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University of Dayton: New Digital Signage Offers Improved Communication Outlet

Written by Chris Rizer and reprinted with permission by Flyer News

Visitors to Kennedy Union will view campus activity information in a new format called digital signage, replacing posters which proved to be an ineffective way to communicate to students, according to Amy Lopez-Matthews, director of Student Life and Kennedy Union.

New digital signs, which display information on widescreen televisions, are on each floor of KU, according to Brian Turner, director of information technology for the Division of Student Development.

Student Life and KU are using three of the widescreen televisions, rotated vertically, to show campus activity updates on the bottom of the screen, along with a ticker tape customizable RSS feed. According to Chris Johnson, Student Life and KU summer conference manager, the RSS feed includes news updates from NPR and local weather from the National Weather Service.

Information is sent to the digital signage by two different channel players, Johnson said. One channel player is dedicated to the three signs used for information from Student Life and KU, and the other, which UD’s Student Government Association purchased with its own funds, sends information to a digital sign located in KU’s dining hall.

According to Turner, Student Life and KU and UDit decided to use Visix as their digital signage software company after extensive research. He said Visix was the most attractive option because it had “the ability for us to have a centrally managed system easier for emergency notification,” allowing public safety and UDit to notify students of situations in one message. It was important that the signage matched UD’s “marketing and brand initiative,” Turner said.

According to Lopez-Matthews, the digital signage came from the KU renewal and replacement fund for equipment, a fund which carries over every fiscal year.

Lopez-Matthews said the Visix system has an automatic feed for Student Life and KU to put event information directly into the signage as soon as the updates are added to their scheduling system.

Student organizations can request to advertise events on Student Life and KU digital signage in a section on the event registration sheet, Lopez-Matthews said. Event registration forms can be picked up in the Student Life and KU office in KU, Room 241.

Having digital signage installed at UD was not a quick process; SGA first pitched the idea to Lopez-Matthews during the 2007-2008 academic year, she said.

Research has been carried out since then to find a system that could be used campus-wide, but according to John Jewell, the 2009-2010 SGA president and graduate student in the School of Business Administration, it was his SGA administration that finally took decisive action to make the signage a reality.

Jewell’s SGA administration stated in a resolution its intent to “more effectively communicate with the students to increase the SGA’s transparency and accountability, as well as assess the feasibility of implementing a new centralized messaging system for students through the use of digital signage.”

The 2009-2010 SGA also passed legislation titled, “Allocation of Funds towards the Digital Signage Project,” setting aside a total of $29,600 for the signage.

Jewell said SGA viewed the signage as “an investment for the whole campus.”

Maura LaMendola, the 2009-2010 SGA executive vice president and senior international studies major, said last year’s SGA was so intent on implementing digital signage because it was challenging to communicate to the student body through e-mail and bulletin boards.

“It kind of made us (SGA) look secretive, and really we just didn’t have resources to communicate,” she said.

The digital signage in KU did not come to fruition until this year for several reasons.

According to LaMendola, the administration was busy with a switch to Banner Self Service, an organizational program that runs porches.udayton.edu, which includes class registration tools, student financial and organization information, and the campus calendar. She also said UD had to establish funding for the signage, and had to develop a policy so everything displaying its name would have a consistent marketing image, including the signage.

“I know the project was originally going to start in KU and eventually is supposed to make its way around campus to different buildings,” LaMendola said. “I just hope that it really does become what we envisioned it as, because student government did put a lot of money into that … and we wouldn’t just do something like that if we didn’t think it would be helpful to everybody.”

A document called “UD Digital Signage Proposal,” dated Jan. 7, 2009, states that the campus has 26 suitable spots where enough people would regularly view the signage and which meet technical qualifications to house it.

Turner said if other departments want to utilize digital signage, they also have to use the Visix system, requiring them to purchase their own media players and screens, and cover additional costs such as licensing fees for Visix.

“Digital signage is a wonderful tool to ensure that the channels of communication with the student body are effective and efficient,” said Lindsay Fouse, director of external affairs for SGA and junior business economics major. “It allows us to use vibrant, information-rich messages in a very practical manner. The Student Government Association is excited to have a new, dynamic medium for students to reference on a daily basis located right in the heart of Kennedy Union.”