Monday, August 19, 2013

LinkedIn University Pages

I was quoted in an article in Information Week that announced LinkedIn has recently launched University Pages, a new service for higher education institutions. (I was involved in the University Pages beta test, and I put on a small conference at UCR with several speakers discussing LinkedIn, including John Hill, LinkedIn's Higher Education Evangelist). This is the first time LinkedIn has really pursued specialized services for a vertical market. LinkedIn also opens up their service to high school students on September 12, and they've been trying to attract more college students for a long time

This focus on Higher Ed is interesting, particularly as I read more and more articles on LinkedIn saying that a college degree is unnecessary, and lots of news articles reporting that college degrees are not cost-effective. The Obama Administration is also coming up with standard ratings to compare colleges based on outcomes, including the employment of alumni.

This could place LinkedIn in a great position. They already have a database that includes employment information and college degrees. If the government requires schools to provide employment statistics, LinkedIn will be in a position to broker that information. If alumni can be given a sufficient incentive to allow LinkedIn to share the information with schools, LinkedIn will be an essential institution, imbedded in the fabric of our society.

What would be an adequate incentive? Is it enough to help your alma mater comply with a federal mandate to track employment information of alumni? How about a certification of your degree (maybe even your GPA, if you wish to show it off) on LinkedIn - as good as a transcript to prospective employers?

Schools would love to get access to current contact and employment information for a variety of purposes. Alumni are a valuable resource, whether they volunteer or attend events (especially athletics) on campus. They're also a great source of donations, although the trend has been for alumni to give less and less over the years.

It should be noted that the number of contactable alumni and the number of alumni donors are factors that affect a college's US News ranking. With high school students on LinkedIn, and all this valuable data on colleges and their alumni (some of which might not even be available to the colleges), will LinkedIn develop their own ranking system?

There may be a number of legal and practical obstacles (like getting a majority of colleges to participate with LinkedIn), but there are some exciting incentives here, and LinkedIn is clearly pursuing strategic ways to leverage their data and provide value to its members.

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