer labs? What would it take to make those spaces more flexible? Is it possible to accommodate both departmental growth and a higher demand for open computers?

With usage data, you can identify when those spaces are underutilized, and start making informed decisions about your computer labs.

This content was originally shared at the LabMan conference, by Jeremy Sedrick.

What is Computer Lab Monitoring Software?

Do you remember what driving was like before GPS navigation? Traveling to a new place, even in your home city, could be quite the undertaking if you didn’t plan appropriately, consult a map and budget extra time to navigate.

What if you were travelling to another state? What if you got lost? What steps would you take to get back on track and find your way? Still, for most of human history we navigated from place to place without GPS, but rather with maps and the occasional help of a friendly local. Fast forward to today: would you hand the car keys over to a freshly-licensed 16-year-old without a GPS and expect them to arrive at a distant destination?

Absolutely not.

A new driver today would use the GPS on their phone and navigate safely wherever they desire. GPS devices are even advanced enough to redirect you to the proper route if you take a wrong turn or get off-track somehow.

Computer lab monitoring software—software such as LabStats—is like a GPS for what’s happening in your campus IT environment.

Remember our example of a newly-licensed 16 year old? Now imagine a new university IT staff member tasked with making decisions about software licensing, hardware availability and student usage of computers without a lab monitoring tool. Would you expect them to understand what’s happening in their IT environment and trust them to make appropriate software licensing and budgeting decisions? What about decisions regarding campus computer lab hours, or if the campus needs more wheelchair accessible machines, or if a new piece of software included on a campus-wide image is seeing enough use to justify the cost? 

Better yet, imagine a university CIO whose teams don’t have a computer lab monitoring tool. How can such a CIO be expected to avoid costly mistakes? It’s difficult to optimize a budget, manage stakeholder expectations and push forward large IT initiatives without data to justify your decisions. Campus IT leaders may be able to get by with manual observations and guesswork for a while. But how much would that cost in labor and incorrect data in the long run? 

Great computer monitoring software provides reliable, accurate data an IT department needs to stay on track or course correct if need be.

IT Department NeedBenefit / Application
Data that provides a clear picture about software useOptimize software budget around actual student use
Data that provides a clear picture about hardware useOptimize budget, staff hours and hardware refresh schedule
Data that is meaningful, easy to understand, read and digestArrive at data-informed decisions quickly, support robust data analysis
Tools to right-size software and hardware utilizationLoad-balance campus resources, particularly hardware resources or resources for specific groups (accessibility devices, etc.)
Tools to conduct experiments and organize dataSupport deep-dive analysis into specific questions (Do we need more OCR readers? How are ESL, Architectural Studies or Spanish speaking students using technology? on campus?)
Data collection tools that are compliantMitigate risks from student data privacy laws, including GDPR
Tools to visualize or display dataConclusions from data analysis become easy to share with executives or decision makers outside of IT discipline; knowledge becomes easily transferable

Navigating today’s IT decisions without monitoring software is like driving across the country without a GPS. And just as the original Garmin GPS (which sold for $550 in 1998) is now resting in a museum, it’s time to retire the old ways of lab management and embrace a reliable and affordable solution.

LabStats computer lab monitoring software is the market-leading tool for colleges and universities worldwide. To learn more about LabStats, schedule a walkthrough.

What is an API?

“API” stands for Application Programming Interface. If that doesn’t make things crystal clear, read on.

Think of an API like a bridge. It allows information to travel from one piece of software to another. You’ve likely used services that rely on APIs, without even knowing it. For instance, hotel booking sites use APIs to collect room details and rates from different hotels, and then show you the best deals all in one place.

APIs make it possible for separate computer programs or services to “talk to” each other, making it possible to automate certain tasks such as the exporting of data. APIs can also increase security by controlling access to shared data through a stable, standardized platform.

What can the LabStats API do?

The LabStats API makes it possible to share LabStats data with other software programs. You can share station, application, user and schedule data with software and websites you already use. For example, you can use the API to share data with your accounting software, inventory management software and business intelligence tools.

LabStats Data Categories:

  • Stations
  • Applications
  • Users
  • Schedules

Share LabStats Data with:

  • Accounting software
  • Inventory management
  • Business intelligence tools
  • Student facing websites & applications

With the LabStats API, you can do custom data analysis, sync your scheduling system with LabStats data, and see inventory and purchasing info side by side with usage data.

Improve Student Experience with the API

You can also use the new LabStats API to improve the student experience. Many schools have built custom websites, mobile apps and electronic displays to show students computer availability in real time, in the apps they already use.

Manhattan College used the API to access data from their LabStats instance, and built a custom platform called “LabSeat.” LabSeat showcases real time availability of computers on campus through charts and maps.

Manhattan College LabSeat, powered by the LabStats API
Computer availability at Manhattan College

Next steps

APIs are fairly simple to use, and developing a tool based on an API is a great project for student workers or summer interns. Check out the best practices and testing sandboxes to learn more.

API Usage Best Practices

How to Use the LabStats API

Documentation and Testing Sandboxes

North America: https://api.labstats.com

Australia, New Zealand, & Asia: https://sea-api.labstats.com

Europe: https://weu-api.labstats.com

What will your team build with the new LabStats API?

55 Questions You Can Answer with Tags

We’re going to do things a little backwards here. Rather than sharing the most common questions we get from customers, we’re going to share the most common answer.

Tags.

That’s right, tags. We say it over and over again because tags are probably the most powerful, yet most underutilized tool in LabStats.  

LabStats software comes with a ton of ready-to-use reports, but you can also create custom reports to answer a wide range of questions. The majority of questions can be answered by setting up tags (quick and easy identifiers) in LabStats so that the reports you pull highlight the information that’s most important to you.

Before we dive into the questions, it’s important to know that you can set up tags in 3 categories: stations, applications and users. Station tags may include things like manufacturer, model, or initial install year. Application tags help identify software packages or types of licenses. User tags highlight groups of users such as faculty, student grade level, or accessibility needs.

The following is a list of common questions that you can answer with tags.

Questions about Stations

  • Which OS, Mac vs. PC is being used more?
  • Do stations with accessible software get used for other purposes?
  • Can we get rid of old computers?
  • Are the new stand up kiosks getting used?
  • Are there enough wheelchair accessible stations on campus?
  • Which computers needs to be replaced first?
  • Do I have enough computers in my computer labs?
  • Do I have too many computers in my labs?
  • How many laptops vs. desktops are on campus?
  • How long has a computer been turned on for?
  • How many computers go unused every day?
  • Which computers need updates?
  • Do we need additional computer labs?
  • Can we close computer labs without sacrificing service levels?
  • Should we adjust our open lab hours?
  • Should we adjust our lab staffing hours?
  • Are resources and student usage mismatched? (Do students even know where our best computers are?)
  • What are the busy times in certain labs?
  • What are the busiest times during the semester? (Registration, Finals)
  • Does our refresh cycle make sense based on our usage?
  • Can we change our current lab schedules to offer more classes or more open lab time?
  • Which locations in a lab are used more? (close to the door, back of the lab, middle of the lab)
  • How do I track usage of accessibility resources? (OCR readers, magnifiers, different input devices, cubicle/open table)
  • Do students have a preference when it comes to thin client vs. desktop?
  • Are staff using the provided laptops or desktops, or bringing their own computers?

Questions about Applications

  • How many software licenses do I really need?
  • Should we get a site license or seat licenses?
  • Which machines do students use to launch a particular application?
  • Which applications go unused all semester?
  • Do students open applications, and then not use them?
  • When do students use certain applications most?
  • Is the citation software that the university invested in being used?
  • Where can we save image space?
  • What is the launch vs. focus time of applications?
  • How often are instructors using online applications for study guides or online quizzes and projects?  
  • Would instructors like to see the level of usage for resources they recommend in class?  (They can submit a url and get a report of how many times it was accessed on campus.)
  • Are application usage patterns based on semester cycle? (Is Microsoft Office used more at the end of the semester while Youtube is used more in the middle of the semester?)
  • Are school computers used for nonessential web applications like Youtube and Facebook?
  • Are students using free web apps for the same purpose as paid applications? (ie: using GIMP when we’re paying for Photoshop)
  • Are students using the software that the professors requested?
  • We have 8 applications that do the same thing, are all 8 being used?
  • Where are specialty applications installed?
  • How can we use application tracking to streamline our support time?

Questions about Users

When identifying users, it is important to know that LabStats does not track any personal or private information about the user, it only tracks login name. There is an option to obfuscate user identity further by replacing login name with an anonymized username.

  • Do Freshman use computer labs more than Seniors?
  • Are professors using the software they requested during class?
  • How are students with disabilities using accessible hardware and software?
  • Are students without disabilities using accessible computers, blocking access for those who need it most?
  • How are ESL, Architecture or Spanish Speaking students using technology on campus?
  • Who uses the most expensive software programs?
  • How long do students generally stay on a computer for?
  • How often do students use computers on campus?
  • Who is using computers for testing purposes? How many of them are students with disabilities?
  • Are past software requests justified by use?
  • How are student athletes using resources?
  • How are scholarship students using resources?
  • How do you separate usage of public access (shared) login use vs student (SSO) access?
  • How much crossover is there for students to use computer labs in a department other than the one where they study? (i.e. sciences students using a lab in the business building)
  • How many students from a specific demographic do you have that have never logged onto the system? 

What questions do you have about your university computer labs? If you’ve never tried LabStats and want to see how it works, schedule a walkthrough. If you already have LabStats and would like to see how you can set up tags to answer your computer lab questions, schedule a tutorial.

Fan Favorite Feature: Tags

If there was a fan-favorite feature in LabStats, it would be tags.

Tags allow you to customize LabStats to fit your environment and highlight what matters most to you. With tags, you can narrow search results, get more detailed reports and track just about anything.

A “tag” is a simple way to identify an item or group of items in LabStats. This allows you to organize data and highlight specific items in reports. You can assign tags to stations, applications and users (with an option to anonymize identity).

For instance, say a school has 40 wheelchair accessible stations that are spread across 10 computer labs on campus. The Office of Accessibility is requesting  five additional wheelchair accessible stations. The lab manager needs to verify if additional stations are really needed, and if so, determine where they should be installed.

With tags a lab manager could label the existing wheelchair accessible stations to distinguish them from non-accessible stations for the purpose of usage tracking and data organization. By tagging current wheelchair accessible stations with “Accessible” (or any chosen word) the lab manager can see usage data for this group of computers, regardless of whether they’re located in the same physical space or scattered across campus. He can see the overall percent of use, busiest and least busy times, and labs that include accessible stations. With this data in hand, the lab manager can strategically install additional stations, or recommend that resources be used for other needs.

Stations

Station tags allow you to identify computers with similar traits. Rather than sorting through usage data for all the computers on campus, you can tag a group of computers to focus reports on what matters most to you.

tag examples
Examples of tags

Examples of questions you can answer with station tags:

  • Which computers need to be refreshed next?
  • We have the budget for new computers, should we get desktops, laptops or standing kiosks?
  • Are staff using university computers or bringing their own laptops?
  • How do different colleges or departments use computer labs?
  • Are accessibility resources being used more or less than we anticipated?

Ideas for station tags:

  • Install timeframe (ie: year or semester depending on refresh schedule)
  • Hardware type (ie: desktop, laptop, standing kiosk)
  • Staff or faculty computers
  • Department (ie: biology, English, etc.)
  • Accessibility (ie: OCR reader, magnifier, open table, input devices)
Related: Quickstart: Tags

Applications

Chances are, you have a mix of expensive and free software, site-wide licenses and seat licenses. Focus reports on what’s most useful to your school, like identifying expensive seat license software packages so you know exactly how much to budget for in the coming year. With application tags, you can identify different aspects of software in your environment to make better budgeting decisions moving forward.

Examples of questions you can answer with application tags:

  • Are we paying for more seat licenses than we actually need?
  • Are we fully utilizing expensive software packages?

Ideas for application tags:

  • Site license and seat license
  • Software packages (Microsoft Office, Adobe CC, etc.)

Although tagging is not required to build reports, it can help narrow down results for important decision making.

Users

When identifying users, it is important to know that LabStats does not track any personal or private information about the user, it only tracks login name. There is an option to obfuscate user identity further by replacing login name with an anonymized username.

Tagging users can be super helpful in identifying how groups of students use resources on campus. For instance, do engineering students prefer to walk across campus to use computers in the library, or would they rather use smaller study spaces in the engineering lab? Knowing who is using technology on campus can help you plan lab expansions, know where to install new technology and optimize the resources you already have.

Examples of questions you can answer with user tags:

  • Do freshman use campus resources more or less than seniors?
  • Do business majors use computer labs?
  • What data can we use to support a grant application?

Ideas for user tags:

  • Grade level
  • College or major
  • Demographics for grants

You can also track user demographics to apply for grants, support funding requests or expand resources for the students in your university who need it most.

Related: How Does LabStats Protect Data

How are schools using tags?

The University of Utah uses station tags to identify computers that have scanners, 3D printers and VR equipment attached. They track how often those computers are used to ensure their investment in the additional equipment is justified.

The College of William and Mary uses application tags to track software that they hope to cut out of the following year’s budget. This “cutting” tag allows them to quickly pull a report at the end of the year to see if the suspected software was actually used, and if it’s worth cutting or keeping.

Tagging is not a feature that is necessary to build reports, but it is a powerful tool that can help get you get better results and focus on what matters most to your school.