Digital displays have become a common sight in many schools, colleges and universities. In fact, learning institutions around the world have been deploying digital displays at an increasingly rapid pace.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the current digital signage trends in education, and look at where the industry is headed.
Kids who grew up with smartphones and tablets are used to a digitally connected world. In fact, they expect the easy access to information that digital devices offer. Digital displays provide a new channel that educators can use to reach students in and around campus. This channel doesn’t replace personal devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. It complements them.
Digital displays offer a level of control that isn’t available through social media alone. Messages can be tailored to a specific venue or event and delivered to specific locations. Content can be a mix of entertainment, school news and events, local information, and much more.
Finding your way
Finding your way around an unfamiliar building or a site you’ve never visited before is never easy. It can even be a stressful time for many. Classes can move to different locations, events and venues keep changing… Tracking it all an be very time consuming and often the information doesn’t get updated.
This is where digital displays come into play. Information shown on strategically located displays can be updated in an instant so students and visitors know where to go. There is no printed material to produce and distribute. Nothing to physically replace and discard. A few mouse clicks and the information is published and available to everyone, regardless of a building’s footprint or campus site layout. Content updates can also be automated, which helps free up school staff for other tasks. When you deploy properly designed wayfinding content, you save time for every student, faculty member, and visitor.
Keeping everyone safe
Digital displays have become a critical component of every school’s security infrastructure. Here’s why. Instant alert messages can be instantly published on specific screens or across an entire campus. Messages can be adapted to any situation or respond to different triggers. For example, a fire alarm and suppression system can trigger fire evacuation notices and help guide students to safety. A series of pre-programmed messages can be sent out to address a wide range of events, including live data, Twitter feeds or live information from any other source.
What about smartphones and tablets?
Smartphones and other personal communication devices are extremely popular but they can sometimes have limitations, especially in case of emergency. For example, a smartphone can be dropped or lost and none of these devices will be truly effective in an emergency if the user hasn’t installed some type of dedicated app to retrieve these messages. While most people have Twitter and Facebook Messenger installed on their devices, it’s not a guarantee everyone will have access to these apps. Some schools have developed their own emergency messaging apps but their success is still dependent on people installing and activating them. And to make matters worse, you need apps for multiple hardware platforms, like Android and iOS. On the other hand, an entire network of digital displays can be updated with any message instantly without any audience involvement.
Digital displays don’t rely on the audience carrying a device or on having specific apps installed and enabled. They are an ideal solution for any emergency communication needs.
How do these systems work?
To publish content, you will need digital displays connected to a full-featured CMS. Depending on the solution involved, there may be a back-end CMS server hosted locally or a hosted cloud service running the show. School staff with the proper credentials connect to the system via a front-end application (also called “dashboard”) that will let them upload new content, manage live information and update the displays. In most cases, there will be a PC or a media player connected to the display. However, new smart display technologies let manufacturers embed the computer components inside each display, making installations quicker and easier than ever before.
Whenever school staff want to change the information on each display, they login, upload new content or make changes to their programming. Once they are done, staff members push an update to the media player and the content is shown on each display.
What kind of information can you publish?
Live information from various sources (Twitter, Facebook, Google Calendar or other data sources) can be picked up and displayed independently from scheduled content. This information is updated continuously from each source so as people post new information, it gets displayed. There are various safeguards that can be implemented to curate content and ensure only approved material is shown at any given time.
School staff can also publish schedules, notices, memos including multimedia content like videos, images and animations. PowerPoint and other presentation material can also be added to the programming. Digital displays can show a range of media types and changes can be made on the fly so information is never stale, and always relevant to the audience.
We’ve already covered wayfinding and emergency broadcasts. Here are more concrete uses for digital displays in a school environment:
- School cafeteria / food court: Turn your digital displays into dynamic menu boards. Display custom menus for each day or for special events. Use day-parting to show breakfast items in the morning and lunch items at noon. Prices and menu items can be updated at any time to ensure accuracy. Display images and text mixed in with live data feeds, school news, sports scores or the weather.
- School entrance / lobby signage: Welcome students and visitors to your school. Display lists of upcoming events (art, sports, etc.), school accomplishments and more.
- Common areas / hallway signage: This is another great location for list of events, class assignments, arts and theater program information, sporting events, student of the day/athlete of the week. Promote school and community programs.
- Faculty staff / teacher’s lounge signage: Displays in these locations should be managed by the school’s human resource department to communicate employee programs, class assignments, extra-curricular activities. It’s also a great place to display live local news, weather, important events and messages from management.
- Gyms / basketball court signage (interior): Publish upcoming events and games, athlete of the day, personnel assignments, school activities.
- Arenas / baseball, football, soccer field signage (exterior): Strategically placed weatherproof displays and LED billboards are the perfect location for publishing sports and school activity content. Local advertising can also be acceptable if supported by the school administration.
- School library signage: Libraries are the perfect location for art and entertainment content. List upcoming shows and events, library activities, chess club announcements and other similar information.
Displays across campus can play a common content thread with specific local content inserted for each area as shown above. Having the ability to mix different types of programming is another benefit of digital signage. It’s the difference between content that grabs viewer’s attention and displays that aren’t noticed. Leverage existing content generated by staff, faculty members and students then add local news, weather and sports.
Ultimately your goal is to inform, educate, motivate and entertain the audience.