How are universities using technology to enhance the graduation experience?

Commencement is a special time for universities. Whether a student, family member or friend, graduation is a momentous occasion in their lives and the pinnacle of education journeys.

Some institutions have their graduation planning down to a fine art, but there are times we all need to refresh our activity to ensure everything runs smoothly.

This week we're looking at six ways that technology can be used to enhance the end-to-end experience for graduating students and everyone involved.

#1 Put the university website at the heart of graduation coordination

As you'd expect, institutions are using their websites to support the graduation season. The best content includes event and speaker information, checklists for graduating students (including a reminder to register as an alumni) options to book accommodation, and details for cap and gown purchase and hire.

This is naturally a great place to publicize alumni services and offer incentives to keep in touch, with graduating students typically being at one of their most engaged, connected, and loyal to institutions.

St Andrews University has a simple and well thought out set of pages with everything a graduating student and their supporters might need to in advance of the day.

Having everything conveniently laid out in this way is another signal of support for the overall student experience that extends well out beyond graduation into postgraduate degrees, alumni networking and advocacy for the institution.

#2 Create an element of mystery and anticipation using creative speaker announcements

Graduations attract emotional and life-changing speaking moments, and some institutions leverage this by building anticipation for the graduation events and notable speakers.

Social media can play a big role here. If you want to get creative with Instagram Stories, for instance, one interesting option is to create a ‘tap to reveal game', in which the story gradually reveals an image frame by frame. You can do this by adding a layer of color over the image, then gradually erasing parts of the top layer, and saving each version of the image as a frame in your story.

Duke University created this sophisticated tap to reveal story to announce its commencement speaker (Duke graduate and Time's Up CEO Lisa Borders), gradually revealing pieces of the puzzle while offering clues about her identity.

#3 Using social media to raise the profile of commencement events

The University of Pittsburgh draws together a range of social channels to support their commencement events. The wider community can engage with the ceremonies through live streams on social media and the website for instance. Graduating students can share their memories on social using the #PittGrad hashtag and photos can be submitted and shared online through the institution's channels.

Other institution tactics include creating a graduation hashtag, using a picture frame cut out for Instagram posts, incentivizing the creation of tiktok videos, featuring graduating student profiles and leveraging user-generated content from the ceremonies and surrounding events.

The opportunities for creating a lasting impression are endless.

#4 Creating an emotional connection using high-quality film

The University of Winchester has put high-quality film as the backdrop to their homepage since the launch of their website re-fresh. The latest footage shows the excitement and emotion from graduation ceremonies. The film has a wonderful heritage attitude and ambiance that will inspire many more students to apply.

#5 Using social aggregators to enhance graduation events

A number of institutions are using Tint and other social media aggregators to gather together social posts relating to graduations into a single platform. This can be used as an interesting feature at events and embedded on graduation pages of the website.

Northwestern University embedded Tint in their website to show social media content on a dynamic storyboard for their commencement ceremonies.

George Washington University also used Tint and “surpassed all of their expectations" at their graduation ceremony on the National Mall. They were able to see #GWcommencement trending in the U.S. and #GWcommencement and #GWU trending for the entire day in Washington D.C. The exposure was incredible for them.

Manchester Metropolitan University, meanwhile, used Juicer to aggregate all their hashtag and relevant social media posts into a single social media wall feed. The platform enables the institution to set up filters, moderate posts and analyze engagement. The result is a diverse feed of graduation content.

And at BathSpa University there is also a dazzling, interactive digital media wall in the main building reception consisting of thirty 55 inch screens that display graduation information as well as upcoming projects and art exhibition content.

#6 Connecting with graduating students and alumni using Chatbot technology

With over 60 billion messages sent via Messenger and WhatsApp per day, messaging has become three times more popular than ordinary texting. And apps like Messenger allow for the use of Chatbots that can handle conversational engagement with recent graduates and long-established alumni, rather than requiring constant inbox monitoring by a full-time employee.

The University of Texas at San Antonio led the way last year, by implementing Chatbot functionality to engage with recent graduates and alumni using an interactive quiz to promote a historic change of leadership for the institution.

Schools like UT San Antonio, Georgetown, West Point, Pomona, and Claremont McKenna are now also using chatbots and messaging as a new channel to reach their recent alumni.

Universities will increasingly seek to integrate chatbot technology into their alumni engagement strategies.

What other innovations and trends have you seen emerging to turn up the volume on graduation events and to engage young alumni? We'd love to hear your feedback.