In this guide you will learn:
- How to create a safe and conducive space for existing and current members to engage
- Ways to encourage asynchronous, collaborative interactions within the Disco platform leveraging channels and feeds
- How to plan, host, and support alumni events that engage existing members while inspiring potential new members
- When, where, and how to leverage alumni relations to create referrals and word-of-mouth
- Ways to continue providing fresh content and evergreen resources to alumni hungry for more learnings
If you’re building an Alumni Space, chances are that your online learning business offers one or more learning experiences to members.
On Disco, an Alumni Space is a virtual ‘place’ where cohort graduates can connect with one another (asynchronously), gather through live events, and access additional learning opportunities and valuable resources after going through a shared learning experience together, like a Cohort-Based Course, Event Series, or Mastermind.
An Alumni Space enables you to continue engaging members even after a time bound experience is complete. It also allows members who have been part of different cohorts or learning experiences to come together. If you’re running multiple cohorts of the same course, you could invite members of each cohort to your Alumni Space after they’ve completed their learning journey.
Why is it important to continue engaging members after they’ve completed a learning experience?
For one, it shows that you care. Former members often want to continue engaging with their Learning Community after they’ve completed a learning experience together. They may have felt a sense of safety and belonging with their cohort (or group). Perhaps they had a transformative, perspective-shifting, or life-altering experience on their journey, or maybe they became great friends with a few other cohort members and could benefit from a structured way to stay connected. Whatever the reason may be, members of a learning experience may want to continue actively learning and growing together.
Alen Faljic, Founder and CEO of d.MBA shares a powerful perspective on why it’s important to create and and maintain an Alumni Space:
“We keep in touch even after the course because there's a lot of stuff that is not part of the value proposition. There is a lot of stuff that happens in the alumni community. We have monthly calls, we have a newsletter, we have circles of mastermind groups, which are all things that they don't expect coming in, but it shows we care.”
Not only is an Alumni Space an effective way to continue engaging members, it can greatly support you in growing your Learning Community and scaling your learning empire. There is tremendous value in the amount of trust and good will that you can create by delivering a transformative learning experience for members, continuing to support them and creating opportunities for further learning, connection, and leadership. It could even turn some members into loyal advocates and champions of your products, which can have a net-positive impact on your business for years to come.
“I would respond to every single post in our discussion forum, just for those first few cohorts. And this was not sustainable. It was not profitable, but for cohorts one through five, I over-delivered and over-committed knowing that would produce those word of mouth kind of generators, who to this day are some of our most important referral sources.”
We know that activating and nurturing an Alumni Space is integral to growing your Learning Community and scaling your learning empire.
Here are our top tips to help you build a successful Alumni Space on Disco:
Catalyze and Encourage Asynchronous Engagement and Peer-to-Peer Learning
An Alumni Space on Disco gives you the agency and flexibility to engage your members in a way that best aligns with your members’ needs and business goals.
If you’re running multiple learning experiences throughout the year and have limited time to dedicate to engaging and managing your Alumni Space, we recommend using features like feeds and channels.
Once members have gone through a learning experience together where they’ve had a chance to interact through multiple live events, they’ve likely created meaningful connections and deep bonds that can be reactivated asynchronously with or without encouragement from operators, instructors, or community managers.
Feeds allow you to easily share important information with your members and keep them looped into what’s happening in the community. Here are a few ways to use feeds to engage members asynchronously:
- Announce upcoming alumni events and encourage members to register for events.
- Introduce new members or spotlight existing members to build a culture of care generosity and appreciation.
- Celebrate member achievements and milestones to encourage their growth and inspire other members.
- Let members know when you’ve added new pages or resources to the Alumni Space.
- Share insightful and inspiring articles and videos that may be helpful to members.
- And more!
You can encourage additional peer support and dialogue by enabling commenting on feeds so members can react and respond to posts.
While feeds allow admins to post and members to comment, channels can empower even more conversation, support, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. By creating specific channels focused on different topics, themes, and areas of interest and by deciding whether a channel is public or private (only for certain members), you can design how members engage with one another. Here are a few alumni channels you could include, but you’re free to create any channel that makes sense for your community:
- #introduce-yourself - Public channel to ignite the cohort in the lead-up to course start
- #general - Open to all members as the ‘central hub’ for communication
- #questions - Public channel for questions / support throughout the experience
- #learn-grow - Open to all members to share links to articles, videos, etc.
- #give-get - Public channel for members offers and requests for support
- #cohort-1 - Private channel for the graduates from a specific cohort
We recommend posting in channels regularly to ‘stoke’ conversations until they’ve picked up enough moments. If you notice certain channels aren’t as active or feel redundant, you could delete or combine channels to reduce the fragmentation of dialogue.
Asynchronous engagement is a powerful way to keep your community engaged, involved, and growing as you continue to offer various learning experiences. If you’re already invested in a product or tool and would rather not migrate, Disco makes it easy for you to integrate with Slack, Discord, and other apps where you’d like to gather your members.
Offer Alumni Only Events to Continue Engaging and Supporting Your Alumni Community
Exclusive alumni-only Events can incentivise members to be active participants in an Alumni Space and provide value beyond asynchronous discussions and evergreen resources. Whether you schedule events to occur regularly or sporadically, events can be effective containers for creating intimacy and furthering peer-to-peer learning.
Disco’s deep integration with Zoom makes it easy for you to create live events without having to use multiple platforms or send email reminders. Members of an Alumni Space can view and register for events, as well as add events to their calendars with a click of a button. Calendar integration, automated time zones, and email reminders means it’s less likely that members will miss a live event, and if they do, the ability to upload event recordings directly to the platform means they can access the content at their own leisure.
Disco customer BatteryMBA acknowledges how critical the calendar reminder integration is to keeping these events running smoothly:
“We really want to make sure that people don't forget about sessions. The calendar is a massive thing to help learners not forget. I remember in our early days, creating these Google Calendars was an absolute pain. [With Disco], other people can download it themselves in their time zones. You found a way to integrate both Google calendar as well as Outlook, which is important.”
If you’re considering including live events in your Alumni Space, here are a few examples of alumni events you could offer members:
- Casual gatherings to connect, share updates, learnings, and more.
- Guest expert interviews where you deep dive with thought leaders and industry experts on specific topics.
- Alumni-led events like talks, interviews, and workshops where members have a chance to lead and share their expertise.
- Sprints and bootcamps to help members up-level or expand on content they’ve already learned.
- Co-working sessions to create a sense of community and accountability for members looking for deeper engagement and increased productivity.
- Alumni ‘townhalls’ where members have a chance to discuss and plan how to best design and contribute to the Alumni Space.
- Hot-seating and ‘teardowns’ where members have opportunities to bring ideas, materials, products, and plans to the group and receive feedback.
We recommend enabling automated feedback post events to learn more about members’ experiences and gain more insights into what they’re finding valuable and what may not be resonating with them.
Feedback is so critical to understanding how your Alumni Space can continue to flourish. Tiago Forte says:
“They will tell you truths that no one else in the world can tell you, deep truths about your blind spots, your assumptions, and your weaknesses. If you take them in and you act on them, it's unlike any other kind of feedback.”
To further engage members and inspire more registrations for future events, it might be useful to let them know when the event recording is posted and share a recap of the live event with key takeaways to encourage discussion. In the resources section (which you’ll learn more about below), you could also include any videos, images or documents that you’ll want members to have access to post events.
Invite Members to Take the Lead on Organizing Alumni Events and Sparking Asynchronous Engagement
Creating and managing an Alumni Space can be a time-consuming endeavor, especially if you’re building, marketing, and/or running various learning experiences simultaneously. We know how important it is to acknowledge and respond to members' questions and requests and to find meaningful ways to ensure that they feel included and cared for. But you and others on your team may simply not have the time to dedicate to this labor.
While hiring support for community management may be an option for some emerging academies, bootcamps, and micro-schools, the reality is that for many, at least in the beginning, resources like time and human-power are limited. This reality presents both a challenge and a unique opportunity to create space for members of your Alumni Space to opt into more meaningful leadership and mentorship roles.
When you create an Alumni Space on Disco, you have the ability to select specific individuals to be ‘team’ members of a space. Team access provides the ability to add, edit, and engage in the space in ways that other members cannot. Here are a few examples of what instructors can do:
- Post and edit content in feeds
- Create, schedule, and edit live events
- Create channels and edit or delete comments
- Add, edit, and remove apps, pages, resources, and other content
- View and track member reports (like event attendance)
- Add and remove members from an Alumni Space
- And more!
Creating space for members of your Alumni Space to lead is a powerful way to catalyze and encourage peer-to-peer connection and learning. When you remove yourself from the (primary) role of organizer, you enable others to contribute ideas and experiences which not only saves you time, but builds a more vibrant community. Members who take on leadership roles within the Alumni Space may continue on their leadership journey with you, they could become facilitators and instructors of your future learning experiences, and maybe even join your team full-time.
Tiago Forte shares how every member of his team at Forte Labs started as a learner in one of his cohorts and continued to participate more in the community and take on greater challenges and responsibilities, until eventually they became a part of his team:
“Pretty much every person on our team that is an employee started and did that whole sequence. So they proved themselves at each level, learned all the material, and really got to know the community. So by the time they're hired by us, they're ready to go. They're an active contributing member of the community.”
An Alumni Space is fertile ground for cultivating and nurturing loyal advocates and future leaders of your learning empire.
Create an Insiders ‘Referral Program’ to Enable Your Alumni to Refer New Members to Your Learning Community and Experiences
Speaking of loyal advocates, you’ve likely built deep trust with members who’ve gone through a transformative learning experience with you. What your alumni choose to share, where they share, and who they share their experience with is ultimately a reflection of your brand and business.
In many ways, your alumni are a bridge between you and your potential members—people who are curious and willing to invest in your learning experiences. While having members talk about your offerings organically is great, owning how your brand lives in the world is integral to attracting your ideal customers and growing your online learning business.
Encouraging and empowering alumni to share more about their experience enables you to reach beyond your current network and connect with potential members who will likely move past the first few stages of the marketing journey because your learning experience and/or community was recommended by someone they already know and trust. Providing them with shareable assets like branded images and copy that is reflective of your mission and values allows you to have more control over how your brand and learning experiences are positioned in the world.
When it comes to referral and affiliate programs, Chrisitan Peverelli, Founder of WeAreNoCode, has a very structured approach:
“We don't allow students to market it [the program], but we allow them to do referrals. The reason for that is because we want to keep control about the way that we present ourselves. A lot of people who work with affiliate programs, they'll say anything. So if someone signs up so that they can make a commission, there's some danger in terms of your brand equity. You don't want to water down your brand.”
To take this a step further, you may want to consider incentivising alumni members to share more about their experience and promote your offerings through a structured referral program. Not only does structure make it easy for them to know how to best share and promote your offerings, incentives show members that you care and appreciate their efforts to grow the Learning Community. Here are a few ideas for an insiders only referral program:
- Offer Members guest passes to exclusive events: We know how powerful it is to experience something first-hand, which is why we highly recommend creating a series of public events in your Learning Community that alumni members can share with their network and communities. These events can be free of charge, paid, or discounted and will help you attract more like-minded members to your Learning Community by way of providing valuable content and exceptional experiences.
- Offer exclusive ‘skip-the-line’ opportunities: d.MBA’s approach to referrals was inspired by the high-demand for their 6-week business program for designers, “What we came up with is if you recommend your friends, they could skip the line. Because we would open applications only twice a year, it would fill up quickly. So we said, ‘If you have a friend, help us build the community. You can refer them, and they can skip the line.’ That's worked really well,” shares Alen Faljic.
- Offer unique discount codes to members: Discount codes are a highly effective way to incentivise alumni referrals by offering discount codes. Building and managing your Alumni Space on Disco means you can create, offer, and track unique discount codes which, based on your program, you can share with your entire Alumni Space or with specific members. Feeds, private and public channels, and chat make it easy for you to announce the launch of an upcoming cohort or new learning experience, as well as early bird or time bound promotions.
- Give a thank you gift for successful referrals: Because you can easily track which discount codes have been used on Disco, you can offer a small thank-you gift to members whose unique codes were applied during registration. Alen Faljic shares at d.MBA, “If a member of our alumni community recommends somebody, they skip the line and get a lower price, plus the recommender (alumni) gets an Amazon gift card.”
For the Revzin brothers who founded School16, they learned quickly that referrals became a natural response for alumni regardless of incentive. It was the transformative power of their course that generated organic word-of-mouth:
“Early on in School16, we had about 40 people that had gone through the program after about six months. We then decided to experiment with paid referrals, mostly to see how this might change as our alumni base grows. Even if we don't offer a paid incentive, maybe we can offer other types of benefits. Whether it was a paid incentive or it was unpaid, it didn't change the amount of referrals that we got,” Sergei recalls. “What did drive more referrals were really good career outcomes. The faster our students can have strong career outcomes, the faster they can get great salaries where they feel, for the first time, that career stability they may not have had and job satisfaction that they thought was outside of their grasp.”
However you decide to incentivize your alumni members, keep in mind that creating intentional and structured opportunities for them to share your offerings with others contributes to building the foundation of your learning business and can help you grow for years to come.
Offer Your Alumni Exclusive Evergreen Resources and New Content to Continue the Learning Journey Post Course
An Alumni Space is the perfect place to offer additional learning content and valuable resources to keep members interested and engaged in your Learning Community. While live Events are a great way to gather and connect virtually, exclusive access to free, evergreen resources and new content can spark asynchronous conversations and inspire continued growth for your alumni members.
With Disco, you can easily add evergreen resources and custom pages to your Alumni Space. Evergreen resources live in the left navigation of your course dashboard and include a rich text editor that enables you to share images, videos, downloadable attachments, embedded links, and much more. Resources can include guides, templates, additional learning content, or anything you feel members would find valuable.
Custom pages with a rich text editor that allows you to add everything from text to images to embedded links and custom apps that integrate with tools like Notion, Airtable, Typeform allow you to create and offer a variety of content and engage your members in ways that enhance their alumni experience. Here are a few examples of valuable freebie content you can offer members through evergreen resources and custom pages:
- A community agreements and ‘how to’ page to help members orient themselves in the Alumni Space and understand the principles of engagement
- Educational checklist articles and comprehensive guides
- Relevant case studies to inspire and support their growth
- Links to practical videos and articles with valuable takeaways
- Templates and frameworks to support them as they build their own businesses, products, brands, services, courses etc.
- Links to exclusive masterclasses and interviews
- Q&A and FAQ pages to answer Members’ most pressing questions
- Member-created content like videos, articles, and other resources alumni would find helpful
The ending of a cohort, course, or event series marks the transition from one learning journey to another. With evergreen resources and exclusive content, you can continue delivering value to your members and keep your Alumni Space alive and vibrant.
Deliver More Impact to Your Members by Offering Various Types of Learning Experiences
We built Disco to help you build and scale your learning empire by enabling you to easily offer a variety of valuable and impact learning experiences to your members. You can easily create Self-Paced Courses, Cohort-Based Courses, Alumni Spaces, Event Series, and Masterminds. You can even start with a blank canvas and choose each and every app and functionality you require for your unique learning experience.
We know how much time, effort, and resources it can take to build out learning experiences, which is why we’ve made it easy for you to not only create them, but to duplicate them and choose the components and content you want to bring over to the new experience.
Whether you’re building an Alumni Space or developing different learning experiences, our mission is to be the all-in-one platform that takes care of the operational and administrative tasks so you can focus on what matters most: serving your members and growing your online education business.