Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) has upgraded its legacy on-premises digital signage network to Carousel Cloud to offer more compelling, contextual messaging while reducing the time and complexity required to manage campus communications.
The New Britain, CT campus accommodates 8,000 to 9,000 full-time equivalent students, with 60 undergraduate programs plus post-graduate and doctorate programs. The digital signage network reaches a large mix of students, faculty, and staff with timely, up-to-date messaging that is relevant to all.
CCSU first explored digital signage with a homegrown system and Chrome sticks. In November 2019, CCSU began to explore converting to a turnkey, cloud-based signage system. When COVID ceased most on-campus operations in March 2020, they realized how digital signage could play an instrumental role in COVID response, and how migrating off their legacy system to the cloud could help quickly scale the network. That meant adopting new digital signage software that could live on the cloud and help them achieve other important goals including single sign-on for content contributors, media player management, and CAP compliance for emerging alerting and campus security.
Chad Valk, Media Technology Manager at CCSU, led a team that evaluated nine cloud-based digital signage software solutions. According to Valk, “Carousel Cloud was the one solution that checked every box.”
Moving to a cloud-based solution helped Valk and his team quickly scale the network, spinning out nearly 100 cloud-connected displays within three days. The network now reaches 155 screens across multiple buildings, including the student center, campus library, food services, and various classroom buildings. Each department finds a different value in using the system.
“The campus library creates exciting content and manages that within the Carousel CMS, while the Student Union Center publishes content designed to engage students with culturally on-point messaging and imagery,” said Valk. “Sodexo, CCSU’s food service vendor, uses Carousel to publish campus menus across three different buildings, while the Rec Center recently expanded from two entrance screens to also include five screens in all of their workout facilities.”
In all cases, Valk says that Carousel Cloud has been easy to learn, easy to use, and highly accessible for all content contributors. “That includes our marketing department at CCSU, which uses Carousel the most for campus-wide communications. The biggest change is that we no longer have to use a website editing tool to manage and change content, which was a burdensome and inefficient process. Carousel changed all that.”
Reducing IT Burdens
The migration to Carousel Cloud has taken significant weight off the IT department’s shoulders for overall network management, as well as better safety and security controls. Valk notes that this is increasingly important considering today’s staffing and budget challenges.
Our Carousel users can now schedule events, pull in RSS feeds, and designate access to specify user permissions with tremendous ease,” he said. “All displays on the network are CAP Compliant with the integration of Alertus and Carousel, and alerts are updated in real-time. All CCSU screens turn over to Alertus in emergency situations, no matter who has local ownership of the screens, which takes more of the burden off the signage administrator. At the end of the day, we knew that faculty would use this system the most, and we also needed to make sure they had a smooth user experience that balanced with the features and functions CCSU required, which is the case with Carousel Cloud.”
Accessibility for all users is another important benefit. Valk notes that is especially important for departments like Athletics and Esports that require ‘flashier’ front-facing messages to engage people as they walk by the buildings. These users are provided complete access control of single displays that exclude campus information.
“This is a cloud-based system that can be utilized anywhere,” Valk continued. “There is no plug-in system or restrictions on which browsers can be used. All you need to do with your single sign-on is approve what we call “BlueNet access” into the system. Whatever the user’s device, it requires one simple approval step to gain immediate access to the system. It’s also very mobile-friendly, which was critical for our broader team of content contributors.”
Content Creation and Playout Simplified
CCSU’s network content is currently a mix of detailed campus information and infotainment-oriented bulletins, but Valk aims to optimize the content genres with clear objectives, calls to action, and results while further focusing on deadline-oriented, mission-critical messages and reminders. “I really want to focus on more targeted, measurable content that is paying off our primary purposes: telling contextually relevant stories in a timely manner that’s easy to update,” he explained.
Creating content controls is critical to this and with Carousel Cloud. Individual departments can customize their messages, and share them to selected zones across specific channels. These controls were recently extended to support a new use case at a satellite location at Middlesex Community College, which serves as an enrollment, advisory and financial aid outreach office for prospective community college students. The screens communicate how easy it is to transfer into CCSU and to support it, CCSU spun up a new instance of Carousel so that they could partner remotely.
CCSU leans on BrightSign players for content delivery and utilizes BSN.cloud to simplify player deployment and management. The CCSU networking team responsible for management can easily look at DNS information and perform functions such as cycling and rebooting players when needed, while the desktop engineering team actively embraced it for not being Windows-based. Managing players has also become turnkey: The signage administrator simply adds or deletes a player to the master spreadsheet and uploads, then watches it populate and connect all pertinent dots. They can then simply jump over to the networking tab to see what’s online, what’s offline, retrieve data and perform power cycling as required.
Regarding future plans, the university is looking at replacing two legacy exterior signage solutions with direct-view LEDs that tie into Carousel Cloud.
“The communications constituents would then all have one portal to work through, further ramping up ease of management,” said Valk. “We also intend to address ‘dead spots’ at the entryway of many buildings and explore adding the 3,000 or so on-campus computers into signage networks using Carousel Express Players. That way when screens go to sleep, those deadline-oriented, mission-critical university messages are presented. We want all touchpoints to go to one solution, with Carousel managing internal and external screens.”