Based on historical data gathered from the annual UofU Learning Spaces-Student Computing Fees Award Process (LS-SCF), it is estimated there are at least 226 individual computer labs across the University of Utah campus. These labs are employed by classes requiring computer stations for students as well as for individual student study and software utilization. The actual number of computer labs is likely greater; the Learning Spaces-Student Computing Fees Awards Process only identifies computer labs for which colleges, libraries, and centers submit funding proposals to the LS-SCF.
Because of the decentralized nature of lab operations and maintenance on our campus, several conditions have emerged over the years...
- Computer labs operated by different colleges each request funding for software packages similarly used by other labs.
- Some computer labs are very specialized; they require higher end computer stations to run more complex software that places greater demands on computer processors and displays.
- A variety of computer types and operating systems are in play across different labs.
- Different labs use different refresh cycles for their labs, some rotating portions of their inventory each year, others preferring a complete refresh for labs all-at-once every 3 to 5 years.
- Different computer labs have different capabilities, e.g., number and type of printers, peripherals, audio-visual devices, and data projection or large flat-panel displays for rooms.
- Students are unaware of the locations and hours of operation for computer labs across the entirety of campus.
- Students are unaware of the software available in different labs.
- Actual software usage is not necessarily tracked.
- Actual logins by users may not be extensively tracked.
- Average time that users spend in a session is not always known.
- When labs typically reach capacity, it is not necessarily known or communicated to the campus.
Improving accountability, responsibility, reliability, transparency, and encouraging more effective and cost-conscious lab operations are objectives that the University and the LS-SCF Award Process fully appreciate and advance. Working toward better data collection about our computer lab capacities, capabilities, and performance can better inform the campus of the valuable resources that are offered by the various colleges, libraries, and centers.
Data Collection Initiative
In mid-Spring 2017, the ANTC: Architecture and New Technology Committee for IT Governance within the University of Utah recommended enhanced efforts to collect and analyze data about campus computer labs. A "Lab Statistics Task Force" was formed as a working group in order to detail the requirements and procedures for this initiative. The SITC: Strategic IT Committee likewise approved the initiative with an intent to ask colleges, libraries and centers to collect computer lab usage statistics in the latter half of the Fall 2017 semester. A message was sent to all college deans and associate deans about the initiative and an introductory presentation was made at the July 2, 2017 IT Professionals meeting.
What is asked of all computer lab managers and operations is to gather and supply data so that analysis and aggregation can be conducted to produce snapshot profiles of the University's computer labs used by students.
To facilitate the data collection and decision-making, the University will purchase on behalf of participating colleges, libraries and centers two computer lab statistics gathering packages:
- LabStats (https://labstats.com)
- LabStats offers data gathering capabilities for both Windows and Macintosh-based computer labs using Windows and Macintosh operating systems.
- Overview quoted from the LabStats website:
- The LabStats software provides a simple cloud-based solution for measuring technology usage in computer labs. Customizable reports make visualizing usage data quick and easy.
- Do you ever wonder which computers are being used the most/least?
- Do you think you may be paying for software licenses that aren’t actually being used?
- Do you wish you could back up funding requests with hard numbers and prove that your hardware and software resources are being fully utilized?
- LabStats delivers the insights you need.
- Sassafras K2 (https://sassafras.com)
- Sassafras offers data gathering capabilities in virtual computing environments where virtual software deployments are used by colleges and departments.
- Overview quoted from the Sassafras website:
- Computer inventory data
- Software product recognition
- Policy-driven software licensing
- Usage and optimization reports
- Unix/Linux Scripting
- For computer labs in which the operating systems are Unix/Linux, scripting is often required to gather data. Scripts are being shared to deploy in those environments.
- Installation or implementation of the two purchased software utilities is not a requirement for the collection of the needed data. It is understood and expected that some departments/colleges have existing, alternative procedures for collecting computer lab usage statistics.
What is asked of all computer lab managers and operations is to gather and supply data so that analysis and aggregation can be conducted to produce snapshot profiles of the University's computer labs.
What Data should be Collected?
Please see this article What Data Should be Collected for the Computer Lab Statistics Initiative? for specific data points that are of interest to the initiative.
Getting Started with LabStats or Sassafras
Consult these getting started guides to become familiar with the steps to implement LabStats:
Who to Contact
Three sectors are now designated for the University of Utah campus to take care of computer lab managers questions regarding the LabStats and Sassafras data gathering solutions:
- For the School of Medicine and the Health Sciences:
Jeff Folsom-Eccles Health Sciences Library (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- For All Others on Main Campus who will use LabStats:
Matt Irsik-Marriott Library (email@example.com)
Daniel.Marsh-Marriott Library (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- For the Sciences, Engineering, and High End Computer Labs using Virtual Software Deployments and/or Unix & Linux on Main Campus:
Steven Dean-College of Engineering (email@example.com)
Lab managers with existing alternatives to LabStats or StacksWare for computer lab usage can consult the companion article What Data Should be Collected for the Computer Lab Statistics Initiative for specific data points that should be reported on, exported, and forwarded to the Task Force for the Initiative.
Email any and all questions, comments, and concerns to:
To Review the Data that is to be Collected & Reported:
For a Getting Started Guide to the data gathering solution LabStats: