No bulletin board, ever, in all of history, has actually been a tidy, functional, and efficient way to distribute information… BUT FEAR NOT, digital signage can enhance schools.
That’s a bold statement, I know, but bear with me.
The vast majority of bulletin boards you’ve seen have likely been shaggy with outdated announcements and advertisements, many unauthorized.
Dog-walking services clamor for attention in garish colors alongside important dates typed up in oversized Comic Sans. Yikes.
Even a well-organized board is still easy to ignore.
While announcements over the intercom are more likely to reach ears, students are just as likely to forget whatever’s said. Who’s taking notes?
And teachers may be reluctant to devote long chunks of class time to listening to or reading off announcements that might not be relevant to all students.
How, then, do you distribute important information to students in a way that’s eye-catching and easy to monitor?
That’s just one of the questions digital signage answers. A digital signage system can be an invaluable tool for any school, from elementary schools to colleges. Below, we’ll talk about 5 reasons your school should invest in such a system, along with some examples of how schools today are already using them.
Why Schools Should Invest in Digital Signage
- People will actually read what’s on the screen
Let’s face it: it’s easy to overlook a static piece of paper on the wall.
It’s not just me saying it.
Studies have confirmed that people are more likely to look at and remember information displayed digitally than on traditional mediums.
Studies also suggest that unlike with traditional signs, people don’t stop paying attention to screens even after they’ve been around for a while.
This is especially true with the younger generation. Kids and young adults today are used to getting most of their information digitally. In fact, 97 percent prefer it.
- Complete control over content
Tired of tearing unapproved messages down from the official bulletin boards? With a digital signage system, anyone wishing to post a message will have to go through official channels to do so.
A school could set up an official email account for those wishing to post announcements, and provide templates so that announcements are formatted properly for the screens.
Rather than everyone stapling up papers willy-nilly, one or two people could choose which items should be promoted and which shouldn’t.
- Emergency notification system
In the wake of too many shootings, schools are looking for ways to beef up preparedness and security, both for the safety of students and staff and the comfort of parents.
And potential urgent situations extend beyond security risks. There’s also severe weather events, fires…
Let’s not get too caught up here. The point is, bad things sometimes happen, and a school needs ways to get information out fast. Digital signs are a great way to do it.
Emergency alerts can be made in advance and saved in a file, or created on the fly if an unexpected situation arises.
Signs can spread types of information that a PA system can’t. For example, if there’s a tornado approaching the high school, the digital signage network can display a map of safe rooms to shelter in.
- All kinds of content
You’re limited only by your imagination here. A screen can display:
- School sports scores
- News and weather
- Maps of campus
- Upcoming events
- Student and faculty achievements
- Promos for the coffee shop and bookstore
- Curated student tweets and Instagram posts
- Room schedules
- And anything else you can think of
- High customizability
Not all screens need to display the same information—it would be distracting to have sports scores flashing by in the calculus classroom.
Instead, you can give different departments, or even individual classrooms, control over specific screens by using a central content management system.
At my Alma Mater, the business department has a large screen that displays news with the latest stock information scrolling at the bottom. Over in the science building, screens play clips of chemistry demonstrations or highlight the latest student research.
At the primary education level, teachers could show reminders for upcoming assignments and exam dates on the in-classroom screen.
These are fun hypotheticals, but are actual schools using digital signage systems?
They certainly are, at surprising rates.
In fact, in 2011, over 2,000 universities in the United States installed DSNs, representing a 46 percent increase from the previous year.
Here’s a few case studies for you.
The University of California, Riverside decided to go all-out when building its new, state-of-the-art, 155,000 square foot recreation center. A few dinky televisions around the walls weren’t going to cut it.
Instead, they wanted something big, bold, and visible.
Something like a 28-foot-by-17-foot video wall, consisting of 49 individual 55-inch LCD screens.
These screens stream sporting events from around the country, national news, and of course the school’s day-to-day announcements.
According to the school’s recreation director, the video wall was her favorite part of the new rec center.
“It dominates the visual landscape when you come into the building and is just incredibly impressive,” Lindy Fenex said.
University of Massachusetts
When the University of Massachusetts opened its new Football Performance Center in late 2014, the school wanted a way to highlight its football program’s rich 130-year history.
They turned, naturally, to digital signage.
This time, the focus was on interactivity. The school installed a touch-screen kiosk in the facility’s hall of fame.
The kiosk allows visitors to explore decades of stats in an interactive, fun-to-explore way. For example, they can look up specific players and see their career statistics, or focus in on a specific season and see the roster and win-loss records.
Besides information about the team itself, visitors can also read up on mascots, marching bands, and more.
This example highlights the importance of having the right software for the job—it needs to be intuitive to use and present information in an attractive, readable way.
Wayne State University
In a more typical and modest usage, Wayne State University (located in Detroit) installed its first digital signage network in 2010. Their goal was to modernize the campus while providing relevant, up-to-the-minute information to students.
The school began with forty-five screens located in classrooms, dorms, cafeterias, lobbies, auditoriums, and the student center. Students and faculty loved the new system, and the school ended up adding another ten screens.
Each department is able to control the content on its own screens, thanks to a central content management system.
They display everything from emergency information to weather predictions to campus activity information, along with closed-captioned news broadcasts. The school hoped to add the ability to livestream campus events soon.
You might be thinking that this sounds like a great idea, but how much would it cost, and how on earth will your school afford it?
Well, for one thing, it might not cost as much as you expect.
If you were planning on a single, centrally located display, perhaps located right in the main entryway or next to the office, all you’d need is a LCD or LED screen, a computer to control it (perhaps even an old one no longer up to the task of serving in the classroom, but perfectly capable of essential playing a slideshow), content managing software, and the cost of installation.
Even with a more advanced system, costs have been steadily dropping over the last ten years and will likely continue to drop as the market becomes more competitive and the technologies more affordable.
Public schools may also be able to land state or federal grant money to aid costs.
While this will take some research, one place to start looking are for grants meant to enhance school safety. If your digital signage system doubles as a way to distribute emergency alerts, you may be able to take advantage of such a program. Start by poking around on Grants.gov and keep an eye on the Homeland Security and Department of Justice for newly posted opportunities.
At the secondary education level, you may be able to recoup some costs over time by hosting paid advertisement for local businesses.
That local used textbook bookstore is probably going to be posting flyers around campus anyway. Why not see if they’ll pay for colorful, eye-catching ad space on your signs? Perhaps everyone’s favorite pizza place has a Friday night deal they’d like to promote.
Make sure to choose businesses that are relevant to the student body, of course, and limit the frequency of the ads so that more important information isn’t buried.
It’s the 21st century—time to leave PA systems and unsightly bulletin boards in the past. Why not embrace digital signage networks?
They’re helping thousands of schools across the United States and beyond bring relevant and timely information to their students in a way that’s sure to catch eyes.
And with opportunities like grants and advertising space to help defray the costs, they’re even more affordable than ever.
Welcome to the future.
How do you think digital signage could simplify students’ and parents’ lives?