Hawkeye Community College
Hawkeye Community College (HCC) is nestled in the rolling plains of north eastern Iowa next to the city of Waterloo. It serves a multicounty area as one of Iowa’s 15 community colleges. HCC started as Hawkeye Institute of Technology more than 45 years ago. Starting in 1991 the school transitioned to a true community college and offered transfer courses. During that time the school’s enrollment increased 66%. HCC now consists of seven campuses that serve more than 35,000 credit and non-credit students. The credit student enrollment is well over 6000 students per year. It is currently the third largest community college in the state of Iowa and offers many technical and transfer options for its students.
The Student Tutoring and Computer Lab
The Student Tutoring and Computer Lab (formerly the Academic Success Center) was formed in the early 90’s to create a place where students could come to either use a computer, work on assignments, or get free tutoring help in Microsoft Office, math, English, science, and study skills. It is used by more than 2300 students a semester and many students spend dozens of hours in the lab.
Currently the Student Tutoring and Computer Lab (STC Lab) consists more than eighty computers and a dozen study tables. There are also stations for students use their laptops and other devices. The STC Lab provides printing, copying, and color printing services as well as providing hardware and software options for students with special needs.
Tracking Student Use
HCC needed to collect data on student use from the very beginning. This data is absolutely essential for both reports to the Board of Trustees and for annual reports to the State of Iowa. The information provided affects our funding as well as the level and kinds of services we provide to the student. We need much more than a simple head count. We need to know who is using our services, specifically what services to they use, and when they use them. Students sign in when they come to the center and sign out again when they leave.
Prior to purchasing Accutrack in 2006 we tried many methods of tracking this information. The most successful method was to have students sign in and out on their own individual 3 x 5 index card and that information was later typed by hand into spreadsheets. As you can imagine this took many people literally dozens of hours and was not easily used even then, and yet we did this for years. Not only that, for audit reasons we had to store these cards for 7 years and be able to show state auditors the “raw data” periodically. Can you imagine the file drawers full of thousands of index cards full of students’ mostly illegible writing? We also tried other methods including trying to write our own unsuccessful database program. We looked at time stamp software and other solutions. Nothing worked until we purchased Accutrack which was recommended to us by another college. Accutrack immediately solved our problems in one easy to use package.
How We Use Accutrack
Initially we used Accutrack only to see who used the lab and how long they stayed. We did not use many of the wonderful features or reporting options. It was easier to export the raw data into a spreadsheet and manipulate it as needed. In the earlier years we were required to report how many hours each student used our facility as well as their name. However the time had to be in quarter hour increments only (2.00 hours, 2.25 hours, 2.5 hour and so on). So we used Excel to calculate the time spent during each visit and a lookup table to round the time. Then, for various reasons it was usually easier to import it into Microsoft Access in order to create the final report. This sounds more complicated than it really is and I can create my reports in only a few minutes.
Over time other areas in our department as well as the TRIO program have started using Accutrack. Our department also has a testing office where students come in to take a test or quiz they have missed or if they need special assistance such as longer time or a test reader. We have had several conflicts where students insisted they came to the Testing Center and yet we could find no record of it. There were angry students and angry teachers. We implemented Accutrack to solve these problems. Now students come to the testing center and present their photo ID. They sign onto Accutrack and also choose the name of the teacher whose test they are taking. That way we have an accurate record of if they took the test, when they took the test, and even how long they spent. If they need to take another test they must log out and log back in and select the second name. This has drastically reduced the conflicts. Of course, we also use this data in the same way we use the STC Lab data. It provides information for Board reports and State of Iowa reporting. The TRIO also uses their information in the similar manner.
We also started using Accutrack to reduce timesheet conflicts with our part time staff and tutors. They are required to enter their data daily into the school timekeeping system but often there are distractions and they forget. Having them sign in and out of Accutrack each work shift means no longer are people claiming they worked over “snow days” or holidays.
We are now looking to upgrade to the latest web version of Accutrack and it is also time to look seriously at some of the other features it provides. For example, we now are checking materials and equipment out to both students and staff. Currently we use an old fashioned binder with checkout sheets. A way to manage this with Accutrack would be helpful and I know it can do it. In the past we did not differentiate between students sitting down at a computer and students sitting down with a tutor. Now we need this information for staffing and reporting purposes. Right now, students have to sign in at the table with their name and student ID# while the tutor tracks the time. This is rapidly becoming almost as big an issue as our old index cards. We can never read the students writing, some tutors do not fill out the data properly, and it again takes dozens of hours to enter this data into a database so we can use it properly for reports and analysis.
Our center has always been a “drop in” center without appointments but we can see a time that certain services such as individual computer or study skills workshops would be by appointment. That is another use that we may need in the future. While Accutrack has always had the ability to use barcode readers, the school’s student database system has evolved through several different numbering systems and the earlier versions didn’t lend themselves to this. Our new system should allow for barcode use and it might be nice for students to scan their ID instead of typing in their student username – it would certainly be faster and we would not need the two stations we now use to expedite the lines.
I don’t see us using the web based version at this time but who knows?
Coordinator, Student Tutoring and Compu
Hawkeye Community College