Virtual Graduations

Virtual Graduations

Your college graduation ceremony has just ended, and you’ll never forget it: as “Pomp and Circumstance” blared you walked into the auditorium or across the field to take your seat, clad in your cap and gown. You heard inspiring speeches. And when your name was called, you strode across that stage, grabbed that diploma from your college president, and turned to face the screaming crowd. And yet, you never even left your house today. In fact, you’re in your living room right now, still in your pajamas, a bag of potato chips in your hands. Was it all a dream?

No, it was a virtual graduation. Virtual graduations are events that more and more colleges are now arranging for their distance-learning students – and for other students – who for whatever reason cannot attend a graduation ceremony in person. At first, the phrase “virtual graduations” mostly referred to live-streamed graduations. But now, thanks to the pioneering efforts of such institutions as Florida State University and Bryant & Stratton College, these events involve immersive virtual environments. (Many of these environments are provided by Second Life, which is a service from a company called Linden Lab. Second Life has been creating “virtual worlds” for clients since 2003.) In many instances, these virtual graduation spaces are designed to closely resemble a school’s real-life graduation space.

In addition to the simulated environments, avatars help enhance the reality of virtual graduations. Each student graduating over the Internet is given an avatar to manipulate. As alluded to above, these avatars are each assigned their own seats, and each of them will walk across the stage, one by one, to receive a diploma. Further, every student participating in an Internet graduation can invite his or her family and friends to “attend” the proceedings as well. Invited guests will log in with their passwords, and each of them will also be given an avatar. These guest avatars all have their own assigned seats, too, and guests will take in the ceremony from the perspective that their avatar’s assigned seat allows. There are avatars to represent each of the speakers as well, and those avatars will present MP3 recordings of student and faculty speeches. (Sometimes videos of speeches are presented in lieu of avatar speakers.) Finally, after the ceremony, students may locate their family members’ and friends’ avatars, and stand beside them for a “group photo.” Those photos can then be added to students’ social media sites.

Online learning market place

Nov 30, 1999