At a university with 29,000 students and 7,900 faculty and staff members, relaying campus-wide messages can be a daunting task for an administration. But
West Virginia University (WVU) has found a way.
With just a few keystrokes, the school’s digital signage system can be updated to relay the latest information about the Mountaineers’ upcoming football game or any other type of campus-wide need-to-know information, including the dreaded worst-case-scenario emergency alert.
In fact, school officials had been mulling just such a system as an alternative to bulletin boards and posters when the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech rocked the nation and prompted college and university administrators across the country to review their security protocols.
“Within minutes of learning of the horrible tragedy, the concept of the West Virginia University Information Stations was conceived,” says Spencer W. Graham, II, manager of operations for Information Stations, the school’s interactive video and web services network. WVU Television Productions personnel were tasked by the administration to immediately develop a 24/7/365 information system and network with indoor and outdoor displays on the three Morgantown campuses.
WVU has since installed over 100 digital displays for signage in high pedestrian traffic areas such as reception desks and cafeterias in residential complexes. Outdoor signage has gone up at several platforms of the university’s PRT rapid transit monorail system, as well as an outdoor sign at the WVU Coliseum basketball arena. Graham hopes to eventually have a digital sign in every classroom on campus.
“As the network has matured, we are seeing more individual colleges and buildings also requesting signage,” says Graham.
All signage on the WVU network is operated by the school’s information stations team from a master control room on the downtown campus using X20Media Xpresenter software. But the members of the WVU information stations team can also remotely access and manage the system to send out alert or emergency notices using a web browser on a smartphone or from their homes or other computers.
“This includes the ability to issue an alert to the entire network, or selectively, even to a single signage player,” Graham said.
The basic info-loop displayed on the digital signage is about 24 minutes long. Regular content is roughly 40 percent general WVU information and about 60 percent site-specific content and includes daily listings, current/extended weather forecasts and other listings and announcements, from an SQL database.
And while the vast majority of content on the signage system is routine information that keeps everyone on campus on the same page, there are times when the alert notification functions become necessary.
WVU has two types of alert messages: Weather (green screens), and Emergency (red