Digitizing Connected Experiences: The University Commencement

Digitizing Connected Experiences: The University Commencement

April 28, 2020 | By: Chris Hale, Director of Partnerships


It’s not breaking news that we’re all living in extraordinary times. As COVID-19 transforms the way that we relate to each other, move through our communities, buy things, and, most relevant to this post, work, we’ve (Ideas United) spent a lot of time and energy thinking through how best to leverage our resources and creativity to continue to make great content for our partners.

As our President, Dan Costa, wrote about a couple of weeks back, we are, at our core, problem solvers. With our roots firmly in Campus Movie Fest, higher education is a place in which iU has always been comfortable innovating.

Right now, one of the many challenges facing our university partners is how to celebrate the achievements of their graduates in a way that is safe but still engaging.

Think about your college commencement experience. When I think back to mine, I have a very particular image in my mind from a photograph taken by my sister. In it, I’m standing proudly with my two maternal grandparents, only one of whom had the privilege to do what I had just done: graduate from college. The ceremony itself was great — held on a clear, blue sky day — but what I really hold on to from that day is the feeling of being with my family and my closest friends from the previous four years. It was a day that was engaging, exciting, and warm.

That’s the experience and sentiment that we’re proud to be working to create for Emory University in our hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

To do it, we let ourselves be guided by the voices of students.

Through social listening and Zoom calls with student focus groups, our creative teams began to hone in on what the feel of the university’s Commencement celebration should (and shouldn’t) be. The result is a digital Commencement experience that will do four key things:

  1. Build excitement for the day with custom content drops, a countdown ticker, and a communication plan to reach different student audiences prior to Commencement.
  2. Create space for students to interact and engage with each other in both the larger university community and school-specific areas through chat rooms and message boards.
  3. Allow students and other members of the Emory community to drive and contribute to the content experience through the submission of user-generated pieces.
  4. Leverage compelling, produced content to bring Commencement day to life.

Finding creative ways to generate the excitement and emotion of a connected experience in a new digital environment is no small task, but all members of the Emory community, from administration, to faculty, to alumni, to parents, will be a part of the solution when the graduates of 2020 celebrate in May.

Across industries, lots of folks are asking themselves what a post-COVID world will look like and what lessons we’ll carry with us into the “new normal.” The solutions we put forth for something like Commencement, and how students respond to them, will show the way toward new models of content consumption and engagement.

And Ideas United will continue to be here, listening, learning, and staying true to our commitment to creative problem-solving. Stay safe everyone and congrats to the Class of 2020.