In the last couple years, two of my largest AV projects were in higher education. On the surface, it is not hard to imagine that higher education may have some audiovisual needs.
Classrooms typically need a projector and a screen for the professor to present class materials to students. You may want interactive software that allows students to all collaborate using the devices that they bring into the classroom everyday. Interactive video walls may be used for data visualization and for interacting with everything from organic molecules to stock market data. LCD screens can be placed about the campus for providing digital way-finding or campus events and information through some type of Content Management System. At Horizon, we help with many of those applications as well.
The two major projects I did in the last couple years however relate to none of this. Instead they related to promoting the image of the school to prospective students, and this is where I see that there is a real opportunity to create something special.
With every University having a website and a ton of printed marketing and admissions materials that teach potential students about the school itself, you may ask,
“What impact will creating an interactive video wall for prospective student information actually have?”
To answer that completely, you have to take a few things into account.
The first is that young people are getting harder and harder to impress, at least when it comes to technology. Every one of them has a HD touch screen in their pocket, and many most likely also have a tablet and/or a laptop in their backpack. They grew up with large HDTVs in their living rooms. If you think a small splattering of screens will catch their attention, or capture their imaginations long enough to deliver a pointed message, you are on the wrong side of the odds.
The second thing is that scale works. Our eyes are drawn to light and contrast, so creating 110” plus of illuminated messaging will automatically pull the eyes where you want them to focus.
Next, is that scale is just the beginning. Billboards still work because they are large, AND they start with a simple attention getter, able to be read and understood in a few seconds. It lets them know what you want them to DO! If you have an interactive video wall, that message needs to be “Get over here and touch this wall!” You have to drive action.
If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to keep the attention you just received. One way to do that is to involve them in the process and this is done through touch. Give them opportunity to explore the message in a way that speaks to their goals, wants, needs and personal experiences.
Creating a sense of Community also encourages greater interaction. If two strangers are working together to swipe their way to a solution for a humongous slide lock puzzle, you create a sense of teamwork and gameplay that encourage participation. Then you need to reward this participation with a deeper level of information or unique content for their efforts.
Finally, remember that interactive doesn’t stop at your location. Create opportunities for the experience to be shared, accessed later, or extended onto those very same screen devices that used to be a barrier, so that they become future allies instead, bring prospective students back to the experience and your school.
Large interactive video walls engage prospective students. They work because as you engage more senses, your messaging “sticks” better. They also work because by providing this experience on campus, as opposed to just online or in print, you connect the sights, sounds, and smells of the campus and its buildings, staff, and students to the memory of the messaging itself. This helps the potential student to leave with a small, multisensory idea of what being a student at your school is all about.
Many universities like University of Oregon, University of Missouri, and now Northeastern University are installing systems that do exactly this. The question is, “How will you be competing with them?”.
Author Bio | Mark Coxon | Horizon Display
Mark started his technology career at IBM in 2000 before migrating into AV integration in early 2002. He currently works at Horizon Display, an interactive multitouch hardware and software provider. Mark lives in Orange County with Lesley, his wife of 11 years and his 3 children.