Call them Generation Y, Generation Now or Millennials – they are already a huge part of the workforce, or attending colleges and universities to get educated and trained. They are easily the most technologically savvy generation in history, using a vast array of interactive technologies to meet, chat, plan, shop and work. It stands to reason that higher education facilities should embrace interactivity to engage their student body and meet their expectations. They prefer self-service solutions, require immediate feedback and use mobile devices for nearly everything. These habits are driving innovation and design in technology.
There are many ways to include interactive solutions in your digital signage deployment. Basically, think of an interactive display as a large format tablet, with your content sort of like a website or app. You can embed any kind of information you want there, about anything your audience might need or want.
You can include built-in digital keyboards for easy searching, SMS triggers to send info to phones, or QR tags for easy downloads. Navigation around the touchscreen should be intuitive and easy, with as many “pages” nested in the design as you like. Just make sure to include a back button on each page and an easy to navigate menu, preferably at the bottom of the screen for ADA compliance.
Most campuses are spread out, and helping people get around quickly and efficiently is a great use of your signs. Interactive maps on touchscreens and kiosks are a good first step. But you can make it all mobile by adding a downloadable app combined with proximity beacons – these send turn-by-turn directions right to a person’s mobile device as they near a beacon, plus other contextual clues such as photos. Including a geofence – a virtual perimeter that interacts with a mobile device the moment it’s crossed – means that people are prompted to download and use the app the moment they set foot on your property.
You can have interactive maps outside buildings for the whole campus, and in the lobby of each building for detailed wayfinding inside that property. Or your displays can switch back and forth between internal and external maps with just a single tap.
Touchscreen directories let you present a huge amount of information using very little real estate. Directories are often paired with wayfinding, so your audience looks up who they need to see, then gets directions on how to get there. They can also see additional information, such as consultation or opening hours. Including email addresses and other contact info can let people get in touch with who they need, possibly saving them a trip.
You can easily pull in data from event calendars to promote upcoming events and provide detailed information on each. As you list events for various clubs, you can promote them on screen.
Display messages about upcoming tryouts for the football team or auditions for the new theatre production, telling where and when and what’s needed. Include a short URL or QR tag to drive people to a dedicated webpage so they can sign up for a newsletter or event reminders, and so you can track how many people are interested.
Anything that happens on or near campus can be promoted this way – from movies to seminars, guest speakers and alumni events, to farmers’ markets. And you can combine all your event listings with wayfinding to show students how to get there.
If your campus is large enough, it may have shuttles that take people around the area. Have interactive shuttle maps inside buildings near stops so people plan their routes, see current locations of shuttles, as well as predicted wait and travel times. This lets them wait inside for their ride in comfort and safety.
You can integrate these with public transportation information for your area, so people know how to get someplace in town, or beyond. Include phone numbers and links (again using short URLs or QR tags) to taxi companies and other transport options. You can turn a single screen into a transportation information center, a Transit Hub, making your students’ lives easier.
Your campus probably has a combination of catering, cafés and food vendors. Just like with the Transit Hub idea above, you can integrate all your current offerings into a single interactive digital space.
Show what’s on special, how long wait times are and nutritional information. Consider allowing orders to be done right there at the screen, so things are ready when the student arrives at the counter.
You can even show information on local restaurants you know your students frequent, perhaps with digital discount coupons. This expands the relevance of your digital signage, and can also become a source of revenue for your school if you charge a small fee for offering this service.
Millennials spend a lot of their free time on social networks, so why not encourage them to interact with your school online? Interactive social media boards allow everyone to see real-time posts and comments on pages from favorite sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Because your students are interested in social media, this is a great way to grab their attention and get them involved in your digital signage efforts. You can promote your pages to gain followers and prompt participation at the same time.
Donor boards let you recognize people who’ve been generous in supporting your institution. Making these interactive allows you to tell more of their story with bios, photos, videos and more. Searchable indexes allow people to sift through a large volume of information easily and quickly. Recognize donors, present your mission and values, and promote ongoing donor recruitment programs using touchscreen designs – all on a single display.
Encourage green behavior by showing real-time energy usage stats on things like electricity and water. A touchscreen dashboard can let viewers choose between different buildings, floors or energy sources. Seeing current consumption, as well as trends over time, can help curb waste. You can even include a weekly or monthly goal, and see if the students respond by altering their behavior accordingly.
Allow students to book shared spaces themselves with interactive room booking kiosks. A map can show which areas are free, and integrating a room calendar from Exchange or other calendar app lets students reserve space right there on screen. This can be for meeting rooms, computer labs, photography dark rooms – any space students might need to reserve.
Any information you want to advertise can go on a touchscreen. You can display quick facts, admissions and enrollment information, faculty spotlights and academic programs. Show the history of your school with an interactive timeline that highlights key moments and achievements by the school and alumni. Use photo and video slideshows to highlight the athletics department or housing options.
There is no end to the sorts of things you can make interactive for your students. You might even consider conducting a survey of current students, new enrolls and alumni to see what they’d like to see on touchscreens. Modern students want, and expect, information presented in a modern way. That’s what the interactive campus is all about.