The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently posed this question at a meeting of its community of practice, the Convergence College Network (CCN): “how do you keep track of your graduates’ success?” It’s important to measure a program’s effectiveness to understand what works and what doesn’t. Are your students leaving with the skills they need to find employment? In reality, of course, it’s not always easy to keep tabs on what happens to students once they graduate.
And so in answer to that question, member schools of the Convergence College Network shared strategies they employ to keep track of graduates. Some schools reported successfully using more than one of these.
- LinkedIn – One school requires all new students to set up a LinkedIn account, which is then linked to the department’s group page. Thus, the school uses LinkedIn to maintain an organized and up-to-date list that includes details on who’s working where. Even better, because everyone keeps their LinkedIn profile updated, the responsibility of maintaining updated employment records falls on the individual, not the school.
- Alumni activities – It can be a challenge for community colleges to foster a traditional alumni relationship with its graduates. Things can be easier at the university level, which is likely why one university member of the CCN has had success with traditional alumni strategies: big tents at Homecoming and alumni newsletters. Community colleges may not offer a Homecoming weekend, but any organization can create a newsletter.
- Longitudinal surveys – Another CCN school uses the traditional longitudinal survey to track graduate progress and assess longer-term trends. These surveys go out to graduates one year, five years, and ten years after graduation. This strategy, of course, requires you have the right e-mail address on file for the graduates. Which brings us to…
- School e-mail address for life – One school has tried to avoid the frustrations of outdated e-mail addresses by simply allowing all students to keep their school e-mail in perpetuity. This way, the school never has to worry about updating personal e-mail addresses. A variation on this strategy: another CCN school allows all incoming messages to a school e-mail account be forwarded to the recipient’s personal account.
- In-house research group – One CCN school dedicates a staff of three to follow students into the workforce and publish an annual graduate employment report. Not every school has this luxury, of course.
It’s worth noting that more than one CCN school reported that their program graduates with jobs have come back to serve on their BILTs (the “Business and Industry Leadership Team” that helps steer program curriculum); so that’s another reason to maintain close ties to graduates.