digital signage content

Digital signage takes giant technical leap for student recruiting

From digital wall paper to interactive tour stops, tailored content on digital signage reenergizes student recruiting at Adrian College.

A few months ago, I led a group of Adrian College students completing an internship project in Philadelphia, PA.  During some down time, I was excited to seek out a particular drinking establishment I read about in a magazine article. It is called the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.  The name is a bit of a misnomer. To describe it as a bar, or even a lounge, would be an understatement. Franklin Co. is one of a growing group of swanky drinking establishments that serve a range of artisanal cocktails. The ambiance emulates a “Speakeasy” from the Prohibition Era. Franklin Co.’s drinks are carefully designed to stimulate the palate. Organic egg whites, apple butter and hibiscus syrup are just a few of the specialty ingredients that make up the delightful potions.

But in case those attractions aren’t adequate, according to our mixologist Nick, Franklin Co. has something else going for it:  four types of ice.

Nevertheless, Franklin Co. is tackling same problem that all of us have: standing out.

Hundreds of students apply for admissions, and dozens of Colleges offer similar programs or services.  Our competition is fierce. In Franklin Co.’s case, several other bars, lounges and watering holes operate within a two-block radius in Philadelphia.

Everyone is competing for the same thing: attention—trying to rise above the clutter to get noticed, or to get hired, chosen or purchased from. And they often exist in a sea of similar-seeming alternatives. So how can you win students’ attention? How can you entice families to stop, take notice and maybe even tell others what they just saw?

How about four types of ice?

Most people have never thought twice about ice.  So when you hear that a bar has four types of ice, your curiosity is piqued.  What are the four types? How are they different? Why would anyone need two types of ice, let alone four?

All bars claim that they have good drinks, just like all application essays describe the applicant as smart and hardworking.  Just like all colleges claim they care about their students and help them garner amazing jobs after graduation.

But just saying it isn’t enough.  Everyone says it, so no one believes us to be distinctive. You need something more—something that shows rather than tells; something that carries your message home by demonstrating it rather than just claiming it.

The brilliance of four types of ice conveys the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. message better than any advertising or social media campaign ever could. The proposition is not just saying, “We are committed to handcrafted drinks.” Rather, it is saying, “We are so committed to handcrafted drinks that no detail goes unnoticed.”

Enter Interactive digital signage.

New ideas and innovation are always present at Adrian College and in the fall of 2013 the College’s Caine Student Center became the birthplace for one more very innovative example.

(Next page: Adrian College’s innovative implementation and use of digital signage)

Announced during the 2013 State of the College address, the A.S.A (the Adrian Sign by Anode) became the newest technological addition to campus. Since its completed installation in August of 2013, this state-of-the-art, fully interactive sign effectively demonstrated itself as a cutting edge means to view campus and engage new, prospective families.

Digital sign in Student Center.
Digital sign in Student Center.

Set in the foyer across from Campus Safety, A.S.A. boasted photo galleries, spotlights of faculty, athletes and alumni, videos, information about upcoming events and more. Those interacting with the digital sign could also read an entire issue of Contact, the College’s alumni magazine.

The Origin

The idea for this interactive sign began following a trip to Nashville, where Adrian College Vice President for Development Jim Mahony visited Anode to meet with the company’s president, Adrian College alumnus Mark Magnuson. Anode is an interactive design studio with a long history of using technology to engage audiences with new forms of communication. The company designs and develops interactive experiences and digital media installations that are part of a new wave making strong showings at Vanderbilt University, Nashville Public Library, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Upon seeing the new media, it did not take long for me to meet with the representatives involved to initiate the addition of this technology to campus. The sign (placed in our Student Union Building) quickly became a mechanism for prospective families to experience our campus and the Office of Admissions staff was able to use this digital sign to help families make their way around campus, learn about exciting opportunities, and showcase an innovative method of information sharing.  The sign was very quickly gaining interest and assisting Admissions Counselors and coaches in engaging families in more effective campus visits. Families were intrigued by their ability to interact with the technology and learn more about the College.

The sign became only the first of its kind to appear on Adrian’s campus. Plans quickly got underway to incorporate a second digital sign the College’s Admissions House and a third in the Peelle/Jones Hall complex, which at the time was under a significant renovation.

Digital Sign in Peelle Science Hall
Digital Sign in Peelle Science Hall

The A.S.A. digital kiosks were placed strategically throughout campus to provide communication updates to students. At that time, all of the signs contained the same set of imagery and content. While they were effective a more thoughtful approach was about to unveil itself.

A New Approach is Implemented.

Following a significant reconfiguration and update in 2015, the three A.S.A. kiosks now display varying information about our campus including: a campus map, upcoming events, academic programs offered, and social media streams. Each sign works independently to provide dynamic content to the respective location’s audience.

Ward Admission House

  • Allows students to envision what their lives will be like on campus
  • An interactive map provides a “birds-eye” view of the entire campus
  • Related news stories categorized by location
  • A real-time list of upcoming events
  • A library of current recruitment videos
  • A dynamic “Welcome” screen for each student visit
Digital sign in Admissions House “Visit Announcement”
Digital sign in Admissions House “Visit Announcement”

Caine Student Center

  • Focal point for displaying daily new and campus updates
  • Displays upcoming events and activities which can be “pinned” to a main feed for other students to discover
  • Dynamic content from social media, including the College’s Instagram and Twitter feeds
  • Interactive campus map

Peelle Hall

  • Expands on specific science-related educational offerings and subject matter
  • Hosts an interactive short “science” quiz
  • Communicates relevant school news and videos
  • Links directly to the College’s Robinson Planetarium events listing
Science Menu
Science Menu

The Results are In

Since the installation of our interactive digital signage, new student enrollment has increased 18 percent over the same period of time. A more convincing metric is the conversion rate on campus visits is now 36 percent. No, that’s not a typo. Remember, these signs are a pivotal aspect of campus tours. And, the College’s retention rate has climbed to nearly 90 percent in the same span of time.

So what are your four types of ice? What’s the information, story or nugget of content that will make students want to find out more about you, make them stop consider your programs, and make them come back to your campus, choose your program or enroll at your college?

Just saying it isn’t enough. Anyone can do that. You have to show it. Sharpen your message into something so remarkable that people can’t help but be engaged.

What can you add to each encounter to show people the essence of your institution? Don’t just tell people about your college or university show them why it is different, smarter, better.

Author Dr. Frank Hribar will be presenting general conference session E11 at EduComm Expo 2016 entitled, “From Digital Wall Paper to Interactive Tour Stops: Tailored Content Reenergizes Student Recruiting at Adrian College,” on Wednesday, November 16 from 3:00-3:50pm at Chicago’s Navy Pier. For more information on EduComm Expo 2016, or to register for this or any other educational seminar or workshop and learn more about digital communications technologies and strategies, go to

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