Colleges get creative in using technology to honor graduates

For the 280 graduates of the ArtCenter College of Design in California, there was no walking across a stage to receive their diploma, no tossing of caps in the air. But otherwise, the college’s May 2 virtual graduation ceremony was similar to previous years’ events—except that it took place entirely online.

When students’ names were called, a slide with the student’s name, photo, and a sample of his or her artwork appeared on screen. “This is similar to what we do during a live ceremony while students walk across the stage,” says Media Relations Director Teri Bond.

The ceremony was streamed live on the college’s YouTube channel and Facebook page and is still available for viewing. About 3,000 people watched the live event, which went off without a hitch.

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With colleges and universities canceling or postponing this year’s graduation ceremonies because of COVID-19, campus leaders nationwide have had to find creative ways to honor the Class of 2020.

Although plans vary widely, many institutions are using online tools and platforms to recognize the achievements of graduates for now and hoping they can convene an in-person celebration later in the year.

Colleges get creative in using technology to honor graduates

“We know this spring’s ceremony will be memorable since it was very different from anything else we’ve ever done before,” Bond says, “but as an art and design school, we’re not afraid to create something new to accomplish a goal. We make, we create change. This is what we do and who we are.”

Honoring graduates with a mobile app

The University of Findlay, a private institution in Ohio with about 4,000 total students, is leveraging its mobile campus app to honor this year’s graduates.

“I’m hesitant to call it a virtual commencement, because it can’t replace our commencement ceremony,” says Rebecca Jenkins, assistant vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “But what it can do is enable us to feature videos of thanks. We’re going to invite parents to put messages of how proud they are of students in the app, so it’s all right there for students.”

Findlay has built a mobile campus app using Modo, an app-building platform for higher education that doesn’t require any coding. The platform’s maker, Modo Labs, has released what it calls a “Virtual Commencement Starter Kit” for its customers that helps institutions create graduation experiences that reflect the highly personal, once-in-a-lifetime nature of these events.