Located in London, Ontario, Canada, Western University is using Twitter to inform students of the occupancy levels at specific weight room spaces in the Student Recreation Centre.
According to Chad Van Dyk, the director of Recreation and Active Well-Being at Western University, the idea to track and report fitness area numbers is adopted from a similar system presented at the 2011 NIRSA Lead-On conference.
“Like many campus recreation centers, the fitness center at Western University is one of the most in-demand spaces on campus,” said Van Dyk. “In the short-term, this work highlights our connection with the campus community and fulfills a desire to set our members up for success when they arrive to the fitness center.”
Tracking Details and Insights
Van Dyk said the idea was relatively simple to implement. Fitness center attendants count participants at specific areas of the Student Recreation Centre and then tweet the numbers through their twitter account @WesternWeightRm every 30 minutes.
The reports come from the center’s three main fitness areas:
- The weight room.
- The cardio mezzanine space.
- The spin room.
Van Dyk said they also use a coding algorithm that is written for the department by a former student to pull statistics to predict usage. These predicative analytics are also put on Twitter @WesternGymBot for the benefit of students who are trying to plan out their day.
According to a study conducted by The Gazette, the official student newspaper at Western University, Sunday is the least busy day at the Student Recreation Centre, and Friday and Saturday are also relatively quiet. Monday and Tuesday are the busiest days. Then capacity decreases with each following day of the week.
Also, The Gazette found the best times to visit any of the rec center’s areas are right after the building opens on weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Another ideal time is on weekends when the center opens later from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Student Feedback and Future Ambitions
“The reaction from our Western University has been community incredibly positive,” said Van Dyke. “Our members appreciate being able to gauge the traffic in the gym areas using real-time data.”
Van Dyke said in the long-term, the statistics accumulated through tracking is beneficial in understanding and working to rectify any space capacity issues. This could be one strategy to help create any necessary construction projects, renovations or other plans needed to further benefit the student experience.
“If other campuses are looking to implement similar systems, we suggest they connect regularly with colleagues at other institutions to identify best practices,” said Van Dyke. “They should look to collaborate and seek feedback from the campus community including faculty, staff and students.”
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