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Investigating online community portals for enhanced alumni networking

Zenia Barnard (Centre for Information and Knowledge Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Chris Rensleigh (Centre for Information and Knowledge Management, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Publication date: 8 August 2008



The core purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which web portal technology and online communities could be successfully applied by the alumni offices of higher education institutions in South Africa (using the University of Johannesburg as a case study) to create information‐sharing with and amongst its alumni affinity groups, in order to build and maintain valuable relationships, networks and partnerships.


This research project falls under Pasteur's quadrant of use‐inspired research. Using quantitative empirical research, a total number of 10,380 questionnaires was distributed to graduates of the University of Johannesburg at the Autumn graduation ceremonies in April 2006, thereby making it a self‐selecting, purposeful (purposive) and convenient sample.


Based on the literature study, the results of the empirical research and the case study, the final conclusion made from this research project is that an online community portal can enhance to a large extent the networking of alumni in the South African higher education sector. In addition, the research data collection instrument is transferable to a number of other higher education settings. In particular, the user‐centric information resource questions provide useful insights into alumni information‐seeking behaviour and needs.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the University of Johannesburg Alumni being used as a case study for this research project, the research findings are tailored for implementation by this entity. However, the processes that were followed for this research project in terms of conducting a needs analysis with regard to the information needs of the alumni target audience and the types of questions that were posed could be guiding principles for other South African higher education sector (SAHES) institutions that want to develop such a tool for managing their alumni's information needs. In addition, the framework for the study predicts continuing alliances among academic services, placement services, library services, and fund development on higher education campuses.


The paper should prove useful to other academic institutions since it develops a helpful tool to assist in managing alumni networking behaviour, needs and resources.



Barnard, Z. and Rensleigh, C. (2008), "Investigating online community portals for enhanced alumni networking", The Electronic Library, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 433-445.



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