Strictly speaking, digital signage is an information distributor. It gives its operator the ability to broadcast messages of all types and forms. Consequently, melding digital signage into educational environments is almost a match made in heaven. Whether large or confined to one department, many college and university campuses worldwide already enjoy some type of signage network. Apart from the centers of higher education, digital signs can also effectively be implemented in high schools, charter schools, and private institutions. For years, many of these schools have been the recipients of the broadcast “Channel 1,” a program which targets middle schools and high schools with their niche programming. While signage-like programming for schools is not new, advancements in technology have made the proliferation more easily accomplished.
Target a Difficult Demographic
While we know digital signage is not always about advertising, it is certainly a segment of the marketplace that offers some of the most attractive revenues. Hence, there will always be advertising networks seeking to make waves in every industry niche possible.
Because the middle school through university market represents one of the most difficult-to-target demographics, it also means the possibility of ad revenue from this segment can also be greater. I’m sure complete case studies could be performed and written on this subject alone. I’ll simply give a simple summation: hard to target demographics means ad revenues can be greater.
Increased Efficiency with Day-Parting
Class breaks, recess, lunches, and lounging times can all be included into the signage software scheduling capabilities. Specific messages can be delivered at particular times of day when students are most likely to receive them. While many of the displays may be implemented into the classrooms themselves, many of the more effective installations will most likely take place in high traffic hallways and gathering areas of the school. It is in locations such as these, when administrators know when students will be present that the biggest impact for getting a message across can take place.
Student Created Programming
Whether deployed at a high school or a university campus, there is almost always an army of capable sign content creators from which to draw. In fact, I have seen 16 year olds whose graphic creation prowess dwarfs the supposed seasoned creative “genius.” Tapping into the resource of skilled content creators to feed the displays is much easier in a setting where there are classes which require the use of such programs as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Flash, and Adobe Premiere.
Digital Menu Boards
We’ve certainly beaten the dead horse when it comes to digital menu boards (DMBs). When it comes to education, it’s a niche certainly untapped. Schools with cafeterias whose menus change based on a schedule will immediately benefit from receiving digital menus as a way to promote specific items students may purchase. Even the between class snack stand could see many benefits from a small display running promotional items.
Sports boosters for football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, soccer, track, and tennis can tap into the out-of-home advertising opportunities which present themselves by using a narrowcast display to present ad content. For instance, as a fund-raising venture a high school football squadron can very easily sell digital signage advertisements to local businesses on the displays installed throughout the campus.
The content sold can even be targeted to the adult crowd who may be present during sporting events and not just the students themselves. LCD advertising screens could be programmed with different content to be displayed at times when more parents and other community members are present in the evenings when sporting events take place.
Announcement and Bulletins
Hourly, daily, weekly and monthly bulletins and announcements are almost always needed, regardless of what institution to which you may be espoused. Such announcements can be pushed via network connections or a multicast stream to as many locations as needed across a sign network.
Upcoming events, meetings, and required activities can all find their place on the screen network. Getting information to the attention of students, faculty, and staff becomes a much easier.
Sadly, I’ve sure we’re not finished with seeing the upswing in school violence, including school shootings and bomb threats. Emergency alerts on a digital sign network, which could include integration with SMS alerts for mobile devices to parents, students, teachers, and other faculty could prove a matter of life and death. Give an administrator access to the displays on campus and you’ve give him or her power to control—to some degree—the safety of the campus. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Crowd Control and Wayfinding
Similarly, emergency alerts can also promote crowd control and help in wayfinding. Touch screens and interactive maps are yet another way to utilize digital signage in education for moving people to where they need to go. Not only can the bell at the end of a recess signal the need to get to class, the school signage could also gently or fervently push students back to the classroom by urging with audio and video messages.
Students like what is on the bleeding edge of technology. While digital signage is not all that cutting edge, it certainly can set one schools ambiance apart from another. And for those schools looking to compete for the best students, it can act as a subliminal, but simple marketing tool which promotes the school and its mantra. In comparison to one another, those running screens in lobbies and classrooms have an edge on competing schools. Some people learn differently. For those students who’ve grown up in the “digital age,” digital signage will move from bleeding edge to cutting edge to just “edge.”
Lastly, and perhaps most important digital signage can be used in the in-classroom learning environment. Broadcasting autonomous messages to each classroom is all possible with a network of displays. Content could be tailored by the individual classroom teacher, complete with instructions for the day. While some might say, “this will only make teachers lazy,” I submit it will only aid to enhance the efficiency and bring a silver lining to the sometimes dull classroom experience.
To be fair to the naysayers, it would probably be somewhat appropriate to put together a “Top Ten Reasons to NOT Install Digital Signage in a School,” that way we could have some type of contrasting opinion between the haves and the have nots. However, I think that would be a bit reckless because as hardware and software continue to fall, the promulgation of digital signage technology in education will quite possibly reach epidemic proportions, especially as high schools, middle schools, charter schools, and parochial schools continue to utilize digital signage technology. Since I have been doing digital signage, which amounts to about 4 years now, I have seen a vast increase in the high school market as a industry segment to target. Naturally this particular segment has been coming to us because they see a need. The aforementioned benefits represent a mere few of the potential helps place-based media can have in education.