Better Engage Your Students Through Campus-wide Network of Digital Screens

Email is not Enough: These days effectively communicating with your student body is a real challenge. In spite of how digitally connected today's College students are, Higher-Ed officials struggle with finding the best mechanism for informing their students

Most of these students are part of the Post-Digital, Millennial demographic. They devour social media and gravitate towards social channels that restrict communication from outside their selected network (like Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.). Email, which was the gold standard for student communication, is now going unattended and unchecked.

Making matters worse, students see much of their email as unwanted intruding messages. One Boston-area college campus official said, “We’ve gone so far as to make them promise to check their email once a day for school announcements, and they STILL don’t even do that!”

This poses a real challenge for institutions that are clamoring to engage their students and inform them of important information regarding their curriculum, opportunities, responsibilities and safety while enrolled at school.

Engage to Inform

The challenge posed in High-Education is “How do we efficiently deliver timely and informative content in a personally relevant manner to students and staff across campus?” One powerful channel many Colleges and Universities are embracing is activating their Campus-Wide Digital Screen Network.

A consistent, relevant and reliable Digital Signage solution deployed across campus can be interactive, engaging and act as an effective means for delivering important information (such as LSAT’s signup, schedule changes, safety alerts, flu shots, etc.). Oftentimes, this important information is embedded next to interactive content – such as campus Twitter feeds, student photos, polls, weekend sports update, students’ art samples, etc.

Here are a few tips for successfully deploying a scalable and engaging campus-wide digital network.

Embrace the Cloud

Deploying a Cloud-based Digital Signage platform allows for easy and efficient scaling and content management across a Campus-wide Network. If the screen can access the Internet – and thereby reach the cloud – content and performance can be managed from any web browser, anywhere. A holistic communication and management strategy can be implemented throughout the network and allow for significant economies-of-scale.

A Cloud-based solution can also reduce the cost for hardware and software at each screen location.

Conversely, having disparate network management systems operating at different locations around campus is inefficient, confusing for network administrators and often produces a very inconsistent end-user experience for students.

Allow for Centralized Coordination with Distributed Control

Whether you have two screens or 2,000, having a centralized administrator for managing the network’s content is critical. However, it’s also important to allow levels of distributed control where authorized users around campus have various levels of access to manage the content in their sections of your overall communication plan.

Access levels should be granted for portions of your network’s Content Management System where users (such as the registrar’s office, marketing communications team, facilities management, campus security, etc.) can update ONLY their content easily and often within the platform. Structured rights management functionality allows for various levels of publishing rights, central control and distributed management.

Your Digital Screen Network needs an owner. When no one takes ownership of the content, the Digital Signage channel loses its relevance and credibility with students as a trusted source (rightfully so) and will be tuned out.

Display Real-Time and Dynamic Content that Captures Students’ Attention

To be relevant to your students, your Campus-wide Network must contain dynamic and interactive content. The best Campus-wide Networks creatively manage screen real estate and utilize varying layouts to keep things fresh and interesting. Within these layouts there should be content relevant to your audience at that moment – such as world news, college news or announcements, real-time data (weather, RSS feeds, etc.), social media, and sharable student-generated content, like digital photos.

With a web-enabled, “super-computer” in each student’s pocket, anything less than dynamic, interactive content is just visual wallpaper to the Millennial generation. With bite-size news updates and multiple social channels always at their disposal, it’s a tall order to try and compete using rotating static JPGs. By incorporating real-time content and interactivity, your network becomes the trusted “4th screen” in your students’ lives (behind their mobile device, TV, and laptop).

Use Social and User-Generated Content to Attract Eyeballs & Amp-up Engagement

By incorporating social and user-generated content (UGC) into your communication program, you’ll attract students’ attention. Creatively planting this content next to important college announcements will help assure your key messages are read by your students. Twitter feeds, mobile photos, contests, trivia, polls, videos, etc. will improve your communication’s consumption rate and help convince your Millennial-age students you’re “speaking their language.”

However, have a tool and process to moderate! Even the most well-conceived and supported student engagement campaign using social media can (and probably will) go horribly wrong if you don’t have proper human-based moderation to weed out “undesirable” user submissions. While key words can oftentimes be filtered automatically through systems, we always recommend human moderation to check each submission for contextual appropriateness, relevancy and the quality of the imagery.

Consider Your Channel’s Emergency Notification Capability

In the event of a campus-wide emergency or security threat, it’s critical your digital network has centralized security override capability to send updates directly to all digital screens across campus. Your campus security team should have the ability to open any browser and, with a few quick key-stokes, alert and update the campus accordingly. During emergencies, it’s much harder to coordinate messaging, in a limited area or campus-wide, without a consolidated, Cloud-based network with central security override option.

Ideally, your emergency notification process can be triggered through a mobile browser in the event your campus security team is scattered around campus at the time of the alert. Good planning, preparation and an active Campus-wide Digital Signage solution can be a powerful tool for informing your audience of activity in real-time.

A smart campus-wide communication strategy and Cloud-based network is a versatile and elegant channel for engaging your students, faculty and staff across campus. The right network and planning will allow for dynamic content integration to interact digitally and socially with your audience.

As legacy and siloed systems are replaced by versatile, Cloud-based platforms, future scalability and functionality will only increase the efficacy for this growing channel. The right campus-wide network will ease the burden on its administrator for management, be simple to scale in size and embrace interactivity as your campus increasingly goes “digital” and becomes a critical and efficient mechanism for connecting and engaging with students

Photos Courtesy Of AERVA

About the Author
Scott Cronin is the Vice President of Interactive Solutions & Marketing at Aerva, a cloud-based software platform for managing networks of digital screens. Aerva's platform for Campus-wide Networks helps improve school's efficiency, social media integration, emergency responsiveness, and interactivity for engaging students, staff and faculty.