As students and faculty adjust to an online environment for delivering instruction, many are asking the question, “But what about graduation?” For those who were scheduled to go through their commencement this May, the disappointment is real. On the heels of online classes and before mandates of social distancing, some students got creative. But with CDC recommendations and safer at home orders put in place, students and institutions were left with limited options.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced institutions to move instructions and operations online, commencement is a challenge that is proving to be just as difficult. In a poll published March 31, 2020, by EDUCAUSE 46% of responding institutions had decided to postpone their traditional commencement to a later date, with 23% of respondents still working through their decisions, and 14% intending to organize a digital/online commencement. There was even 13% of respondents planning to cancel commencement. It is likely more important in 2020 than in any past year that we recognize the heroism of faculty and students to persist in their academic journeys and celebrate their accomplishments with the vigor they deserve.
I encourage every institution not to delay the recognition of students and their accomplishments, and to embrace a bold new approach. After all, if all your face-to-face courses have moved to online in a month or less, I would argue our institutions are more than able to leverage the creativity and power of engaged speakers, passionate faculty, and forward-thinking students to create a new and engaging ceremony for their entire community. Traditional colleges and universities can look to online institutions for help. These programs have unique approaches to graduation ceremonies that connect students who are not able to attend live commencement events. Opportunities to use streaming services, video presentations, and pre-recorded content allows institutions to take advantage of the resources they have invested in for other purposes and use them in new and different ways. As you consider graduation, think about the critical aspects of the ceremony and how to approach them differently.
Some overall considerations:
Taking the time now to recognize academic accomplishments as scheduled, although through a different approach, will support your students moving forward and acknowledges that we all can change and adapt. Creating ways to honor timeless traditions, collaboratively with the community may even create new traditions for generations to come. Moving to a virtual ceremony doesn’t mean you have to forego a physical celebration when appropriate. And remember, standards for live productions have been greatly reduced as we watch live newscasters from their homes, have our families join our meetings, and many other engagements that only a month ago would have been unprofessional. Have some fun with your graduation ceremonies and allow your community to have fun together again.
Some links with additional information:
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