[Note: This posting was written by Andrew Gossen, Senior Associate Director at the Alumni Association of Princeton University. Andrew has a wide range of responsibilities, including oversight for alumni education programming. Thank you, Andrew, for being the first guest-blogger on Alumni Futures!]
What if active social networkers pitted their alumni networks against other schools’ affinity groups in an online game? A glimpse of what might be possible emerged this past October with the advent of GoCrossCampus (GXC).
GXC is a small startup that offers a “locally social online game.” Similar to the classic game Risk, which has devoured countless hours of people’s time in both its board game and online versions, this online game invites affinity group members to work together to conquer territory held by other affinity groups. The game can be customized to any location and scale – a dorm, a campus, a region – and the affinity groups vary according to scale. At RPI, for instance, the school's dorms recently competed against one another.
Anyone with a valid e-mail address at an institution can participate in that school’s contests.
GXC and the Ivy Council initially pitched the Ivy League Championship (screenshot above) to undergraduates at the competing institutions. Because high levels of participation are rewarded, however, students quickly realized that alumni might be the key to victory.
When appeals for alumni to join the cause appeared on online alumni discussion boards, I logged on to GXC to see what was going on. Something I would never have predicted was unfolding. We saw:
- Students and younger alumni recruiting other alumni to sign up. Recruitment channels included alumni discussion groups, special interest group alumni listservs, a Facebook group and more.
- Over 250 alumni involved, ranging in age from the Class of 1968 to the Class of 2007.
- A dramatic spike in the number of alumni registering for alumni.princeton.edu e-mail forwarding because an institutional e-mail address was required for registration.
- An interesting and unprecedented reversal in the dynamic between alumni and undergraduates. Normally, undergraduates approach alumni for advice, direction, and jobs. With GXC the Princeton team’s commanders were a freshman and a sophomore, and approximately 1,450 Princetonians were happily following their orders.
The tournament grew so rapidly that GXC was forced to suspend play to resolve the technical issues that had cropped up, although play has resumed recently.
Reasons why GXC is worth thinking about:
- An unusual opportunity for alumni and undergraduates to interact;
- A powerful driver to inspire alumni to sign up for e-mail forwarding through your institution;
- A chance to leverage institutional rivalries to get alumni to engage with other alumni;
- An online forum based on affinity that people actually want to use - there are 8,627 people playing as of this writing.
Princeton has poured countless hours and dollars into alumni discussion groups, online educational programming, webcasting, podcasting and vodcasting, and this is hands down the most successful online interaction between alumni and students that I have ever seen. I don’t know if the GXC concept would be of interest to alumni on a regular basis, but on its inaugural run it attracted numbers of participants and an intensity of interest that are unprecedented in our experience. At the very least, this suggests that it will be worthwhile investigating other ideas for online interaction that seem implausible at first.