Coastal Carolina University: Not Taking Security for Granted

Just a few minutes away from Myrtle Beach, Coastal Carolina University is home to over 8,000 students pursuing degrees in 42 fields of study. The university, which was founded in 1954 and became an independent entity in 1993, offers courses across an array of fields ranging from marine science and resort tourism to professional golf management.

In addition to a rich academic program, Coastal Carolina University boasts over 100 clubs and organizations on campus, making for a busy extracurricular scene. While investigating the possibilities of university digital signage for keeping students up to date on all the news from academic departments and student organizations, tragic events at another university highlighted an added dimension of urgency for deploying a digital signage system.

Coastal Carolina University’s search for digital signage was in progress when the Virginia Tech massacre, which took the lives of 22 students and left many other wounded, took place, and that event brought home the fact that no university is completely safe in today’s dangerous world. “The tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech really raised everyone’s awareness in terms of the role digital signage could play in emergency messaging on a university campus,” explained Marvin Marozas, former chief information officer and special IT projects coordinator at Coastal Carolina University. One of the things that sold the university’s committee on AxisTV digital signage software was the fact that the system could tie into the school’s unified mass emergency notification system. “That had an appeal even before the Virginia Tech tragedy, but after that, key administrators realized the campus needed to have some major messaging capability in the event of an emergency,” said Marozas.

The committee looked at around a half dozen vendors, and in addition to the capability of integrating with the school’s emergency notification system, AxisTV’s ability to combine distributed capabilities with central management set it apart from competitors. “As head of the IT group, what impressed me about AxisTV over other vendors was that they offered a network-based system which provided centralized management capabilities, but also distributed capabilities as well,” said Marozas, adding that this was key for a campus environment with multiple departments.

Today, Coastal Carolina University has deployed 17 channel players tied to 42-inch and 52-inch LG LCD screens across campus. The screens are organized in a two-playlist format, with the left hand side of the screen featuring university-wide content, while the right-hand side shows department-specific information. A newsfeed appears at the bottom of the screens, with content specific to each college; for example, stock news runs in the business college, while cultural arts news appears in the college of humanities along with world news in three different languages.

The system has been a big hit, drawing a high level of participation in terms of participants supplying content, according to Marozas. There are now 26 content coordinators for the 17 channel players who are responsible for keeping content for their specific areas updated.

In addition to general information announcements, the flexibility of the AxisTV system has allowed users to be creative in the content they submit. One project Marozas pointed out involved the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, which hosts an art academy for high school students. Work done by these students over the course of a term was incorporated into a video montage which was broadcast through the system in order to showcase the work and the academy’s program.

Another creative use still in the planning phase is the idea of launching a series of academic challenge questions which could be pushed out to the screens in various departments. The mathematics department, for example, would post a calculus question, students would see it, and the first one to email in the correct answer would win a prize.

“Faculty, staff and students have seen the potential and recognize this is a great way to get their messages out,” said Marozas. “It’s really gotten their creative juices flowing.”

For Marozas, the AxisTV system has more than met the challenges and goals envisaged at the outset. “It has an appeal to the young, it’s a green technology, and it’s a multimedia format,” he said. “The real key, though, is that it can get your message out much more quickly and effectively than a piece of paper on the wall.” That’s important when it comes to day-to-day information. In today’s more dangerous world, however, it could mean saving lives as well.