How Schools can take advantage of Digital Signage

Although digital signage is often associated with commercial environments, it offers numerous benefits to schools and can be a very cost-effective way to help them achieve many of their key goals.

Managing student safety

Emergency drills are undoubtedly important, but no matter how calmly staff and pupils evacuate a school building during a drill, you can never be as sure that a real emergency evacuation will go as well, especially at the start of an academic year when the school will typically have a number of new pupils (and possibly new staff) who are still learning their way around the building.

The fact that digital signage can be updated almost instantaneously (assuming the content is ready) means that it can be used literally to guide people to the nearest exit and/or to remind them where, exactly, they are to assemble.

This facility might be particularly useful in the many schools which are also used as community centres and therefore receive a number of “occasional” visitors, who are unlikely to be familiar with the layout of the school.

Managing menus and allergen/dietary information

Just as the kitchen is generally the heart of the home, so the school canteen is often the heart of school life and so it can get very busy at lunchtimes as literally the entire school descends on it with rumbling stomachs and limited time in which to fill them.

Digital signage can not only help people to see clearly what is on offer, helping to speed up service, but also display important information on allergens and dietary preferences, thereby promoting safety.

Schools which open their canteens in the evenings could gain extra benefit from digital signage as they could use it in the same way as the mainstream food-and-beverage industry, for example to advertise promotions and upsell items, thereby earning valuable extra revenue for themselves.

Managing the provision of important information

Teachers are in a school to teach and administrators are in a school to help it run smoothly, both teachers and administrators are extremely valuable resources and, for everyone’s sake, as much as possible should be done to protect them from being continually interrupted with simple-queries. This is where digital signage has, potentially, it’s most valuable application in schools.

Schools often have all kinds of important information they need to communicate, some of it will be static (such as the location of the first-aid kits) and some of it will be dynamic (such as events at the school).

Managing this information via paper involves all kinds of practical challenges (for example storage space which is often as highly valued in the average school as it is in the average home) plus it can become very expensive and, at the end of the day, there is the distinct likelihood that posters will simply end up being “blanked out” and ignored and leaflets and forms will be either ignored in favour of asking human staff, or lost (or become out of date and therefore irrelevant).

There are several ways in which digital signage offers massive improvements over paper-based communications.

First of all, there is the fact that it can be easily updated, which not only ensures that all concerned can be confident that they are actually looking at the right information, hence eliminating the need to double-check with staff, but also opens up options for engaging pupils in the preparation of the communications on a much broader scale than is possible with paper-based communications, where printing costs always have to be taken into consideration.

What’s more students can see the results of their work very quickly rather than having to wait for print runs. This can open up opportunities to reinforce key messages by having the students come up with ways to communicate them and potentially motivating them by means of rewards (not necessarily monetary ones).

Secondly, there is the fact that digital signage can display a wide variety of content, including text, pictures, videos and audio. What’s more, it can change from one form of content to another on a loop, so that content is being continually refreshed and viewers continually engaged.

Thirdly, there is the fact that digital signage can be linked to the internet so that it displays useful real-time information from relevant sources. In the context of schools, for example, this could include travel information, so that pupils could tell quickly if they were going to need to adjust their plans for getting home and make sure that their parents were alerted to the new plans.

Managing basic admin tasks

In addition to providing information, digital kiosks can also be used to gather information, for example, in addition to showing what facilities are in use and when (and hence when they are not), they can also be used to book rooms.

Likewise, where schools have a policy of allowing senior pupils to leave the school premises outside of lesson time, they can be used to check pupils out and in, thus keeping tabs on who is in the building (or not) to allow for accurate counting in the event of a fire.

Celebrating events and achievements

Obviously school is about learning, but there is definitely a social side to it too, in fact, teaching young people the social skills they will need to navigate their way through their adult life is arguably one of a school’s most important functions. Digital signage allows you to embrace that fact without the expenses of printing materials and with many more options for creativity than paper will allow.

For example, instead of just sticking up a poster advertising a school concert, you could put up a “behind-the-scenes” video clip of the musicians rehearsing and then instead of simply congratulating them in assembly or in a school newsletter, you could put up a message of congratulations along with a clip of the audience applauding.

On a more serious note, when exam time comes around, you could use your digital signage to put up messages of encouragement along with advice on managing exam stress and information on where students can go if the stress really is getting too much for them.

Brendan O’Reilly is a Commercial Manager for the Fortec Group and looks after the marketing for Display Technology, Display Solutions and the Components Bureau.