How to Plan a Virtual Graduation Celebration Like No Other
It should come as no surprise that studies have found that rituals increase in times of crisis. The predictability and connection provided by established cultural traditions can help to reduce anxiety. “Rites of passage” that mark the transitions between life stages help to anchor us in periods of uncertainty.
Most of us remember our graduation ceremony as the moment signaling our entry into adulthood. Not only is the ceremony a recognition of academic achievement, but it is also a formal “cutting of the apron strings.” To avoid regression, it’s important to celebrate the withdrawal of childhood supportive structures.
So how do we ensure our students get the send-off they need and deserve amid a global pandemic? Here are some tips for virtual graduation planning.
Tip #1 – Emphasize the positive
A critical positive to virtual graduations is that students aren’t limited in the number of guests they can invite. Nor dependent on guests being able to attend the ceremony physically.
For immigrant families, in particular, this is good news. Not only can relatives living far away partake in the student’s success, but edtech can facilitate engagement where family members struggle with English.
Run a competition for the student with the most physically distanced guest. Students can be encouraged to share their celebratory cultural traditions. Consider producing a graduation recipe book of celebration foods eaten by learner families.
Tip #2 – Take reduced attention spans into account
Educators have been learning how to use technology to engage students and extend their attention spans. Consider adding gamification elements to the lead up to the ceremony by allowing students to create avatars or similar.
However, be realistic about the attention spans of digital audiences. Rather than long lists of individual students’ accomplishments, consider posting these on a digital notice board. Allow for moderated comments that the students can receive through the ceremony.
You could also divide your graduation into multiple smaller ceremonies to allow for more intimate and personalized experiences.
Tip #3 – Ensure your technology doesn’t let you down
The pandemic has been characterized by the proliferation of online meeting platforms such as Zoom (whose name has even evolved into a verb!). But there are many alternatives to Zoom for teaching. Make sure invitations go out in time and that attendees know how to access the ceremony without issue.
Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Pedagogue lay social media features alongside content storage, virtual classrooms, and interactive learning experiences. A multidimensional graduation ceremony should ideally be run off a single, multifaceted platform.
Tip #4 – Don’t forget the symbols
Lastly, don’t neglect the traditional physical symbols like caps, gowns, and certificates. Faculty should be smartly dressed and encourage guests to be too. Make use of traditional postal services to deliver certificates for an added “sense of occasion.”
Heed the suggestions above, and you’ll be primed to give your students an experience they won’t forget. If we’re lucky, this will be a once-off experience for us, but just in case, take notes of what works and what doesn’t. We may be at the beginning of a new normal.