Digital sign to transform Wall of Fame, thanks to students

The College of Mass Communication Wall of Fame is getting a digital makeover.

If you have ever walked through the John Bragg Mass Communication Building, you have probably seen the long row of framed portraits highlighting distinguished college alumni. These MTSU Mass Comm graduates have gone on to do great things, but the portraits dedicated to them are dated and inconsistent.

Todd O'Neill

Todd O’Neill

Professor Todd O’Neill, assistant professor of New Media Communication, has taught at MTSU for two years and is leading the project to convert the Wall of Fame into a digital format.

With all the creative, innovative work being done in the college, O’Neill noticed the wall with its dated photographs quickly. “There’s some really good ’80’s hair,” he quips. O’Neill contacted Barbara Draude, assistant vice president of Internet Technology (ITD) on campus, to discuss digital signs, which are being used more and more on campus.

“I took it to the next level and said, ‘OK, I want to actually do a digital sign,’ ” he recalls. There are endless opportunities in creating a digital sign, but the Wall of Fame seemed like a good starting point to O’Neill.

He collaborated with ITD, department heads and various technicians, but the key players in making this project a reality were students. In the fall of 2013, O’Neill’s Digital Communication Application class began the daunting task of digitizing Wall of Fame information. One team of students was in charge of organizing the content of the sign, much of which was missing or nonexistent.

“Some people didn’t have a year of induction listed,” O’Neill says. “For some, it’s not completely clear what their degree is. So it’s all over, like all over the map.”

Aside from the content team, one or two students worked on the graphics of the sign, primarily cleaning up and formatting the inductee photos (which had to be photographed through glass). A programming team worked with the software of digital signs to create a unique template for the College of Mass Communication. According to O’Neill, it will be the first vertical digital sign on campus and the first sign developed by students, not ITD.

The new display won’t just serve as a digitization of the newly named Hall of Fame. The sign will eventually be used to make club announcements, showcase student work, map out office locations and inform incoming freshman about the college during their orientation.

“It’ll be sweet when it’s all done,” O’Neill says, but it will take time. Even though digital signs are all around us — billboards, jumbotrons, airport displays, restaurant menus — many communication professionals are just beginning to realize their growing significance and potential. “I’m not trying to be the digital sign guy,” he jokes, but it wouldn’t be a bad title to have. The business of digital signs, an industry nearing $15 billion, is one of the largest areas of growth in out-of-home advertising and an employable field for some communication students.

Thanks to the opportunity presented by O’Neill, some MTSU students will be ready to tackle this new technology.

This story was written by Seth Caldwell, a 2014 public relations graduate.

Todd O'Neill in the classroom

Todd O’Neill in the classroom

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Categories: Faculty, News, Students

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