College Planning & Management

JUN 2012

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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WHAT'S YOUR SIGN? GET THE MESSAGE. Digital signage can play multiple roles on campus, from deploying information in an emergency to wayfi nding, entertainment, and advertising. At Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology, students expect the buildings to be up to date, and that includes digital signage in the redesigned student center. Safety is the fi rst idea that comes to mind. Digital signage can play an impor- tant part in emergency notifi cation. Com- pliance with the Clery Act demands that students, faculty, and staff be notifi ed in a timely fashion in the case of an emergency. While a school has many options on how to get that message across, from high- tech text messages to low-tech bullhorns, digital signage has grown into a viable option. Case in point: in 2009 Campus Safety Magazine published a survey of how schools were handling their mass notifi ca- tion systems. At that time, 20 percent of the schools presently employed digital display signage. But when asked which new/up- graded mass notifi cation system do they plan on deploying in the next year, digital signage's number jumped to 30.5 percent. Cost and ease of use must have played a role in the jump. "Just two years ago, the software alone for a digital sign system ran about $10,000. Then you had to purchase the media player on top of that," says Gene Ornstead, director of product market- ing, ViewSonic. Add to that number the PC needed to design the message and the actual screens to display it. Ornstead also admits that the older systems were compli- cated. "Now you can get a whole system of media players and accompanying software that is easy to use for around $1,500." You still have to have the computer to design the message and the screens to display it, however. "10 to 15 percent of the initial investment is the software, the rest of the budget goes to hardware: PCs, networks, and screens," says Oscar Elizaga, senior vice president, Scala, whose com- pany makes the software that drives digital signage. "As time passes, the price of that hardware and software is going down while the power capabilities go up." This allows schools to do more with less. More than just an added safety mea- sure, digital signs are the next big thing in informing, advertising, wayfi nding, and entertaining on college campuses. "Think about a big campus with sign kiosks dotting the perimeter," says Andre Floyd, product marketing manager, digital signage, Sony Electronics. "The kiosk would have paper maps, building indexes, and information about upcoming events. Someone would have to design, print, de- liver, and maintain all of that information. Digital signage takes all of that away." Signs would still be produced, but instead of sending proofs to the printer, the material would be uploaded and sent digitally to a display screen. "One single person anywhere in the world can manage the information," continues Floyd. "And the screens can be divided up to show a variety of information from news and weather tick- ers to advertisements to event information." How are schools using this technology today? In spring 2010, Western University's 70 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / JUNE 2012 College of Pharmacy, in Pomona, CA, wanted a better way to inform students of current activities and upcoming club events, while also publicizing and welcom- ing guest speakers. The College's previous efforts to disseminate messages via email and printed fl iers didn't seem to get the job done. The College turned to state-of-the-art digital signage. The College invested in a high-defi nition 52-in. ePoster from ViewSonic, installing it front and center in its building's lobby. The results were immediate. "With the eye- catching ePoster right in the lobby, students really can't miss the information now," says Frances Kolarz, Blackboard administrator at Western U. "Today, the College uses the ePoster to publicize all its events and welcome guest speakers, which offers a nice personalization. The students are excited about the ePoster because they can create announcements quite easily and send them to our director of student services, who uploads the images right to the ePoster." Kolarz is impressed with the prod- ucts ease of use. "What's nice about the program is that users can go in and be pretty creative with their announcements and images," she adds. "The software is very user-friendly, which makes it easy for people who aren't graphic designers to cre- ate attractive signage." Steve Kosh, marketing and communica- tions manager, Mohawk Student Association, WWW.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM

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