By Dmitry Sokolov
In an effort to improve student, visitor and faculty communication, educational institutions of all levels are adopting digital signage. Used for wayfinding, emergency notifications and other applications, digital signage offers the educational sector an effective medium to increase communication. Some leading-edge schools are even incorporating the creation of digital signage content into their classroom curriculum.
Replacing traditional message boards and posters, digital signage networks enable immediate, up-to-date, highly engaging rich-media content to be shared throughout educational facilities.
Managed by volunteer committees, school communications staff, marketing officers or web administrators, digital signage networks can be internal-facing for staff or external-facing for students and visitors.
A collaborative approach to content is becoming increasingly popular, with students and faculty sharing responsibility for the creation and management of digital signage content.
“We’re seeing a large increase in schools wanting their students to contribute to—and even take ownership of—their networks,” says John Liberatore, president of MyMedia, a digital signage integrator based in Mississauga, Ont. “Where in the past, we were responding to requests to create a largely one-way communication system, i.e. with messaging from staff to students, now student contribution ranks near the top of the requirements list.”
In an effort to reduce the costs and complexity of operating these networks, the automation of on-screen content—such as class schedules or photographic and video coverage of school events—is gaining popularity in among educational organizations.
Photos are particularly straightforward to feed to digital signage in real time, by uploading them to designated shared network folders or public data storage services, like Microsoft SkyDrive, Box.net or Dropbox.
Software-based content approval tools can also be used to curate peer and live content contributions, either with human intervention or by using algorithms that can prevent profane or blacklisted words from getting through.
As it is increasingly integrated into crisis management plans, digital signage is also helping educational facilities prepare for—and react to—emergencies. Screens can be connected to existing Internet Protocol-based (IP-based) emergency systems and the software can be programmed to display a broad array of pre-set content accordingly, based on types and locations of alarms.
This way, emergency messaging can be localized to each sign in the network. The content can react to a wide variety of scenarios, from school-wide lockdowns to hazardous substance leaks in technical training facilities. In these situations, security staff may use mobile apps, web-based tools or texting to trigger and publish alerts via digital signs.