Properly-organized digital signage can free up teacher time and take pressure off the IT department — all with minimal investment in additional hardware, a short learning curve and little in the way of IT support. Choose the right system and it should be plug and play.
In this post, we’ll look at the ways digital signage should be implemented in schools and how doing it right can take work off IT’s desk — even as it makes school communication faster and easier for everyone using technology.
We’ll start by looking at a few of the reasons schools opt for digital signage.
Why digital signage?
Digital signage is preferred everywhere from billboards to fast food outlets, from hospitals to cafeterias, because of its inherent advantages over static signage.
Static signage is difficult and complex to change; even in a school setting where it often takes the form of paper notices stapled to notice-boards, it’s frequently buried or ignored once it’s up. As Cornwall-Lebanon Schools’ Technology Coordinator Jason Murray told us, ‘paper handouts and static signs — people just pass straight through them and they don’t read them. Everyone is drawn to screens.’ Digital signs attract up to 400% more views, as well as increasing active recall and messaging effectiveness.
Someone has to put static signage together in a desktop publishing tool, print it out and staple it up. That’s time lost to teaching, administration, or technical support — even if nothing goes wrong (and when does nothing go wrong?). It’s teachers calling tech support at 7:30 AM to find out why the printer doesn’t work. And even when it goes perfectly, it’s not terribly effective.
Within schools, digital signage improves educational, behavioral, and other outcomes, making the school environment more supportive of learning and helping to ‘nudge’ students towards preferred behaviors.
It also lets school leadership disseminate both emergency and routine notices effectively and quickly to the whole school, including teachers and students, as well as visitors and other staff.
These benefits are much easier to access through a digital signage system that offers centralized control, permissioned accounts, templates, and scheduling. Without these features, teachers can find themselves going around the school with a thumb drive, uploading new signage to individual screens — exactly the situation Cornwall-Lebanon wanted to get out of when they selected Rise Vision for their in-school digital signage.
Centralized control extends beyond the use of an app to manage screens. A fully-realized digital signage solution should be a ‘home’ for your school’s communication team, letting them manage school communication from a single location and establishing messaging and scheduling. Centralizing control in this way cuts down the workload associated with getting signs in front of eyeballs, and reduces the amount of technical support teachers and communication teams require.
One of the biggest impediments to adopting a digital signage system is the expense, disruption and learning curve required to begin using a whole new signage solution. Installing the hardware, setting up the environment, and populating the content are all headaches no one needs. And in most schools, everyone’s already got plenty on their plate. Leadership doesn’t have time to choose the system, teachers don’t have time to learn how to use it, the communication team doesn’t have time to populate and manage it — and you don’t have time to install it, set it up and troubleshoot it.
The best solution, then, will be one that works with what you already have. If you’re already using some smartboards in classrooms, and maybe a Smart TV or two in hallways or lobbies, you’ll want a tool that can be integrated with these, not one that requires its own screens and makes excessive demands on network or connectivity infrastructure.
This approach saves money and time in the short term, which is music to the ears of everyone who has to manage a shrinking budget in a time of rising costs. But it also saves time, money, work hours, and risks at every step down the line. A system like this is more robust, more reliable, harder to break and easier to expand or add to. New screens can be sourced from multiple vendors, many types; scheduling can be done on any device that can handle the minimal demands of a web app. It lets you take advantage of incremental improvements in the school’s IT, instead of putting you at the mercy of bloated technical requirements.
Short adoption curve
The best solution for digital signage doesn’t just use the hardware you already have. It uses the skills too. The IT department doesn’t need to go on a course to learn how to provision the system or support its users. And the communications team can step straight into the environment and start populating it. If you can use a standard desktop publishing tool you can use Rise Vision.
Look for a tool that doesn’t require your communications team to do too much desktop publishing, though. As a rule, comms teams need to get the word out about the big game, incoming tornado, or ongoing requirement to treat peers with courtesy and respect, without having to build notices from scratch every time.
That’s why Rise Vision features an extensive (and ever-growing) template library, which can be customized, saved, duplicated and imported to new schedules with a couple of clicks.
Add content easily
Content schedules in Rise Vision let communication teams structure the content in their digital signage to different cohorts, times of day, seasons and other requirements. It’s possible to create emergency signage for different issues ahead of time, so it can be activated schoolwide in a few clicks. At the same time, permissioned access lets teams restrict who can create, alter or cue up schedules.
Once schedules have been created, adding content is simple. Templates can easily be imported to schedules from users’ own libraries of branded templates or from Rise Vision’s growing store of templates, freely available to all users.
It’s also easy to embed social feeds and videos into templates: many schools who use Rise Vision achieve a ‘two birds with one stone’ effect by having the school Twitter feed embedded by default in their templates, meaning students get frequent reminders about important upcoming events and the cultural and social life of the school.
Minimize points of failure
If you build a complex system that you rely on, it’s best not to put a single point of failure in it. (Just ask Facebook!) When you’re choosing a digital signage platform for a school, you’re going to wind up placing a lot of trust in it. So it needs to not suddenly stop working.
Rise Vision’s integrative approach to your school’s existing hardware reduces networking, upkeep and maintenance demands, meaning the system gives staff what they tell us they want most: a plug-and-play system that’s versatile and doesn’t require constant looking-after to stay up and running.
Equally important, it helps your school build a system that’s difficult to break. The source of truth for the entire system is a web app that can be accessed from laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. There’s a mobile app too, meaning staff can control the system from almost any device. And individual screens can be unplugged from the wall, damaged or lose connectivity without affecting the system as a whole. If you have power and Wi-Fi, your Rise Vision signage will keep working.
Reconfigure school communications
When technology really works, it tends to bend the structures around it in new ways. Ask anyone who remembers the days before smartphones. Good, effective digital signage solutions obey this law too. When your school gets one, communication stops being the job of everyone who needs to tell anyone anything. It stops being the IT department’s job to constantly provide technical support to a minor desktop publishing industry focused on reminding kids to do their homework and turn up for soccer practice. It becomes the purview of the communications team.
When that happens, teachers stop hastily printing out their own posters and simply ask the comms team to add their announcement to the schedule for the day. The school’s social feeds are visible in several locations around campus and students are encouraged by this to follow them — and to take more of an interest in what they have to say. The structure of school communications becomes more clearly defined and efficient, but the communications team actually has less to do because tasks only need to be done once and then propagated schoolwide through connected screens.
Digital signage solutions that offer centralized permissioned control, template libraries and a device-agnostic dashboard can deliver the seemingly-impossible: they perform much better, while actually taking work off everyone’s desk, even the IT department. School communications become more efficiently structured, and the pressure on IT time shrinks.
However, such a tool needs to be carefully selected; a system with a long adoption or learning curve isn’t suitable for most schools, busy year-round and short on everything from time to budget. For the same reason, a system reliant on a full suite of new hardware is not in the cards for many educational institutions; even those that can afford the upfront costs may not benefit from this approach. Schools should adopt a digital signage solution that’s easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to scale, and that plays nice with the tech they already have.