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Digital Signage, Here to Stay

Stephen Biernacki

Hot topics in higher education always come and go, but one that’s been hot for some time now is digital signage. With the increased functionality and affordability of the hardware and the plethora of options on how to populate your signage with content, it’s a method of putting out a message to current students that can’t be ignored, and almost certainly should be part of your institution’s communications strategy. New research via Higher Ed Live shows that 27% of 18-24 year olds took an action based on advertising on digital signage. And even better news: it’s doable even if your budget is tight.


Why Use It and Getting Started
Digital signage on purdueIn a world where we are constantly connected, digital signage certainly sticks with the theme. This tactic allows for regularly updated, highly visual content to grab the attention of not only your current students, but faculty and staff as they’re strolling about campus. It’s an easy opportunity to keep everyone informed of the latest news, put forward brand messaging, and a variety of other content we’ll touch on later in this post.

Digital signage involves installing a network of digital displays across your campus that are controlled remotely via computers. The displays can be computer monitors, digital screens, or even touch screens if you want to get a jump on what will eventually become the norm. Some common locations to install the displays include building entrances, lobbies, dining halls, and fitness centers. Because the displays are controlled remotely via software, it’s easy to target specific screens with the content you want, and institutions frequently purchase larger displays (if they fit in the designated space) and divide the screen into sections, which is doable utilzing the software.

Populating the Displays with Content
Some of the most popular content to present on these displays includes: campus news, events, and…the weather!  But to make digital signage on your campus worthwhile, you’ll need to extend beyond those basics and learn how to efficiently reuse content you already have.

Digital displays are only as effective as the content that appears on them, so it’s important to constantly evaluate what you’re showing and keep in mind specific events that might be happening in particular locations across campus. The good part of having to come up with content is that if you’re smart, you can reuse existing content.  It simply isn’t necessary for your team to generate all new content to be displayed fresh. For example, you can stream RSS feeds from your website or faculty/staff newsletter directly to the screens – a great example of refreshing content automatically.

One of the most popular ways to grab attention is through video. Whether you’re featuring interviews with students or faculty, a video tour of the building the display is in, or a highlight reel of the latest athletic event, playing videos consistently on your screens is a great way to get students to stop and look, and is easily achiveable by looping a series of videos over and over again by using a playlist. Sandwich the videos with brand messaging, too!

In Practice
Digital signage at Wayne StateWayne State University has posted several updates on digital signage this year on their Web Communications blog. One of the biggest features they announced was a focus on faculty that they call Spotlight On (image to right via Wayne State’s blog). The goal is to recognize the accomplishments of faculty members at the university – a great way to provide kudos to star professors. But it doesn’t stop there. The displays also offer a QR code for students to scan to get more information, for which Wayne State has a current and future plan for:

“Once scanned the codes we are producing are combined with a “” URL (more on that later) which take the user to the faculty member’s profile. The plan down the road is to direct the user to a video or audio interview with the faculty member to give them even more of a reason to scan or type in the URL. It is our way of yet again extending the content beyond its original intent.”

Additional Resources
The web is full of information on digital signage, and luckily it isn’t hard to find detailed information related to higher ed. If you want to learn more about digital signage in general, there might not be a better place to get all the details than this White Paper by NEC (pdf)]. Another very worthwhile resource, and one that’s specific to higher education, is Higher Ed Live’s recent episode on the subject featuring Travis Ballstadt of Iowa State. The show goes into a lot of detail on what Iowa State is doing related to digital signage. Also, check out vendor websites as many of them offer a lot of information, such as Scala and Four Winds Interactive.

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