4 minute read

Using campus ID data to transform your campus

6/4/2024 9:00 AM

When the University of Alberta placed printers around campus for students to print research, class assignments, and other documents, they positioned them at what appeared to be logical locations. But as courses became less dependent on paper and the pandemic hit, the need for printers decreased dramatically, and the university saw printing revenue drop.

So leaders at the University of Alberta turned to their campus ID data, which students use to schedule and pay for printing, to assess if they should move those printers to different campus locations.

The data generated from the printers, and other student experiences helped administrators begin to transform their campus by measuring data to make operational changes. The University of Alberta is one institution that sees the value and opportunities presented by using campus card data to improve daily operations and life.

“We wanted to look at that transactional data on where students are printing, but also how they’re navigating around campus, said Jennifer McNeill, TouchNet Manager, Business Development, and former ONECard Manager at the University of Alberta. “We looked at other data streams like WiFi and how our students travel across campus. Then we strategically put printers in those locations.”

The results surprised them, as sometimes the best locations didn’t appear to make sense. However, trusting the data helped with better printer placement and increased usage.

“It was important our businesses were lean and we were making good decisions,” she said. “Providing that data to inform decisions better supported operations.”



The importance of gathering data

Data is often seen as “new oil”, highly valued, and important for many purposes. In higher education, institution leaders can use data to improve financial operations, student experience, and business processes. A UCLA/MIT Press study found higher education falls behind both government and private entities in not taking advantage of using data to drive operational excellence. While 80% of higher education leaders say one source of data across campus systems would be helpful or extremely helpful, only 20% say they have that data available.

Technology allows administrators to capture data across campus, including residential life, door access, dining, retail, and other areas. However, that data can end up siloed in solutions and systems that aren’t integrated, preventing colleges and universities from using data to its full potential. It’s a challenge higher education must overcome to make data-informed changes.

How data can transform your campus

While figuring out how to use data across campus can prove tricky, one common area some institutions focus on is dining. Using data to anticipate dining trends, administrators can staff dining services accordingly and manage meal production to avoid food waste or falling behind in food preparation. Similarly, leaders can use data from campus coffee shops and vending locations to determine how to optimize offerings.

Beyond dining services, Reedley College also uses data to staff educational services.

“If we know the peak time for our math center is between noon and 4:00 p.m., we can make sure we have all of our tutors available during that time, but then maybe only have one or two tutors at 8:00 a.m. when we don’t have many students,” said Melanie Highfill, Vice President Administrative Services, State Center Community College District, Reedley College. “If we pinpoint the days and hours when students want to use those services, we can staff accordingly.”

Data-informed staffing is one way colleges and universities can improve efficiency and students’ day-to-day lives. Fifty-six percent of institutions want to use data to improve students’ experiences, and 46% want to improve staff work.

“It was important to create this kind of picture,” said McNeill. “Then, we could better support our students.”

Some colleges and universities have begun the early stages of collecting data, but have not yet used it to improve their campus experience. The goal is to take the data, forecast trends, and use those insights to make changes that optimize operations.

Campus leaders should take a step-by-step approach. Start with focusing on areas for improvement, and then make operational changes. Afterward, view the results and determine the best next steps. Every institution will focus on different priorities based on its unique mission, structure, and resources.

Solutions to help you get started

With the 360u mobile app and the OneCard suite of products, TouchNet allows campus administrators to collect numerous data points that can help transform operations.

“Every time there’s a contact with a campus ID, a piece of data is being collected,” said McNeill. “Whether it's an access transaction or a finance transaction there’s a record. I think taking that extra step, getting the data and analyzing it, institutions can then go from a place of thinking they’re probably right, to saying they know they’re right.”