Digital signage for schools: 8 pro tips
Implementing digital signage for schools has become increasingly important as the student body moves to a more digitally-focused way of managing their time (as well as having an increased use of technology when it comes to interacting with their classmates, teachers, lecturers, and administrations). A paper-based noticeboard just doesn’t cut it anymore.
But with so many potential applications out there, how do you ensure that you focus in the right areas for your needs? In this post we’ve provided some tips on the best ways to utilise digital signage in schools, as well as taking a closer look at how one particular school went about updating how it uses displays to better inform and educate its students.
What can I use a display for?
1. Digital notice boards
This is perhaps the most obvious use for a digital display within your school, but you’d be surprised how many schools, colleges and universities still rely on posting paper notices. The benefits of making the jump to digital are numerous, but if we had to showcase three they would be:
- One to many publishing. By updating a single CMS you are able to update every single connecting display at the push of a button, saving on valuable resources
- Immediacy. At short notice you can quickly pull down your standard messages and display timely alerts, warnings, and updates that may need to be pushed to the student body
- Social integration. By displaying selected social messages you can encourage students to interact with the school administration
2. Reception display
Do your administrative staff answer the same questions every time a visitor walks through the door? If so, then it may well be worth investing in a reception display. Here you can provide information such as office hours, relevant information for parents, and a welcome message to visitors. These displays can also be used to make visitors aware of health notices, and other time-sensitive notifications.
Let’s be honest, which of us that has had to visit a school hasn’t had a moment where they’ve felt thoroughly lost? Like hospitals, most schools weren’t built with easy navigation in mind, so it can often help to provide visitors, as well as new students and staff, with maps. By doing this digitally, not only can you make quick and easy edits, but you can also have variations of layouts (as rooms may change their purpose depending on dates and times).
Digital signage at the University of Texas at Dallas
The University of Texas at Dallas has been my home, my alma mater and my place of work since 2009. Enrolment has skyrocketed in the last six years, growing 144% and now sitting at 26,797 currently enrolled students.
Many growing pains have come along with the rapid growth of our student body. The institution seems to always have a new building, residence housing or parking structure under construction. I’ve been faced with many challenges caused by these ‘growth spurts’ on campus as the Digital Media Specialist for Student Affairs.
The main function of my job is to create, manage and maintain the digital signage program for students. Currently we have a total of 25 displays in 10 buildings on campus including one digital signage outdoor screen. Our goal is to engage students and create an outlet that they can depend on to send and receive information. After three years of building the digital signage program at UT Dallas, here are the top five tips I can offer others in the educational realm.
4. Getting students involved. (Encouraging investment in the campus community)
When I first started with Student Affairs at UT Dallas, the division maintained a handful of displays in two buildings and content from faculty or students was not accepted. My mission was to change this, to engage students in the community by creating a platform that they could depend on for sharing and receiving information. This at first was a struggle, I wasn’t getting the immediate flood of requests I expected. I had created flyers and a webpage with detailed information but to get students involved I had to hit the pavement meeting with student organizations across campus to inform them of our services.
Face-to-face meetings with students has been the most valuable method in connecting organizations with the digital signage resources. This has also given us the opportunity to receive feedback on our resources and the information we’re putting out there about the program. As someone who spends 90% of their time in the ‘digital world’, I cannot stress enough the importance of making time to meet in the ‘real world’.
5. “Can you post this flyer?” (Maintaining high standards for content)
Once the wheels were turning on our program, we started to receive many requests that didn’t meet the format requirements of our displays. This to me was very unfortunate, more than anything I wanted to support our students and their programming, while maintaining high visual standards. Understanding that many students do not have the time or desire to put extra hours into advertising their events, our solution was to create a number of templates that information could be inserted in after receiving a request. This has allowed us to, in times of need, quickly prepare information to be displayed on digital signage and is one of many ways we’ve constructed our program to handle varying influxes of requests.
6. Pardon our progress… (Planning for digital signage expansions and moves)
Installing approximately 18 new displays in less than three years has taught me the importance of plan B, and even sometimes C, when it comes to technology. Coming aboard in 2014, I started preparing a proposal to update our outdoor signage. This was a long process of approvals, and an even longer installation.
A few months after the completion of the project, we were informed the new sign would need to be moved due to construction. While we knew the move was a possibility when installing the sign, and having made adjustments for it, construction plans had changed as they many times do. When running through the process of finding a new location we ruled out all areas of campus that weren’t ‘built out’, to ensure this wouldn’t happen again, at least anytime soon.
Working with someone well versed in campus growth and construction has helped immensely with this, as well as pre-planning digital signage locations in buildings that are under construction. If ever possible, pre-planning digital signage locations is ideal. This ensures the backend needs are addressed and hot spots like lobbies and entrances can be claimed for your signs.
7. Managing technology issues (How can we make our jobs simpler?: part 1)
When you don’t understand it, technology can be one of the most frightening things – the great unknown. There have been many instances throughout my job that I have been stumped by our hardware, but luckily there’s always a logical solution when working with computers.
In one instance, we had a media player that needed to be sent back for repair. Unfortunately, the technician who picked up the player went MIA with our device. This resulted in a two-month process of waiting on a new device to be built and shipped to us. Never wanting to go through something like that again, I took it upon myself to learn about hardware, to ensure I could identify and resolve issues with devices. If you’re not interested in getting your hands dirty, make sure you have a well versed team or trusted vendor to fall back on for support. There are also many remote tools out there to help people working with technology access and address issues.
8. Planning for the future (How can we make our jobs simpler?: part 2)
The past four tips, more than anything, have taught me to plan for the future. To always be thinking about what can be changed, updated or refreshed to ensure our program is the best it can be. Especially concerning technology, with hardware having a life expectancy of three-five years it is essential to plan for issues and give your budget a buffer. I cannot stress enough the importance of this in the academic realm, where we aren’t necessarily making money off our displays to justify updates. Currently, we’re managing a number of technology updates across the board that if I would have had a technology roadmap prepared at the original time of purchase, this would have eased staff and smoothed the process of replacing old equipment. Making the lifespan of technology transparent to staff, or faculty interested in purchasing a display, will ensure this factor is taken into account. Also, always double check the model your vendor suggests, looking for key information about the on/off duration (i.e 24 hour operational) and warranty.