What is the Remote Access Tool

Over 75 colleges and universities from the US, UK, Australia and Canada have already adopted the LabStats Remote Access Tool to help students connect to campus IT resources while at home.

Remote Access Tool

The LabStats Remote Access Tool is a dashboard that students can use to access campus resources from the comfort and safety of their homes. The dashboard displays a list of available computers and provides an easy and secure way to remotely log into a computer without any special knowledge needed.

This tool can be used by students, faculty and staff who rely on campus hardware and software to complete their work.

How it Works

First, it’s important to understand that the Remote Access Tool runs on LabStats real-time usage data. You must have LabStats installed on the machines you wish to make available to students and staff.

The LabStats Remote Access Tool shows students which computers are available in an easy-to-navigate dashboard. Computers appear in groups, based on your LabStats groups, which should be a lab or location. 

Real-time Availability

A computer is considered available if it’s powered on, connected to the internet, and not in use by another student. The dashboard randomizes the computers that it shows to students to spread the load out and prevent two students from trying to use the same computer at the same time. Unavailable computers are not displayed.

Once a student selects a computer by clicking “Connect,” they will see a pop-up with download instructions. 

This is an RDP connection file, which is used to establish an RDP connection. To learn more about RD Gateways and why Microsoft recommends using them, read Remote Desktop Services – Access from Anywhere and follow Microsoft’s set up guide: Deploy Your Remote Desktop Environment. If you’re not using a standard RDP approach, contact us to verify if we can support your method. 

Students do not need any special technical knowledge to use this tool. They can simply access the tool from a shared link, which you can distribute via email or your organization’s website. Then they just follow the instructions to connect and download to achieve access to their desired computer.

LabStats Users

Just like all our updates, The Remote Access Tool is available at no additional cost to LabStats users. If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, schedule a tutorial with your account manager to get set up. 

An Affordable Solution

If you do not have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough and see how the Remote Access Tool works. Pricing is straightforward, includes all updates, technical support and account management teams. 

We’re also waiving installation fees to help you get started quickly and get your students connected with the resources they need.

Support and Updates

Our development team is actively working to improve this tool, and you’ll get every update automatically, as it’s released. 

You can also reach out to your account manager or Support Team anytime. We’re committed to partnering with you to find the best solutions for your unique environment, to ensure the success of your students whether on campus or at home.

A Pandemic and No IT Budget

We don’t know what the financial impact will be, but it’s not looking good. 

Expecting a drop in enrollment and retention, schools are already taking drastic measures. Central Washington declared financial exigency. Quinnipiac is cutting salaries for faculty and staff. States are cancelling or waiving exams including the SAT, ACT and LSAT. Universities that rely heavily on international students are also bracing for long term impacts.

The American Council on Education (ACE) is calling for $7.8 billion to “support and sustain the rapid transition to remote/online learning.”

But many schools can’t afford to wait.

We’re seeing IT departments across the country step up and bootstrap solutions to support a quick transition to remote and online learning virtually overnight. 

In an effort to keep students connected to vital campus tech, schools are quickly adopting tools like Microsoft Remote Desktop, guacamole, LogMeIn, APIs, and using VPNs or opening firewalls to allow RDP connections straight to their computers.

With each of these solutions teams have to consider the security and risk, network load, budget impact and end-user (student and staff) experience in short order.

Seeing the need for a secure and financially viable solution, our team developed a new tool and made it available to colleges and universities around the world for free. 

The LabStats Remote Desktop Access Tool is a dashboard that students can use to find and remotely log into a computer on campus.

Security and Risk

Connecting students to a secure campus network via the internet may send chills up your spine, but the LabStats team has taken every step to ensure utmost security.

Data mostly moves across the longstanding “core” product of LabStats–which exists in the Microsoft Azure Cloud–the industry leader in data security. 

Network Load

The tool randomizes the computers that it shows to students to try and spread the load out across them and prevent two students from trying to use the same computer at the same time.

Student Experience

Students can use a link (through their school’s website or an email) to get a real-time list of all available computers on campus. They can then choose a computer to remote into, in a straightforward user interface that doesn’t require any special technical knowledge.

Budget Impact

To use the Remote Desktop Access Tool, you will need to have LabStats installed on student (and possibly staff) computers.

If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, the tool is absolutely free. LabStats users always receive free automatic updates, ongoing support and access to the newest tools– including LabFind, LabMaps and now the Remote Desktop Access tool. Just schedule a Tutorial with your Account Manager to set it up. 

If you do not have LabStats computer lab monitoring software yet, we’re here for you too. Pricing is simple– $6 a license annually (one license per computer). There’s no hidden fees and no additional cost for support. 

LabStats Cloud users get access to all our tools (including new tools as they’re developed), automatic updates, a dedicated support team that you can reach by phone, email or chat with any questions you may have.

And due to the urgent need, we’re waiving installation fees for a limited time to help you get up and running quickly. This is not a sales tactic, this is us doing what we can to be good partners to the colleges and universities that are facing unprecedented challenges. Schedule a Walkthrough to see the product in action, ask questions and get the tools you need for your school.

Dozens of universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Access Tool to ease the technical and financial burden of a quick transition to alternative learning environments.

If you have any questions about providing access to campus resources to remote students, we’re here to help. 

FAQ for the Remote Desktop Access Tool

Updated 3/25/20

Dozens of universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Desktop Access Tool to provide students with remote access to campus computers. 

Our goal is to ensure your students still have access to the resources they need, and you have the accurate, timely and reliable usage data to make informed decisions. 

Below are some common questions and answers regarding the tool. 

What is the Remote Desktop Access Tool?

The LabStats Remote Desktop Access Tool is a dashboard that can be used by students to find an available computer on campus. It also provides them with a mechanism to remotely log into that computer without any special knowledge needed.

How does it work?

The LabStats Remote Computer Access Dashboard starts off by advertising to students which computers are available to connect to (those computers that are powered on, are connected to the internet, and are not in use by a student). 

It randomizes the computers that it shows to students to try and spread the load out across them and prevent two students from trying to use the same computer at the same time. 

Then the dashboard gives the student a “Connect” function, where that individual is given an RDP connection file, which is used to establish an RDP connection. There will also be support for other alternative connection methods. If you’re not using a standard RDP approach, contact us to verify if we can support your method.

Who can use it?

The tool runs on LabStats real-time usage data, so universities wanting to use the tool will need to have LabStats installed on the machines they wish to make available to students. 

When will it be available?

The LabStats Remote Access Tool is available now, at no additional cost to LabStats users. Dozens of universities are already using it to connect students to campus resources remotely.

How much does it cost?

The Remote Access Tool is available at no additional cost to LabStats users. If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, schedule a tutorial with your account manager to get set up. 

If you do not have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough and see how the Remote Access Tool works. Our team is waiving installation fees for 30 days to help you get started quickly and get your students connected with the resources they need.

Is it available for LabStats Cloud and On-Premise users?

If you’re using LabStats in the cloud, you can get started with the Remote Access Tool right away. 

The tool is available for On-Prem customers, however, there is an important note: you’ll either need to have your students remote into your network with a VPN and host this tool within your network, or you’ll have to ensure your LabStats Portal is publicly accessible over the internet so that the dashboard can get the availability information.

How will I get updates?

Our team is actively working on new features and improved functionality to better serve colleges and universities during this critical time. All updates will be pushed out automatically, so you can rest assured that you always have the most updated version.

Will the Remote Access Tool allow users to log in to campus computers using a link?

Yes, but every environment is unique. You’ll just need to work with our developers to ensure we have the correct connection information for your particular RDP approach. 

Can students connect to campus computers from their personal Mac computer? 

Yes, students may use their personal Mac computer to connect to a campus computer. They will have to download Microsoft Remote Desktop from the Mac App Store first.

Can this tool be used to connect to Mac computers on campus?

Currently, the tool fully supports connecting to Windows computers. We’re actively working on adding support to allow connecting to Mac computers as well. You can contact us and discuss your approach for macOS remote access and we can explore that together.

What do I need to get this set up?

Schools will need to have LabStats clients on the computers that they wish to provide access to. Usually, this is the computers in labs, libraries, classrooms, or any student-facing computers. If you wish to use the tool to provide access to faculty and staff resources, you’ll need to have the LabStats client installed on those machines as well. 

Schedule a Tutorial with your Account Manager, or if you don’t have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough. Your rep will gather information, and the LabStats development team will do the setup and provide you with a link to publish.

You can then publish the link to students via email, a link on your school’s website, or embed it in your website.

Can I embed the Remote Access Tool in an existing webpage?

Yes, you can embed this tool in another webpage (using an “iframe”), or you can link directly to it.

What prevents the student from skipping going to the website and just connecting via the published IP?  

Because of the way RDP connections work, it is possible for a student to use the dashboard once, and then skip the tool and connect straight to the IP. However, the dashboard is the only way to ensure the computer you’re trying to connect to is not already in use, so we anticipate students returning to the dashboard every time they need to connect to a computer.

Can I try this with a couple of groups and then later add more?

Yes, you can do this two ways.

  1. In the initial set up, request to display all groups. New groups will appear automatically as you create new ones.
  2. In the initial set up, provide a list of filtered groups. If you want to add more groups later, you can contact us to make that change..

Does this authenticate users by the school’s domain name?

No. This dashboard does not authenticate. The authentication happens in the Remote Desktop connection itself using school/university systems, as well as with the VPN connection (if applicable). 

This dashboard surfaces the available computers (spreading the load across the computers while doing that), and creates an RDP file pre-filled with connection information to simplify the process for the student. 

At that point RDP on school/university computers takes over and requires whatever authentication was set up on their end. In this way, LabStats facilitates getting students into the school/university computer systems, but it leaves authentication up to the school for maximum flexibility. 

What is the best way for schools to show students what applications are available in a specific lab?

Currently, organizing stations by lab will help students find appropriate software. If they normally access statistics software in the Mathematics or Engineering Lab, they should expect to find it on the computers in that group. 

Our team is actively working on new features to make it easier for students to find software. All updates will be rolled out automatically.

Does this require VPN access for the remote users?

No, it does not. A VPN is not necessary, but it is a possibility. 

Instead, you could use a remote desktop gateway or you could make your computers available directly through the internet by adding firewall exceptions for RDP access and by using static IP addresses. Both of these options reduce the amount of additional traffic that would be sent through your network and potentially reduce the risk of direct network access.

RD Gateway

According to Microsoft, “end users can connect to internal network resources securely from outside the corporate firewall through RD Gateway.” To learn more about RD Gateways and why Microsoft recommends using them, read Remote Desktop Services – Access from Anywhere.

How to Set Up an RD Gateway

Follow Microsoft’s set up guide: Deploy Your Remote Desktop Environment.

What happens after I request my dashboard to be created?

Within a few hours, our development team will contact you to confirm receipt and inform you that we’ve started work. They will ask you to provide information about how you are supporting remote connections, such as:

  • Are you planning on using a remote desktop gateway (along with RDP)?
  • Are you planning on using a VPN (along with RDP)?
  • Are you planning to open up your firewall to allow your computers to be accessed directly via RDP using public static IP addresses or fully qualified domain names?

Depending on your environment, you may be asked to provide a list of IP addresses or fully qualified domain names for each of your computers.

What is the estimated turnaround time?

We understand the urgency of the situation and are committed to helping you make a smooth and secure transition to alternative learning environments.

If you already have LabStats installed, our team can likely get you set up within 24 hours (on business days) of providing all pertinent information. 

If you don’t have LabStats installed yet, it could take longer, but we’re committed to getting you up and running as soon as possible.

Do on-premises customers have any special requirements or instructions?

Yes, if you have LabStats on premises, there are a few special requirements.

  1. Applies to all on-premise users. You will need to set up a LabMap which will serve the purpose of making the computer availability information available to the Remote Access dashboard. This map will not be displayed, so it is therefore not important to make it look presentable with a background and neatly arranged stations. It simply needs to be created to include the stations that the customer wishes to publish in this tool.
  2. This requirement only applies if you are NOT requiring students to VPN into the college/university network first. If you are not requiring VPN, your LabStats Portal will need to be publicly accessible from the internet. This is a requirement, not because students will be logging into the LabStats Portal, but because the Remote Access Tool has to “talk” to that Portal to get computer availability information. 

Will this show stations that are not assigned to groups?

It will only display stations in groups. If you need to temporarily assign stations to a group, please do so.

Will students be able to connect to VDI machines remotely?

Yes, VDI machines should behave the same way as a physical machine.

What about the LabStats API?

If your team is looking for a custom solution, check out our powerful API. You can use the LabStats API to securely connect LabStats data to a wide range of in-house solutions.

LabStats API Documentation and Testing Sandbox 

https://api.labstats.com/index.html

LabStats Support Documentation on the API 

API

Is it possible to add or remove computers from this dashboard?

You can choose which groups are displayed (groups generally reflect the computer labs you have on campus). There are two ways to manage the computers that appear on your dashboard:

If you need to change which computers show up within a specific group, you can make that change directly in the LabStats Portal. The dashboard will display computers that are assigned to the group, so if you want to change what appears, you can add or remove them from the group. Consider creating a temporary “holding group” if you don’t want the change to be permanent.

If you’d like to add or remove groups, email us and we’ll update it for you. 

Ongoing Support

If you have any other questions, we’re happy to discuss and test new solutions with you. Contact your account manager or our support team at support@labstats.com.

We’re committed to partnering with you to find the best solutions for your unique environment, to ensure the success of your students wherever they may be.

Tools for UK Universities Transitioning to Remote Delivery

Now more than ever, students need support from the academic community. Colleges and universities across the UK are transitioning to home learning and remote delivery in short order.

Whether students are returning home or remaining on campus for the time being, having access to university resources from remote locations is of utmost importance.

To support student success during this time, our development team has created a new tool to help students securely access computers on campus from remote locations.

LabStats Remote Access Tool

The LabStats Remote Access Tool enables students to quickly find and log into available on-campus computers from the comfort and safety of their homes or university housing.

Remote Access Tool

*Please note: the Remote Access Tool runs on LabStats usage data, so universities wanting to use the tool will need to have LabStats installed on the machines they wish to make available to students. Thanks to our API in the Netherlands, installation is a quick, secure process. 

What is LabStats?

LabStats is a computer lab monitoring software that surfaces usage data to university professionals. Hardware and software usage data helps IT departments understand what students need in new and changing environments. Traditionally used to monitor hardware and software on campus, LabStats can also monitor remote access of campus resources. 

LabStats has been providing colleges and universities with secure, reliable computer monitoring software for over 15 years, including dozens of organisations across the UK.

How to Set Up LabStats Remote Access Tool

The LabStats Remote Access Tool is available now, at no additional cost to LabStats users. 

If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, schedule a tutorial with your account manager to get set up. 

If you do not have LabStats yet, schedule a walkthrough and see how the Remote Access Tool works. Our team is waiving installation fees for 30 days to help you mobilise quickly and get your students connected with the resources they need.

Ongoing Support

Our aim is to ensure students in the UK have access to the resources they need during these uncertain times. We are here to support you and make it easy for students to connect with university resources no matter where they may be.

Dozens of universities have already adopted the LabStats Remote Access Tool as part of their commitment to the success of their students, whether on campus or at home.

If you have any questions about providing access to campus resources to remote students, we’re here to help. 

Remote Desktop Availability in a Hurry

UPDATED: 3/19/20

Connecting remote students to campus resources is now top priority. Many colleges and universities are setting up Remote Desktop Access, virtualization and alternative learning in short order as campuses close around the world. 

LabStats has been providing colleges and universities with secure, reliable computer monitoring software for over 15 years. Traditionally used to monitor hardware and software on campus, LabStats can also monitor remote access of campus resources. 

Hardware and software usage data helps IT departments understand what students need in new and changing environments.

In response to recent events, our development team has created a new tool to help students find available resources on campus, and connect to them remotely.

Help Students Access Desktops Remotely

The LabStats Remote Access Tool is a dashboard that can be used by students to find an available computer on campus. It also provides them with a mechanism to remotely log into that computer without any special knowledge needed.

Remote Access for University Computers
Remote Access Instructions

Help Students Find Specialized Software

In the LabStats Remote Access Tool, you can organize your list of machines by lab, so if students need machines with specialized software, they can find it in a familiar way. Students can browse the list for the name of a lab or department name (depending on set up) to find a list of machines with specialized software. 

Check back for updates on this feature.

For instance, students who are looking for Autodesk or AutoCAD may find it in a group labeled “Engineering,” while students trying to access SPSS or Mathematica may find it in a group labeled “Mathematics” or “Business,” depending on your school’s environment and your LabStats configuration.

For students who need to access design software, Adobe has announced that students can access Adobe Creative Cloud licenses at no additional cost.

Lightening the Load

The LabStats Remote Access Tool will also spread the load out across all computers, reducing the chance of a dozen students trying to use the same computer at the same time.

Ongoing Updates

Updates to the LabStats Remote Access Tool will be released on an ongoing basis at no cost and be available to customers immediately. If you start using the tool, it will automatically update as our team works on improvements and new features.

How to Set Up LabStats Remote Access Tool

The LabStats Remote Access Tool is available now, at no additional cost. You need to have LabStats installed on any computer that users would need remote access to. Contact us to request a set up for your school. Once configured, we’ll send you a link to publish.

If you already have LabStats installed on campus computers, Schedule a Tutorial with your Account Manager to set up LabStats Remote Access Tool. 

If you do not have LabStats computer lab monitoring software yet, we’re waiving installation fees for 30 days to help you get up and running quickly. Schedule a Walkthrough to get started.

LabStats API

If your team is looking for a custom solution, check out our powerful API. You can use the LabStats API to securely connect LabStats data to a wide range of in-house solutions.

LabStats API Documentation and Testing Sandbox 

https://api.labstats.com/index.html

LabStats Support Documentation on the API 

About the LabStats API

API Usage Best Practices

Ongoing Support

We’re seeing businesses and communities coming together in unprecedented ways. The FCC recently announced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, in which broadband and telephone service providers are committing to helping Americans remain connected to high speed internet during this time. 

At LabStats, we’ve partnered with universities worldwide for 15 years, and are committed to supporting you through campus closures, contingency plans and alternative learning solutions. Our goal is to ensure your students still have access to the resources they need, and you have the accurate, timely and reliable usage data to make informed decisions. 

If you have any questions about sharing live availability of computers to remote students, we’re here to help. 

More about what we’re doing to help:

Tracking Hardware and Software with Remote Users

We have been closely monitoring the updates surrounding COVID-19, and our hearts go out to all those who are being affected by it. With the health and safety concerns of students and staff, many universities are in the process of transitioning to online-only classes, and many more plan to do so in the coming days.

Our Commitment to Educators During COVID-19

If your COVID-19 contingency plan includes remote users logging into hardware on campus, we can help you show users which machines are currently available. LabStats can still see and track usage of a station that has been remoted into. Use LabMaps on your school website or the LabStats API to direct students to available machines.

LabMaps

LabMaps are live availability maps of your classrooms and computer labs. If you don’t have LabMaps created yet, you can upload a simple layout or organize the icons in a clean list to help students find available computers to log into remotely.

Image

API

The LabStats API makes it easy to see which stations are available in real time. You can quickly set up an API call and build a simple webpage to show a list of stations for students to remote into.

You can use the API to display the live availability of each machine, allowing users to choose from a list of available computers to log into. To help students find stations with specific software, you may want to organize the list of machines by department or location.

Coupling these strategies with the many solutions for online classrooms like Remote Desktop Connection could minimize the disruption in your students’ education. To learn more about the LabStats API, please use the links below:

LabStats API Documentation and Testing Sandbox

api.labstats.com/index.html

LabStats Support Documentation on the API

support.labstats.com/article/api/

support.labstats.com/article/api-usage-best-practices/

If you have any questions, please contact support@labstats.com or your account manager—we’re here to help. 

How to Apply the Themes of Educause 2020 IT Issues

The Top 10 IT Issues in higher education are released every year. You can read through them chronologically and review the presentation on the Educause website, but what we found most interesting are the themes within this year’s issues. 

Three themes stand out for 2020: sustain, simplify, and innovate. We won’t deep dive into each one, but there are some tools you can use to get started in each theme immediately.

Sustain

Some issues have rolled over from previous years, and many schools are actively working in these areas. Still, there is work to be done to sustain security, privacy, funding and affordability. 

Here are the Educause 2020 Issues that fall under the “Sustain” category.

Issue #1 – Information Security Strategy

Developing a risk-based security strategy that effectively detects, responds to, and prevents security threats and challenges.

Issue #2 – Privacy

Safeguarding institutional constituents’ privacy rights and maintaining accountability for protecting all types of restricted data.

Issue #3 – Sustainable Funding

Developing funding models that can maintain quality and accommodate both new needs and the growing use of IT services in an era of increasing budget constraints.

Issue #8 – Higher Education Affordability

Aligning IT organizations‚ priorities, and resources with institutional priorities and resources to achieve a sustainable future.

In short, a key part of sustainable funding will be about doing more with less. Many schools are facing budget constraints, but IT departments are expected to maintain and grow services with less funding. 

To do more with less, you have to be meticulous about where the budget is going, and focus spending on resources that actually get used. This is where data comes in. LabStats computer lab monitoring software can reveal when, where and how long computers and software on campus are used, so you can expand resources where students need them most, and reduce unused and outdated resources that are tying up your budget.

Simplify

Another theme of this year’s IT issues is simplification. As colleges and universities have grown, processes have become more complex and departments have become siloed. 

Issue #4 – Digital Integrations

Ensuring system interoperability, scalability, and extensibility, as well as data integrity, security, standards, and governance, across multiple applications and platforms.

Issue #9 – Administrative Simplification

Applying user-centered design, process improvement, and system reengineering to reduce redundant or unnecessary efforts and improve end-user experiences.

According to the Educause presentation by Susan Grajek, the hope is that in 3-5 years institutional services will be as easy to use as consumer apps. That’s a big goal, but there are already apps available that help students get to the resources they need on campus. 

LabFind is a mobile app that empowers students to find available computers, software and study space, live in real-time. LabFind also helps to break down silos on campus, so that students can find a computer anywhere on campus, not just in their own department.

Administrative simplification not only reduces unnecessary efforts, but can lead to big savings. President Turpin recently shared about his plan to streamline administrative processes at the University of Alberta, Canada to ease budget concerns.

Innovate

There are always opportunities to innovate, but Educause has highlighted three areas with the most pressing needs.

Issue #5 – Student Retention and Completion

Developing the capabilities and systems to incorporate artificial intelligence into student services to provide personalized, timely support.

Issue #6 – Student-Centric Higher Education

Creating a student-services ecosystem to support the entire student life cycle, from prospecting to enrollment, learning, job placement, alumni engagement, and continuing education.

Issue #7 – Improved Enrollment

Using technology, data, and analytics to develop an inclusive and financially sustainable enrollment strategy to serve more and new learners by personalizing recruitment, enrollment, and learning experiences.

A student-centric higher education experience should include tools that help students get to the resources they need on campus. LabFind works to increase the discoverability of tech on campus so students can spend less time looking for a computer, and more time on their assignments. 

The CIO’s Role

The final issue raised by Educause is in regards to the CIO. 

Issue #10- The Integrative CIO

Repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner of institutional leadership in supporting institutional missions.

IT plays a key role in supporting the institutional mission and bringing siloed departments together to simplify, sustain and innovate for the future. 

More details are expected to follow this list of IT issues, but you can take action now to position your college or university to tackle them right away.

Hope for Higher Ed IT Amidst Looming Budget Cuts

Looming budget cuts don’t bode well for improving tech on campus or the student experience. 

The MacKinnon Report recommends slashing higher ed spending across Alberta in favor of balancing the budget. According to the report, Alberta schools spend $15k more per FTE student than Ontario schools, and almost $4k more on administration than both BC and Ontario.

The report calls for a greater emphasis on tuition and alternative funding, and for assessing the viability of institutions for government funding.*

In his State of the University Address, President Turpin shared that the University of Alberta has one of the lowest student to faculty ratios and spends more per student than any of their peers. This is significant because two-thirds of their funding comes from government grants.

President Turpin plans to rely on enrollment growth (both domestically and internationally), administrative savings and a more efficient use of campus spaces to prepare for budget changes. The university has already started using data to increase transparency and identify “areas of redundancy and inefficiency.”*

Administrative budget changes will no doubt affect every department, including Information Services and Technology, who makes student experience a priority. According to a 2018 report, the department has shifted from a service-provider mentality to a proactive partner, even an “influencer, a game changer”* as Dilshad, the Training and Development Lead puts it. 

So how can IT departments across Alberta continue to be game changers in the face of big bad budget cuts?

One university in Alberta is leading the way. Mount Royal University took a running start by using data to identify areas that could be cut without sacrificing the student experience. Using LabStats computer lab monitoring software, Mount Royal started tracking when, where and how long computers on campus were being used. 

They identified four underutilized labs, and turned them into classroom spaces. The labs were costly to maintain– one lab cost $25k every 4 years, so turning them into classrooms not only freed up budget, but opened up opportunities for additional revenue.

Mount Royal also used LabStats to automate and streamline processes that used to take staff members weeks to accomplish– raking in even more budget savings.

While province-wide budget cuts seem impending, there’s hope for higher ed IT departments who rely on data to determine where to make cuts without sacrificing the student experience.

Tech Talk Q&A

Thank you to all who joined our live Tech Talk! The recording is available to view.

Tech Talk: LabFind and the Dynamic IT Environment

In this Tech Talk, John, the LabStats Product Manager, dove into the inception of LabFind, what we’ve learned from customers so far, and where we’re taking the app in the future. 

We were able to answer a few questions on air and have reached out to others directly. We’ve included the most popular questions and answers about LabFind below.

SCHEDULES

What is your suggestion for LabStats/LabFind when dealing with building hours that change during academic breaks?

Schedules in LabStats and LabFind are displayed in real time. Currently, you cannot set a future schedule that’s different from the current schedule. If labs are open during breaks, you’ll just need to go in and change the schedules at the beginning and the end of each academic break. If all labs are closed during academic breaks, you can assign holidays so they show as closed. As soon as you change the schedules in LabStats, it will automatically update in LabFind. Our team is looking into ways to add more dynamic scheduling abilities to both LabStats and LabFind.

Do you have a suggestion for displaying schedules for labs that are also used as classrooms? If the lab is used for classes during the day, but open to all students in the evenings, what’s the best way to communicate availability?

We built LabFind to tell students what resources are available to them in real-time. If a lab is not available for open use for any reason, it shows up as closed in LabFind. We’re interested in seeing if we need to surface more complexity to student users, like adding messaging or notifications that show a lab is unavailable because a class is in session.

Are you planning to allow .CSV uploads of schedules? Some of the classrooms have complex schedules and adding them is tedious.

That’s a great idea and we’re already looking into it. As soon as we figure out how to do it, that’s a feature we definitely want to add.

LOCATIONS

We noticed the app forces users to detect current location, otherwise the app exits abruptly. Is it possible to allow the app to enter location manually for privacy reasons?

We are actively working to resolve the abrupt crashing behavior and plan to add messaging about the need to turn on location services. We had not considered having a manual location option as the main function of the app is to provide navigation services, which are dependent on knowing the users’ location. We’d love to learn more about specific use cases for manually entering location, or opting out of some of the location services for privacy reasons.

How does LabFind manage universities with labs in multiple colleges?

We recommend offering one unified experience for students, so they can find a lab anywhere on campus. If each college has separate LabStats instances, you can merge them into the same LabFind experience. See: How to Join/Host LabFind

Are there ways to advertise labs on the LabFind app for other schools within the university who don’t use LabStats on their computers?

LabFind is powered by LabStats, which means that it works best with LabStats data. If a lab has LabStats installed, students can see the availability of those computers in real time, and navigate to the lab. 

If a lab does not have LabStats installed, there is a workaround, but you won’t get all the features. You can create a group in LabStats, and then enable it as a lab in LabFind. Students will be able to see the lab in LabFind, but they won’t be able to see how many computers are available, or any live status updates. They’ll just see that the room exists. 

Download the LabFind Awareness Kit for resources to encourage other colleges or labs to install LabStats on their computers.

I have found that the navigation feature that lists the nearest lab does not list the correct lab. What could be causing that issue?

This could be one of two issues. First, schedules need to be assigned to labs for them to display in LabFind. If the nearest lab does not have a schedule assigned, it will not be visible in LabFind.

Second, LabFind will only navigate you to the nearest available computer. Available is defined as scheduled open and not in use. If you know there is a closer computer that LabFind is not directing you towards, it’s likely being used. The app may be sending you to a lab that’s a bit further away because that lab is open and has available computers.

DOMAINS

Can we add more than one domain so faculty/staff also has access to the app? Currently the domain feature has limitations: having university.edu, does not include students.university.edu. 

Unfortunately it’s not possible to use multiple domains with LabFind at this time. You’ll want to use the domain that’s in the students’ email address, so they can log in and use the app. We understand that a number of schools could benefit from LabFind supporting multiple domains, so we’re looking into how we might add that capability in the future. 

Will LabFInd allow for more than one organization email domain entry?

That is absolutely a feature we are committed to adding in the near term.

INTEGRATIONS

We have our own app, is it possible to integrate LabFind into our app rather than it being separate?

Yes. Every app is different, but the short answer is that all the data is available through our API. It is possible to build a LabFind type experience within your app. Reach out to John or the Support Team for details.

Is LabFind available for On Premises LabStats users?

Currently, LabFind is only available for LabStats Cloud customers, but we’re actively working on a solution for On Premises users. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

FEATURES

Can photos of the building be used instead of the illustration of the lab on the app?

We’re actively working on improving the look and feel of the app, so students can find what they’re searching for even easier. We’re looking at a couple different ways to replace the default illustration. Likely, it will be populated by Google Street View images, but we’re also looking into ways to add a manual override so that you can upload your own photos. This feature will be coming in a future release, and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.

Can we limit the software list to only the tracked applications? Currently the list is way too long, and includes non-academic apps that don’t interest students.

Our team is actively working on this, and our goal is to make the software list as practical and easy-to-use as possible. There may be students who are looking for applications that aren’t tracked. So we’re also looking into additional messaging that tells students if an app they searched for was spelled incorrectly, or is simply not available on campus.

Any advice on how to run an emulator on my desktop that will let me see in realtime what LabFind is showing on a mobile device?

We looked into this for our sales team but found that a better solution was to purchase a dedicated phone that runs on wi-fi for testing and demos. Without GPS, desktops make for poor emulators. We’d love to know what specific LabFind view your interested in keeping tabs on as we may want to build that view into LabStats.

Is there a way for students to leave comments, questions or concerns in the LabFind app?

That’s a great suggestion. We’re looking into creating some sort of feedback/communication tool in LabFind.

Is there an option/icon that lets students know that lab assistants are available to help students?

Thanks for the feedback, that’s a great suggestion and we’ve added it to our list of features to consider. 

A big thank you to all who participated in the Tech Talk! We loved hearing your questions. If you still have some unanswered, or would like to chat in more detail about making LabFind or the API work for your environment, please schedule a tutorial or email support@labstats.com.

If you have suggestions and want to help shape the future of LabFind and LabStats, join our Influencer Group at influencer.labstats.com.

Future Tech Talks will be announced via our Newsletter email list, join to stay in touch!

Preparing for the Growing Demand of Higher Education

Higher education across the world is growing at an exciting rate. Global post secondary enrollments are projected to increase from 214.1 million in 2015 to 594.1 million in 2040.

As the population grows, so do the number of possible students. Most secondary education students are between ages 18-23 and by 2040, it is projected there will be 800 million people around the world in that age range.

Part of the reason for the growing number of enrollments is the rising number of people moving closer to cities. Urbanization is steadily increasing every year. In 1950, 29.6% of the world’s population lived in urban centers. In 2000, 46.65% of the world’s population lived in urban centers. By 2050, 66.4% of the world’s population are projected to live in urban centers.

The markets that are projected to grow the most in the next 20+ years are Asian and Pacific countries, with Sub-Saharan countries growing quickly. Latin American and Caribbean countries are also projected to see a rise in enrollments.

As universities grow, estimating demands for computer lab resources can be very costly. The more students enroll and begin taking classes, the more resources campuses are expected to provide for those students.

The demand will rise, but how much? Will you see your campus double or triple in size? Maybe simply rise a few percentage points in enrollments? And how will this affect you and your team?

In order to attain and maintain proportionate computer lab resources, you will need usage data. You will need to know exactly how your resources are being used in order to make accurate decisions and projections.

Questions like these will arise:

  • How many computers are being used at the same time?
  • Which computer lab is the most used? And why?
  • How many more software licenses do we need?
  • Can students find the available computers?

All of these questions and more can be answered with data reports from LabStats. Usage reports can tell you exactly which computers are being used concurrently. Tags features can help create reports on which computer labs are most popular. Software licenses are easy to manage once you run reports on their usage. And LabMaps can help you show students where available hardware, and even software, can be found.

As your enrollment numbers rise, so will demands for the right equipment. Make sure you’re prepared for the future of higher education with LabStats.