There are many variables at play in the alumni experience. Some know as soon as they get their degree that they’ll be returning to their university, while others have work or family commitments that will take them outside the educational sphere for some time. Still others may need time to reflect on their university experience before deciding what type of future interactions to pursue. Perhaps most importantly, people are more likely than ever to change jobs and careers — for example, the year ending February 2022 saw the highest annual job mobility rate since 2012 — which means alumni often need access to additional studies.
All these variables have one thing in common: individuality. Alumni, despite sharing their university, cannot and should not be lumped together; like ‘customers’ of any kind, they want to be treated like people instead of numbers on a page.
To make this possible, universities need to invest in technology that can create a personalised, valuable education experience long before students receive their degrees. Here’s what to know about the role of technology in alumni engagement and how your university can transform experiences from enrolment to graduation.
Technology and the Student Experience
The alumni experience begins as the student experience. After all, learners begin building relationships with their university even before enrolment — which means tech tools are invaluable every step of the way.
This all begins with expectations. Today’s consumers, whether buying a car or choosing a university, demand a convenient digital experience. In fact, global customers said that ‘being able to find what they want quickly and easily’ was among their top three browsing priorities. In a learning setting, this can refer to technology that helps with enrolment, orientation, what to expect on the first day of class, and more. Universities can’t afford to ignore these expectations, which have increased due to the growing role of tech in everyday life.
However, education technology doesn’t exist just to satisfy the modern demand for speed and efficiency. It also enriches the learning process and overall student experience. For example, learners benefit from university tech by:
- Accessing materials in new media formats like virtual reality (VR)
- Accessing student services like career coaching and financial assistance in a virtual or digital format
- Extending the learning environment beyond the classroom
- Having their educational needs, like extra support on difficult subjects, met both quickly and cost-effectively
The result of these clever tech utilisations is a university that puts clear value on individual student experiences. For example, when course material and tasks are online, the university can collect usage information to identify how engaged a student is with their degree, creating opportunities to make improvements or offer additional support. In many ways, this could be what makes the difference between a relationship that ends at graduation and one that lasts many years into the future.
After Graduation: Tech for Alumni
Once students become alumni, their relationship with their university shifts. The lifecycle begins again, requiring the university to restructure marketing, admissions, and enrolment techniques to support the new needs of students after graduation. These needs are often driven by different questions, like:
- Can this university support my career?
- Will this university help me pursue other degrees or certifications to improve my employability and educational journey?
- Would I recommend this school to friends or family?
Unfortunately, many universities fail to provide effective answers. Between 2015 and 2020, alumni organisations have experienced a 15% increase in instances of alumni opting out of communications — which means alumni relationships aren’t prospering.
The key to solving this problem rests with technology. Whether students want to continue their educational journey immediately after graduation, enter the workforce, or need to take time off to care for family, tech solutions must cater to them. Perhaps most importantly, their university must know how to understand them, support them, and foster their relationship until they’re ready to undertake further study.
For example, a university may use its self-service portal to keep track of an alumni’s degree path. With this information, the university can automatically recommend personalised digital resources to help in applying for jobs, developing careers, connecting with peers who may have company recommendations, and creating networking opportunities with alumni in similar roles or industries. The former student gets continued value from their university, while the university builds a community of loyal graduates and improves alumni retention. This helps keep alumni close until they need more from their school — like continued study or short courses.
Examples of Alumni Technology at Work
Every university has different ways of using technology to engage with alumni and improve the overall experience. Here are just a few examples of alumni tech at work.
Alumni portals like those using Liferay’s Digital Experience Platform (DXP) act as a single touchpoint for graduates who want to stay in touch with their school. By putting campus news, guest speaking opportunities on campus, refresher courses, alumni networking events, and other key features in one place, universities encourage former students to stay involved. As a result, alumni feel like they’re still part of the university community — all because the digital experience has provided them with unique opportunities for engagement and connection.
Alumni represent a wealth of data that can be incredibly valuable to your university. When they provide information about their employment status, career goals, donation intentions, and more, you can begin building personas based on their behaviour and preferences. These personas are useful in structuring your offerings to meet specific needs or personalising elements like content, course discounts, and more.
Chatbots are a simple but powerful way to stay in contact with alumni. These bots are powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which means they reduce cost-to-serve while improving the alumni experience. Former students can use chatbots integrated into the digital experience, which means the bot will have access to information about their completed degree and industry interests.
Show Alumni You Care
The alumni experience begins long before students receive their degrees. In reality, successful alumni relationships are built on previous interactions with the university — which means students need personalised, valuable interactions every step of the way. Technology can help meet these needs in ways that boost engagement and improve retention, helping alumni feel like a key part of your education community.
If you’re ready to show alumni just how important they are, you can start by exploring how technology supports universities like yours.