Student Organizations Use Mobile Readers to Generate Actionable Data

Our January article about the increasing use of mobile attendance trackers to generate actionable data highlighted the ways technology can support the identity of a college or university. This month we want to focus on college students and their active participation in this endeavor. Having come of age during the Digital Era, millennials are acutely aware of the power of analytics and they understand how data collection can improve their school from within.

An October 2016 study by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research1 surveying the use of analytics in the Higher Education industry shows how the increasing affordability and efficiency of attendance programs has generated a keen interest in using data to shape the campus experience for everyone. This study unpacks the various ways in which schools strategically plan campus initiatives and operational changes to campus events and student services.

After speaking with a number of campus card administrators and Student Services staff it is becoming increasingly clear that the students themselves are taking the initiative on campus to gather and use their own data with mobile readers. By tracking attendance at student-group sponsored fundraisers, charity drives, and student-organized trips off campus, they can supply their schools with the actionable data they need to continue promoting events for everyone. Mobile readers are in-demand with student groups because they enable event planning anywhere on campus. The readers operate anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal so students can host events in the quad, in the Student Union, in the parking lot during athletic events, or any other corner of campus. Check out our "To the Point" YouTube video "10 Ways to Use Mobile Reader" to see how this technology integrates into the campus experience.

As a general rule schools have established procedures for checking-out the readers for use; this is particularly important to ensure the event has been approved by campus officials. Some schools require officially sanctioned student organizations host events which conform to the school's mission statement. Schools with service learning programs integrated into their academic curriculum have had great success partnering with student organizations to promote community engagement and student service both on and off campus grounds.

Analytics generated by mobile readers can bring together different campus groups who might not otherwise team up for a common effort; different groups can work in tandem for co-sponsored events while students work more closely with faculty and staff. Student organizations, campus administration, faculty, operational staff—they all can benefit from the collected data together. Increased student involvement and community service is written into the mission of many schools and strengthens a college's identity from within.

It's important to keep in mind that the collected data is never static; it is constantly changing and evolving with each new freshman class. Schools should view data collection and analytical reports as tools for continuous improvement. Data collected through mobile readers provide only a snapshot of information; regular and expanded use generates more data to provide a clearer picture of how students engage with each other and with school administration.

1Bichsel, Jacqueline. "Analytics in Higher Education: Benefits, Barriers, Progress, and Recommendations," EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, October 2016, accessed March 2017.