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Mountain Empire Community College: Expanding Community

While the town of Big Stone Gap, tucked into the western tip of Virginia, has just under 6,000 people, nearby Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) serves over 100,000 people in the entire region. Lana Kennedy, Public Relations in the Community Relations Department at the College, started using AxisTV digital signage software to drive their college digital signage and they are extending their capabilities out into the community at large.

One of the two Visix media players on campus drives content to six LCD displays, while the second delivers content to all cable-ready households in the region on Comcast local cable channel 60. The displays at the college range from 37- to 42-inch screens and are placed in high traffic areas and entrances to buildings. Messages might be date reminders for enrollment and student clubs, cafe hours and food specials, special events, or pictures from the student barbeque.

The cable channel attracts participants for specialty and re-certification classes in various fields, as well as advertising the college itself. MECC also runs videos of the graduation ceremony and other special events via their channel players. “We use three content windows on the displays – two smaller ones showing slides and the other half showing video, with a local radio station playing as background audio. We also use tickers across the bottom of the screen for various announcements,” Kennedy tells us.

In addition to the two channel players used at the college itself, they have three more in local high schools to display content on 47-inch LCDs. Using the split screen layout that works so well for the cable channel, one half displays relevant information for the high school – menus, announcements, even the occasional PowerPoint or video. The other half shows advertising for the college, including details of their dual enrollment plan in which high school students can take classes at Mountain Empire for college credit while they attend high school.

Kennedy tells us that prior to their purchase of AxisTV, they had been using standard television sets and an old system to drive content. “It was a real dinosaur,” she says, “and it just used frames, nothing more. If you wanted video, you had to go through a DVD player, which burnt up in three months.” Even such a short period of primitive digital signage whetted their appetite. “Everyone loved the concept, but we needed a better solution.” Robert Wright, from the Computing and Information Technology Department, researched modern digital signage systems and liked AxisTV the best. “Robert’s our tech guy who installed the Visix system and LCD Displays. I totally trust his judgment.”

Kennedy creates most of the content herself. “People send me an email telling me what they want up there and then I personalize it. I have a clip-art library for icon recognition and I use PowerPoint a lot,” she says. “I love the fact that I can sit right here at my desk and do it all. Plus, I have a display behind me so I can see any changes as soon as I hit refresh.”

Kennedy knows that using AxisTV in the community works. “We get all kinds of people calling in for classes they’ve seen on channel 60,” she says. A growing number of departments at the college are eager to get in on the act. “I had some departmentsnow that they see that it works, they want their stuff up there.”

In addition to using AxisTV to get the message out and draw in new students from the area as well as inform those enrolled, MECC uses more traditional communication methods – a monthly student newsletter, print and on-line; a faculty and staff newsletter, published on-line twice a month and available as a PDF; brochures; and a printed spring schedule, which is sent out to households in the community each year. But Lana Kennedy thinks AxisTV has the greatest potential for expanding their student body and keeping audiences up-to-date. “It’s extremely easy to use – I can do it with my eyes closed now. It’s easy to change content as information and events change. I don’t have to run around campus pulling down old, out-of-date posters. Now I just hit delete and it’s done.”