Thomas College, a private liberal arts and business education institution in Waterville, Maine, prides itself on providing the most current technology for its 1100-plus students. Embarking on an ambitious plan to meet its growing enrollment, the college began an expansion project in 2011. Following a 10-year plan, the college aims to transform the campus into a first-class setting, with the addition of new classrooms, a new library, new residence halls, new athletics facilities and fields, and improvements and enlargements to its George and Marty Spann Student Commons, a hub of activity on the Thomas College campus. While upgrading facilities, the college decided it had the perfect opportunity to upgrade its infrastructure for communicating with students and staff in common areas. This would fit into the school’s plan to better disseminate information across campus. Specifically, the college wanted to replace its existing video signage system, ThomasTV, a video-over-IP system for broadcasting campus information over three “channels” to its various buildings. ThomasTV had its advantages, but bandwidth issues complicated the distribution of content through this IP data channel. The college went looking for a new digital signage platform.
From a demo unit to a full system rollout
The college evaluated different systems from various vendors and, in the end, settled on Black Box’s iCOMPEL™, an integrated hardware/software platform for networked content distribution. An on-campus audio/video consultant had seen the iCOMPEL system at an industry trade show, liked what it had to offer, and recommended it to Thomas College. The campus IT Services Department, under the leadership of Chris Rhoda, the college’s VP for Information Services and CIO, then requested a demo unit from Black Box, who assisted the college with getting started on its system testing. “It was a new product for us and just having someone walk us through was all that was needed,” Rhoda says. After a day or two of evaluating the appliance‘s capabilities, the college placed the order for iCOMPEL in July 2011. Getting started with the new signage system was quite easy. Having to train the various staff members on its use and learning how to best integrate PowerPoint® presentations into signage layouts were the biggest hurdles. But once that all was figured out, the iCOMPEL signage implementation went well. “I recently attended an EDUCAUSE conference focusing on IT use in higher education and had seen different signage products, but this was the best for us,” Rhoda says.